Quinoa has amazing health benefits, exceptionally good nutritional value and medicinal uses. From aiding weight loss to keeping our hair and skin healthy, quinoa has wide uses. Quinoa has been cultivated and consumed by humans for more than 4000 years! Quinoa is getting very popular all over the world now, the reason quinoa is getting so popular is because it is high in protein, is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, has low glycemic index, is rich in vitamins and minerals and it is also gluten free.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a pseudo cereal and it is one of the oldest crops and has almost 7,000 years of cultivation history. Many ancient cultures like Incas and Tiahuanacu had domesticated and consumed this crop. Due to its high nutritional qualities, it was referred to as “mother grain” by many cultures. Quinoa is a dicotyledon that can grow from 1 meter to 3 meters in height. The seeds are flat and round and there are more than 100 varieties. The colour of the seeds varies from white, black, red, purple and even tones of yellow.
Quinoa Botanical and Common Indian Names
The botanical name of quinoa is Chenopodium Quinoa Willd and it belongs to the goosefoot family Chenopodiaceae. It goes by the same name quinoa in all the major languages in India like Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati.
Quinoa Nutritional Facts
Quinoa is very high protein, rich in all essential amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids and has a very low glycemic index too.
Proteins and amino acids are the building blocks of our body and when consuming protein rich foods, we should look at the biological value which is the measure of protein absorbed from the food. Quinoa has a biological value of 73% almost equal to that of beef which has 74%.
Quinoa contains all 10 essential amino acids and 100 grams of quinoa contains 4.4 grams of protein. Consuming quinoa regularly will fulfill all the amino acid requirements for both adults and children like histidine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, tyrosine, tryptophan and valine.
100 grams of quinoa contains around 21 grams of carbohydrates. Quinoa has low fructose content of 0.2 mg and glucose which is 1.7 mg compared to maltose which is 1.4 mg.
100 grams of quinoa has 1.92 grams of fat and out of which 1.6 grams are unsaturated fatty acids. The ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids is also very important and in quinoa it is 6:1.
Consuming fibre rich foods is the key to preventing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Quinoa is an excellent source of dietary fibre with majority of its fibre being insoluble fiber and around 22% of soluble fibre. 100 grams of quinoa contains around 2.1 grams of fibre.
Quinoa is rich in many vitamins including thiamine, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and vitamin E.
Quinoa is very rich in minerals too, quinoa is rich in calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Polyphenols are natural organic chemicals with amazing antioxidant properties. Quinoa has more than 20 phenolic compounds and the phenolic content varies according to the varieties and is the highest in red quinoa and the lowest in white quinoa. And the most abundant phenolic acids found in quinoa are ferulic acid and quercetin.
Isoflavones are organic compounds that have multiple roles from hormone metabolism to protein synthesis. Quinoa contains isoflavones daidzein and genistein.
Carotenoids are organic pigments found in chloroplasts and they exhibit antioxidant activity. In quinoa, black quinoa seeds has the highest carotenoid content followed by red and then white.
Types Of Quinoa
1. White Quinoa
White quinoa is the most common variety of quinoa available. It is also referred to as ivory quinoa. It cooks very fast, is very mild and the least crunchy.
2. Red Quinoa
Red quinoa is somewhere in the middle both in terms of crunchiness and also in the cooking time. We don’t get red quinoa easily in India.
3. Black Quinoa
Black quinoa is the crunchiest of all the varieties and it also takes longer to cook. Black and red quinoa looks wonderful in salads so many cooks prefer them for presentation. Apart from these differences, there is slight differences in nutritional value too.
Quinoa vs Rice Vs Wheat Nutritional Facts:
100 grams of quinoa has 120 calories and rice has about 130 calories and wheat has around 113.
100 grams of quinoa has 4.4 grams protein and rice has about 2.3 grams and wheat has around 3.6 grams.
100 grams of quinoa has 21.3 grams carbohydrates and rice has about 28.5 grams and wheat has around 25 grams.
100 grams of quinoa has 2.8 grams fiber and rice has about 0.3 grams and wheat has around 4.2 grams.
100 grams of quinoa has 1.9 grams fat and rice has about 0.21 grams and wheat has around 0.66 grams.
Quinoa has glycemic index ranging from 35 to 50 and rice ranges from 75 to 90 and glycemic index of wheat is around 48.
10 Top Quinoa Health Benefits
1. For Weight Loss
Quinoa is very high in fiber and like any high fiber foods, it keeps us satiated for a long periods of time. It is also a low glycemic index food making it a perfect ingredient to include in a weight loss diet. Try to consume a cup of quinoa salad every day and it will greatly prevent hunger pangs in between meals.
2. Vegetarian Protein Source
One of the common complaints about vegan and vegetarian food is not eating enough protein. Consuming fairly high protein diet is very important especially if we are fairly active. Quinoa is very high in protein, consuming a cup of quinoa with dal, curd and few nuts regularly will help take care of our protein needs. Quinoa has a very good amino acid profile and is especially rich in lysine, which is essential for faster wound healing, reducing anxiety and improving calcium absorption.
