Quinoa was considered the ‘Mother Grain of the Incas’. It is very close to being a complete food compared to many other sources from both plant and animal kingdoms. The Incas supplied their warriors with quinoa to fortify them with energy and prepare them for battle.
While I’m not suggesting you take up spear and shield and march into the fields of strife (unless you really want to), I am totally suggesting that you can, in spirit and body, be totally awesome.
Quinoa contains numerous benefits, of which I’ll name many, but I figured it would also be helpful to provide a few easy ways to use the wonder grain in daily meals. So without further ado, here are 10 benefits and uses of the super food quinoa.
1. High In Minerals
Quinoa is packed with minerals. I’m talking 50% of your daily value for a 1 cup serving. Take a look at the nutrition information from nutritiondata:
As you can see, quinoa is a terrific source of the following minerals and benefits:
- Iron – Iron is essential for blood health, allowing the formation of hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen in our bodies. Iron also assists in the formation of myoglobin, which is an oxygen binding protein required for muscle contraction.
- Magnesium – Magnesium helps with bone and heart health, and may also assist in insomnia and symptoms of depression.
- Phosphorus – Found in many foods, phosphorus is abundant in our bodies. It helps to remove waste from our kidneys and is involved in energy storage and use.
- Zinc – I’m sure we’ve all tried zinc tablets and cold remedies, so we know that zinc plays an important role in the regulation of the immune system in our bodies. There are other benefits to zinc as well, including skin health and brain function.
- Copper – This essential mineral is found in many organs including the heart and brain. Copper plays a role in immune function, as well as in the maintenance of our tissues and bones.
- Manganese – A lesser talked about mineral, manganese plays roles in the production of bone, skin, and helps regulate blood sugar as well. Not only that, but manganese interacts with enzymes in our bodies to protect against free radicals. You may remember our discussion around antioxidants when we talked about green tea.
Based on the mineral content alone, quinoa is stuffed with them, and that means it can help contribute toward good cardiovascular, kidney, bone, muscle, and immune health. Not too many foods, let alone grains, can make that claim.
It’s no wonder that Incan warriors ate quinoa. Isn’t that funny, that the people of ages long past had such good instincts on nutrition. Or maybe it’s just that we have so much more processed food now…but that’s a separate talk.
2. High In Fiber
Quinoa has 12 g of fiber per serving. According to the UCSF Medical Center, we need about 25 to 30 grams per day. One serving of quinoa and bam! You’re almost half way there. Two? You’ve got your daily fiber for the day.
We’ve heard it time and time again, “we need more fiber”. But why?
Oh so many reasons (compliments of Mayoclinic):
- Stool Bulk – Yeah, gross, but really, if you don’t like sitting on the throne with veins popping out of your neck, you need to take in more dietary fiber to help. Alright, enough of this one, but it’s important!
- Colon Health – Having everything moving all right down under lends to less irritation in your colon. Less irritation means, happy colon.
- Lower Cholesterol – You got it, fiber can help reduce LDL bad cholesterol
- Blood Sugar – Fiber can slow the absorption of sugar, and this can inhibit the development of diabetes, and help if you already have it.
- Weight Loss – Fiber makes us feel full, and helps induce satiety. So if you eat high fiber foods you end up eating less calories overall. And lower caloric intake vs. expenditure is the key to losing weight.
3. High in Complete Protein
There are 9 essential amino acids required to make a complete protein. Generally, we get complete proteins through lean meats, poultry, fish, and dairy. But quinoa, the warrior grain, is a complete protein.
The essential amino acids are called what they are, because they are exactly that, essential. To fulfill the nutritional requirements for protein, we need to take in ‘complete’ proteins. The body doesn’t make essential amino acids so we need them from food.
Monitoring your essential amino acid intake is especially important if you are vegetarian, or mostly vegetarian. Since you don’t eat most complete proteins (meat), you have to mix and match different plant-based foods to build complete proteins and ensure you do get adequate intake. OR – you can eat quinoa. How about that!
4. High in Antioxidants
Quinoa has two flavonoids – quercetin and kaempferol. I mentioned that flavonoids are antioxidants that scavenge free radicals in my discussion on green tea. This means that quercetin and kaempferol help us fight sickness, prevent inflammation, and look and feel young.
A study posted in the Journal of Food Science by Dr. Laus and team analyzed the antioxidant activity of quinoa against other grains, like wheat. The researchers found that, “quinoa seeds may represent an excellent source of natural antioxidant compounds and, in particular, of the free-soluble antioxidant fraction. These compounds may improve nutritive and health-beneficial properties of quinoa-based gluten-free products, thus expanding interest for quinoa utilization from celiac patients to the general population”.
