Quinoa

Quinoa dates back three to four thousand years ago when the Incas first realized that the quinoa seed was fit for human consumption. According to WHFoods quinoa “was the gold of the Incas” because the Incas believed it increased the stamina of their warriors.

The plant was grown in the high altitudes ranging between 2,000-4,000 meters in the Andes, where every year, the Incan emperor customarily sowed the first seeds. Quinoa was a very important agro plant for the Incas, as it was one of their basic cereals, apart from maize.

Quinoa took a prominent position in the Incan culture because of the fact that the Andes was such a difficult terrain and there were no major food grains to cultivate, apart from quinoa and maize. As a good cold-resistant plant, it was perhaps the only hope and last resort for food for the Incas.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and other ancient grains such as amaranth, barley and farro are rapidly growing in popularity because of their wide array of health benefits.

Although there are hundreds of cultivated types of quinoa, the most common versions available in stores are white, red and black quinoa.

The scientific name for quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa.

Researchers date the popularity of quinoa to approximately 3000 BC, when its consumption became widespread in the Andes mountains regions of South America. About 250 different varieties of quinoa were already present at that time, giving quinoa a remarkable tolerance for different growing conditions. Quinoa is able to survive high altitudes, thin and cold air, hot sun, salty or sandy soil, little rainfall, and sub-freezing temperatures.

In addition, all parts of the plant could be eaten, including not only the seeds that we buy in the store and that may also have been dried and ground into flour, but also the leaves and stems. Betacyanin pigments presemt in some quinoa leaves given them their bright reddish color, but it’s also possible to find orange, pink, purple, tan, and black quinoa as well. Quinoa leaves taste similar in flavor to the leaves of their fellow chenopods, namely, spinach, chard, and beets. Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and creamy, yet also slightly crunchy.

They may also sometimes have an amazing translucent appearance. The flavor of the cooked seeds is delicate and somewhat nutty.

Perhaps you’ve been hearing about Quinoa and are curious as to all of the benefits that can be had by eating it. It’s a truly fascinating food, and worth taking a closer look at its different features and what it can provide for you. It’s been known in health circles for quite some time now, but has only received attention from the mainstream in recent years.

Quinoa, often described as a “superfood” or a “supergrain,” has become popular among the health conscious, with good reason. Quinoa is packed with protein, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. It is also gluten-free and is recommended for people who are on a gluten-free diet.

Often used as a substitute for rice, quinoa is commonly considered to be a grain and is usually referred to as such, but is actually a seed. The yellowish pods are the seed of a plant called Chenopodium quinoa. Native to Peru and related to beets, chard and spinach. When cooked, quinoa is soft and fluffy, with a slightly nutty taste. It can also be made into flour, flakes and various foods like pasta and bread.

Some of the health benefits of quinoa include a reduced risk of diabetes, cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as helping to control the appetite, increasing the supply of antioxidants, and improving the digestive system.

Nutritional Profile (Quinoa)

Nutritionally, quinoa is considered a whole grain. Whole grains include the entire intact grain seed without removing any of its parts. In contrast, when grains are milled or refined like white breads. White rice, and white pasta, they have been processed to create a finer, lighter texture. Unfortunately, most of the fiber and important nutrients are also removed during this process.

Whole grains like quinoa provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Which help to regulate the digestive system and to keep you fuller and more satisfied. White pastas, white rice and white breads essentially provide us with simple carbohydrates that are quickly digested but little else in the way of nutritional value.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein and comprised of all pernine essential amino acids. Quinoa also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products.

Quinoa also contains a healthy dose of fatty acids.

About 25% of quinoa’s fatty acids come in the form of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and about 8% comes in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in plants.

One-fourth cup of dry quinoa contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat (0 grams saturated and trans fat), 0 grams of cholesterol and sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrate (3 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar), and 6 grams of protein.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Research has shown the ability of daily quinoa intake to lower levels of inflammation in fat (adipose) tissue in rats and in the linings of their intestine as well.

We’re not surprised at either of these results because a wide range of anti-inflammatory nutrients is already known to be present in quinoa. This list of anti-inflammatory nutrients includes phenolic acids (including hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids). Members of the vitamin E family like gamma-tocopherol, and cell wall polysaccharides like arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans.