3. Reduces Serum Triglycerides
If you suffering from high cholesterol levels, it is good to include quinoa in your diet regularly. In a study done on post menopausal women, women who consumed quinoa flakes reduced their cholesterol levels significantly as opposed to the ones who consumed cornflakes for breakfast.
4. High In Minerals
Quinoa is rich in some of the important minerals like magnesium and iron. Many of us are deficient in minerals like magnesium, zinc and potassium and many Indian women are especially deficient in iron. If we prepare quinoa correctly, we can reduce the effect of anti nutrients that prevents the absorption of these minerals.
5. Low Glycemic Index Food
Consuming low glycemic index foods regularly is very important for good health. From keeping our blood sugar levels stable to reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, low glycemic index diet has multiple health benefits. Try to reduce high glycemic index foods like white rice and substitute it with low glycemic index foods like quinoa.
6. Reduces Inflammation
Quinoa is rich in saponins which have anti-inflammatory properties. In a study, four quinoa fractions called Q30, Q50, Q70 and Q90 where evaluated for their anti-inflammatory properties. All the four fractions dose dependently decreased the inflammation. If you are suffering from any kind of inflammation, try to include quinoa in your diet.
7. Gluten Free
Many people are gluten intolerant more than we realize. Nowadays we get lots of gluten free products in the markets. When trying to go gluten free, one common mistake that many people do is choose from refined starches like rice noodles and potato flour which are all high in glycemic index. Instead choosing foods like quinoa that is naturally gluten free is the best option as it is rich in nutrients.
8. Rich In Antioxidants
Consuming antioxidant rich foods is very important as they help scavenge the free radicals which are responsible for the premature aging. Quinoa is very rich in antioxidants and in pseudo cereals, it is one of the highest ranking antioxidant food. The antioxidant property is due to the presence of flavonoids.
9. Good For Diabetic Patients
Quinoa is high in fibre, has all the amino acids and has a low glycemic index which makes it the perfect food for diabetic patients. Consuming quinoa helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. Try to consume a bowl of quinoa for lunch instead of white rice, it will help keep the blood sugar levels stable.
10. For Healthy Hair and Skin:
Quinoa is rich in protein which is essential for healthy hair and skin. Due to its high antioxidant properties, it helps prevent premature aging of the skin and hair. Since it has anti inflammatory and wound healing properties, it heals skin and scalp inflammation very fast. Quinoa is also rich in b vitamins which helps treat pigmentation really well. Quinoa flour is an excellent exfoliator, it can be used in face scrubs and body scrubs.
Where To Buy Quinoa?
In Indian markets, we mostly get only white colour quinoa. When buying quinoa, try to buy Indian brands as they are comparatively cheaper than foreign brands. After buying quinoa, store it in an airtight box away from moisture.
We also get quinoa flakes, quinoa flour, quinoa pasta and quinoa cereal in the markets. It is a good idea to replace refined products with these quinoa versions. We also get cookies and snacks made with quinoa but try to limit your snack intake even if it is made with quinoa as it is usually loaded with sugar too.
How To Cook Quinoa?
Take a cup of quinoa, add water and let it soak overnight. The next day, rinse it well under running water. This helps get rid of the bitterness due to the anti nutrient compounds present in it. Now add two cups of water and little bit of salt and boil in high flame till it comes to a rolling boil.
Once it comes to a rolling boil, reduce the flame to low, cover with a lid and cook till the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Once cooked, quinoa will have small tails. You can store cooked quinoa in the fridge and use it for about 3 to 4 days.
3 Best Indian Quinoa Recipes:
1. Quinoa Upma
In a pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil. Add in 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add in one teaspoon each of urad dal and chana dal. Add 6 to 7 cashew nuts and fry for few seconds. Add in one finely chopped onion, 2 green chillies chopped and two sprigs of curry leaves. Fry till the onions turn translucent.
Add in half cup of mixed vegetables along with 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and saute for 3 to 4 minutes in low flame. Now add in 2 cups of water and add in the required amount of salt. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the flame to low, cover with a lid and cook till the water is fully absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves and a teaspoon of ghee, mix well and serve hot.
2. Quinoa Pulao
To make quinoa pulao, cook quinoa like mentioned above. Now heat a kauai along with one tablespoon of butter. Add in 1 tablespoon of finally cut garlic and one finely chopped onion. Saute till the onions turn translucent.
Add in 1/4 cup of sweet corn along with little bit of salt and saute well. Add in a cup of cooked quinoa. Add in a tablespoon of Italian seasoning, required amount of salt and pepper and mix well. Finally garnish with coriander leaves.
3. Quinoa Salad
Take one cup of cooked quinoa in one bowl. Add in 1/4 cup of finely chopped cucumber. Add 1 green chili finely chopped, 2 tbsp of finally cut paneer, one small firm tomato finely cut, handful of coriander leaves and required amount of salt and pepper. Finally squeeze in few drops of lemon juice and serve.