Quinoa in particular has many anti-inflammatory benefits, and research has shown that quinoa may lower inflammation of fat tissue as well.
5. Contains Lysine
Quinoa, compared to other grains, is very high in lysine. Lysine is a specific essential amino acid that the body can’t produce, like I said earlier, we need it from food.
There are a number of benefits to lysine including:
- Prevention and treatment of herpes and cold sores
- Improved absorption of nutrients like calcium, which may aid in bone health and osteoporosis
- May increase muscle mass
- May help regulate blood sugar
- May aid in mood regulation and anxiety
It is important to get enough of this essential amino acid, as deficiency of lysine has been found to cause kidney stones, thyroid problems, respiratory issues, and abnormal growth in children.
6. High In Vitamin B2
While I went into some detail on B vitamins in my discussion on food and emotions, vitamin B2, or riboflavin, has specific energy related benefits of its own. Vitamin B2 is water soluble, and the body cannot produce it. It has roles in breaking down sugars for energy, as well as acting as an antioxidant.
There are numerous benefits to vitamin B2, including:
- Energy production
- Red blood cell production
- Thyroid activity
- Disease and acne regulation
- Brain and nervous system protection
- Eye health
- Increased immune function
Meanwhile, a deficiency of riboflavin can cause bloodshot eyes, painful sores on the tongue and lips, mouth infections, light sensitivity and eye irritability, and chapped lips.
While quinoa isn’t the only source of vitamin B2, it’s a good one.
7. Quinoa And Granola
Alright, we’ve gone over some solid benefits of quinoa, but what about how to feast?
Tell me, I’m hungry already!
Well, I’ve got a handful of easy tips, starting with quinoa and granola.
Here’s a sweet Crunch Quinoa Granola recipe from iowagirleats.com
- Old fashioned oats
- Flax seeds
- Sliced almonds
- Small amount of honey and coconut oil
There are some more detailed steps on iowagirleats, but you pretty much mix the ingredients together and throw it in the oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Make sure to rinse off the quinoa before you add it to the mix, because quinoa has a soapy coating on it that tastes bitter.
Luckily most quinoa from the store is already rinsed, but just in case. Also, make sure you don’t forget about it in the oven, I’ve done that before and it becomes quinoa charcoal. How to avoid that? Use a timer.
8. Quinoa Burritos
I’m from San Diego. I love burritos, do you love burritos?
Here’s an easy and awesome burrito recipe to get your quinoa in, adapted from realsimple.com:
- Whole-wheat tortilla – warmed, preferably on a pan for that bit of crunch
- 1/4 cup of sliced of shredded chicken
- 1/4 cup of black beans
- 1/4 cup of rinsed and cooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup of grated cheese (I like pepper-jack)
- 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro
- 1/8 cup of low fat Greek yogurt
- Sliced avocado
- Your favorite salsa (preferably kickin’ spicy)
And then…roll away!
Did I mention I love burritos? It’s one of the things that keeps me in Southern California…the burritos. I’ve traveled around and it just isn’t the same, you know?
9. Quinoa Bowl
This one is super easy. All you need is a bowl, and some of your favorite meats and/ or vegetables. You can check out a bunch of different ideas on pinterest, but here’s how I do it, similar to one on the New York Times cooking site:
- Bowl – very important.
- 1 ½ cup of rinsed and cooked quinoa
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
- 1 cup chopped kale leaves
- 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
- 1 avocado, sliced
- ½ cup sliced chives
- Crumbled dried seaweed and sesame seeds sprinkled on top
- Magic ingredient – sliced kimchee to taste
10. Quinoa Salad
Eat more salad, eat more fiber. Oh my goodness what are we to do?
What about we both go get a fiber packed awesome Quinoa Salad? How does that sound?
Here’s an easy summer fresh quinoa salad recipe from tasteofhome:
- 2 cups rinsed and cooked quinoa
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 cucumber, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- ½ cup sliced onions
- 1 ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- ½ garlic clove minced
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of minced basil
You may notice here that the last 5 ingredients are for salad dressing. The recipe calls for sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, but I’m saying just go ahead and make it, it isn’t hard.
Anyways, salads are supposed to be easy. So once you have all the ingredients, mash together and refrigerate, or just eat.
Oh man this has all made me very hungry.
Are there any quinoa facts I missed? Or do you have any awesome quinoa tips and recipes you could share?
Make sure to comment!