The health benefits of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) make this humble seed of South American origin extremely popular these days. Often touted as “The Supergrain of the future”, the seeds have been known to mankind for thousands of years now.
Quinoa health benefits : Supergrain of the future
Thousands of years ago, quinoa seeds were known to the Incas. They grew more than 250 varieties of it believed that the seeds could boost up the stamina of their warriors because of which it, along with maize, was known as “The Gold of the Incas” or the “motherseed”.
The quinoa is a tough plant that grew extensively in the mountainous regions of South America. Even today, this region continues to produce most of the quinoa consumed in the US, with Peru being the single largest producer. Bolivia is the second largest producer and these two countries together produce more than 90% of the quinoa that is consumed across the globe.
Oblivious of quinoa health benefits, the Spanish banned the cultivation of quinoa. It became popular in the 20th century after two Americans started growing it near Colorado after learning about its popularity in the South American continent.
Inspite of being a tough plant, it was not traditionally grown in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia. It is probably due to this reason that I was unable to look up the Hindi/ Indian name for this plant.
After knowing about the amazing health benefits of quinoa, efforts are being made to grow the quinoa plant in higher altitudes of Himalayas and the plains of Northern India and also in Europe and Japan.
With the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) of the UNO declaring 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa” on receiving a proposal to this effect from the Bolivian government, this food is bound to get more attention and popularity.
Ever since the FAO has unequivocally jumped into the fray to popularize quinoa among people by stating that it has a “high nutritional value”, it is becoming increasingly popular with people outside South American countries as well.
Here are the top 10 quinoa health benefits:
- Loaded with proteins: Quinoa is one of the best known vegetable sources of proteins. It contains all the nine essential amino acids needed by us, which is a rarity. Not many vegetarian foods are known to be such excellent sources of proteins. This makes it an extremely popular food among vegetarians. 100 grams of quinoa are known to contain more than 11 grams of proteins.
- Rich source of fiber: Since quinoa is extremely rich in fiber, it helps regulate blood cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. The fiber content in quinoa is almost double as compared to other grains and that helps prevent constipation and problems like hemorrhoids and anal fissures which are caused largely due to deficiency of dietary fiber.
- High iron content: With an iron content of 8.5 mg for every 100 grams, quinoa is an extremely rich source of iron, which is one of the vital nutrients needed by us. We need iron to form hemoglobin and to transport oxygen in the body. It also helps in regulating body temperature, improves the activity of the brain and steps up enzyme activity in the body, all of which together bring about better metabolism.
- High calcium content: The key ingredient required for good bone health- calcium is present in quinoa in abundance. It contains almost double the amount of calcium as compared to wheat. We also need calcium for healthy teeth. So, eating a quinoa rich diet can help you get healthy bones and teeth without popping those calcium supplements!
- Low in fats: Quinoa is extremely low in fat content, with 100 grams of it containing as little as 4.86 grams of fat. It is rich in good fats with almost one fourth of the fatty acids present in it coming from oleic acid which is a healthy form of fats and less than 10% of it coming from omega-3 fatty acid (bad fats). Further, it is filling and is an extremely low calorie dense food, that is contains very few calories in a large serving making it an ideal food for weight watchers. It helps them feel full without depriving them of nourishment.
- Gluten free: Though quinoa is often considered to be a grain or a grass, it is none of the above. It falls in the same category of plants as spinach, Swiss chard and beetroots. It is completely free of gluten making it an ideal food for celiac patients.
- Rich in riboflavin: Quinoa is also known to be a rich source of Vitamin B2 or riboflavin which helps in energy metabolism within muscle cells and the brain. This makes it extremely popular with people who are prone to frequent migraine attacks.
- Antiseptic: The saponins present in quinoa make it an excellent antiseptic. The South Americans have been using it for minor burns, bruises and injuries for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
- Low glycemic index: Though it is a complex carbohydrate, quinoa has an extremely low GI (glycemic index), meaning thereby that it does not cause spikes in blood sugar and can be easily digested by diabetics.
- Storehouse of nutrition: Besides containing the nutrients and minerals listed above, quinoa is also a rich source of:
- Anti oxidants
- Flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin
- Anti inflammatory phytonutrients
All the nutrients present in quinoa make it an extremely healthy food.
Add to it the fact that it is extremely versatile. You can use it as a breakfast cereal, cook it up as a delicious porridge, add it to soups and stews or use it for baking breads, muffins and cookies.
Whatever way you choose to have it, the amazing health benefits of quinoa ensure that you are a winner all the way!