In recent years, quinoa has come to be one of the world’s most popular health foods. You can find it in salads, Buddha bowls, grain bowls, or even as a rice substitute on various restaurant menus. Because quinoa rose to health food superstardom, many quinoa varieties are readily available in grocery stores. The different colors offer various phytonutrients that provide powerful antioxidant benefits.
What Is Quinoa?
While it is in fact a seed, quinoa is often used just like a grain. Quinoa falls under the grain umbrella by people who don’t categorize it correctly, but people enjoy it in its whole food form. There’s no need for the removal of bran, which is a common processing step for grains before consumption. Wheat and rice, for example, are stripped of bran and germ in the United States before they are available for purchase. Quinoa has an outstanding protein content (8 grams per 3/4 cup), and it’s one of the few foods that contains all nine essential amino acids. It also contains many other beneficial nutrients. Three-quarter cup of quinoa contains the following daily value (DV) of:
- Manganese (51%DV)
- Copper (40%DV)
- Phosphorus (40%DV)
- Magnesium (28%DV)
- Fiber (19%DV)
- Folate (19%DV)
- Zinc (18%DV)
6 Health Benefits Of Quinoa
Beneficial For Metabolic Health
There have been two studies, one in humans and one in rats, that examined how quinoa affects metabolic health. The research on rats found that adding quinoa to their diet, which was high in fructose, inhibited the harmful effects of fructose. The human study indicated similar findings. The test subjects ate quinoa instead of gluten-free breads and pasts and experienced reduced triglyceride, insulin, and blood sugar levels.
Chronic inflammation is something that scientists do not yet fully understand. It can lead to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders. According to research, eating quinoa can help reduce the risk of harmful inflammation. Quinoa helps to encourage the production of healthy gut bacteria, which is important for reducing inflammation and preventing obesity. Quinoa also contains phenolic acids and cell wall polysaccharides, which are beneficial anti-inflammatory nutrients.
High Fiber Content
Fiber helps the world go round…maybe not, but it definitely improves digestion. One serving of quinoa, and this goes for four different quinoa varieties, contains 10-16 grams of fiber per 100 grams. That averages to about 17-27 grams of fiber per cup, which is twice as high as most grains. The majority of the fiber content is insoluble, but it also contains soluble fiber, which is more beneficial for reducing feelings of fullness, blood sugar levels, and overall cholesterol.
As we previously mentioned, quinoa is a great source of fiber. Several studies indicate that you need fiber if you want to lower cholesterol levels. Fiber helps to improve the digestive process, and bile acids are necessary for this. Improving digestion actually causes the liver to pull cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid. This ultimately reduces the total amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body. One study monitored overweight and obese people who ate between 25-50 grams of quinoa per day for 12 weeks. The results indicated that cholesterol and triglyceride levels reduced and there was a 70% reduction in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome.
Helps You Live Longer
Research is limited on this, but there are quite a few studies on quinoa’s ability to help people live longer. One meta-analysis of myriad studies found that eating high-fiber foods helped increase longevity. Another study found that eating fibrous foods like quinoa lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease in American men and women.
High Mineral Content
Quinoa contains magnesium and iron, two beneficial minerals that people don’t typically get enough of via their diet. This is great news, but there is a slight hiccup. Quinoa contains phytic acid, which can bind to these minerals and reduce their bioavailability, making them harder for the body to absorb. One way to get around this is to soak or sprout quinoa before cooking. This reduces the phytic acid content to make the minerals more bioavailable.