Quinoa is a grain native to South America, which has gained popularity in the West due to its exceptional nutritional content. Quinoa is traditionally eaten by people living in mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia and it provides a good energy source for physical excursion. Once cooked quinoa resembles small, almost transparent circular grains. It is delicious on its own as a side dish or missed with vegetables in much the same way as paella. The health benefits of quinoa include heart disease, cancer and diabetes prevention and digestive health.
Quinoa not only has a high protein content, but also is one of the only grain that contains all the 8 essential amino acids, making it a great vegetarian protein source. It is particularly high in the amino acid lysine. It also has a very low glycemic index (GI), making it a source of slow releasing carbohydrate. It is a good source of the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B 6 and folic acid. It is rich in minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus copper and zinc.
Quinoa for Heart Disease Prevention
Quinoa is a good source of the cholesterol lowering B vitamin niacin and the blood pressure lowering mineral magnesium. Wholegrains, like quinoa are a good source of fibre. A meta-analysis of 7 studies showed that people with the highest dietary fibre intake had the lowest cardiovascular risk.
Quinoa for Diabetes Prevention
The mineral magnesium forms part of the glucose-regulating compound (known as glucose tolerance factor), along with chromium and vanadium, which are also found in wholegrains. Studies have shown that regular consumption of wholegrains lowers Type 2 diabetes risk. In one 8-year trial of over 40,000 subjects, risk of Type 2 diabetes was found to be 30% lower in women who frequently consumed wholegrains compared to those who ate the least of these foods. The low GI of quinoa helps to create a more sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream, which prevents sugar spikes and puts less stress on the pancreas that needs to pump out less insulin to deal with the glucose load.
Quinoa and Cancer Prevention
Wholegrain compounds in quinoa may help with cancer prevention. A study of over 35,000 participants showed that those consuming the most wholegrains had a significant reduction in breast cancer risk compared to those with low wholegrain intakes. The main reasons for wholegrains offering protection have to do with their high fibre content as well as their high nutrient and antioxidant content. In addition, wholegrains contain special compound called lignans, which are converted by good bacteria in the gut into useful substance that can help prevent cancer.
Quinoa for Digestive Health
Another of the health benefits of quinoa is its ability to aid digestive health. Wholegrains are a rich source of insoluble fibre, which increases stool bulk and decreases the transit time of waste through the intestines. Oats also contain soluble fibre, which holds water and improves stool consistency.
Quinoa For Allergy Prevention
Quinoa is both wheat and gluten free making it a safe alternative to pastas for allergy sufferers. It is gentle on the system and very unlikely to cause adverse reactions.
Quinoa for a Healthy Pregnancy
Quinoa is a good source of folate (folic acid), with one cup containing half of the daily value. Folate has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects in newborns and is an essential part of any healthy pregnancy diet.