Somewhat more controversial in this anti-inflammatory nutrient list are the saponins found in quinoa. Saponins are the bitter tasting, water-soluble phytonutrients found in the outer seed coat layer of quinoa. (More specifically, the saponins found in quinoa are derived from hederagenin, oleanic acid, phytolaccagenic acid, and serjanic acid.) The quinoa saponins have been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Diabetes

With respect to type 2 diabetes. Quinoa simply has too many things in common with other foods known to decrease risk. At the top of the list here would be its fiber and protein content. Quinoa is a good source of fiber—one of the key macronutrients needed for health blood sugar regulation. It also provides outstanding protein quality, even in comparison to commonly-eaten whole grains. Strong intake of protein and fiber are two dietary essentials for regulation of blood sugar. Because chronic, unwanted inflammation is also a key risk factor for development of type 2 diabetes. The diverse range of anti-inflammatory nutrients found in quinoa also make it a great candidate for diabetes risk reduction.

It’s not always eating foods that are sugar-free, or eating portion sizes that are considered small by American standards. Adding Quinoa to a meal will help you keep your blood sugar levels in a happy place while at the same time getting your taste buds to agree. If you have a specific food or recipe that you normally can’t have. See if adding Quinoa to it brings it down to the point where you can enjoy it without any trouble. If you find that you respond well to it you can start using it in more and more of your classic recipes.

Cholesterol

Studies have already demonstrated the ability of *quinoa to lower total cholesterol and help maintain levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). While we would expect these results in humans as well. We would also expect the anti-inflammatory nutrients in *quinoa to help protect human blood vessels from inflammatory damage. Protection of this kind would also provide reduced risk of many cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis.

It’s the fiber once again that provides the benefits here, this time helping to lower your cholesterol. Many people resort to cholesterol-lowering drugs, and it’s always important to listen to your doctor’s advice. But with dietary changes and you doctor’s guidance you can avoid or reduce the amount of medication you have to take to keep your cholesterol in check. Quinoa makes it easy since it’s can be used in a myriad of ways. And you won’t feel like you’re eating a special diet of any sort. Or missing out on the foods you love.

Gluten free

Gluten-free diets are recommended for people with Celiac disease, a severe gluten intolerance.

Because *quinoa is naturally gluten-free, this nutritionally dense grain is the perfect pick for gluten-free diets. “

Researchers suggest that adding *quinoa or buckwheat to gluten-free products significantly increases their polyphenol content. As compared to typical gluten-free products made with rice, corn and potato flour. Products made with *quinoa or buckwheat contained more antioxidants compared with both wheat products and the control gluten-free products”. Polyphenols are chemicals that protect cells and body chemicals against damage caused by free radicals. Which are reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in the body.

A final area of likely benefit involves decreased risk of allergy—especially for individuals who have adverse reactions to certain grains and seek practical alternatives. Already, several public organizations have recommended *quinoa as a substitute for wheat whenever the avoidance of this gluten-containing grain is required. The low-allergy potential of *quinoa—coupled with its relatively high digestibility. Has also made it a food of special interest in the diet of children and toddlers.

Quinoa - value

Heart health

Lowering LDL cholesterol is good for your heart, but *quinoa can benefit your ticker in other ways as well. Quinoa seeds possess many of the dietary flavonoids “shown to inversely correlate with mortality from heart disease.”

Furthermore, *quinoa can provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fat via its oleic acid content. As well as omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acids, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Most foods lose their healthy fatty acids when oxidized, but quinoa’s nutrients hold up to boiling, simmering and steaming.

Control of Appetite

A study found that a high intake of wheat, oat, spaghetti, rice, and oat spaghetti induced more eating. On the other hand, alternatives, such as pseudocereals like *quinoa and amaranthus, did not induce more eating. This is particularly important for those who want to control their diet and who want to lose weight. Consuming *quinoa will reduce the excess intake of food, thereby promoting healthier weight.

Quinoa contains Iron

1) Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. 2) Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. 3) Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. There are many benefits of iron; it aids in neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, enzyme activity and energy metabolism.

Quinoa is rich in magnesium

Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and thereby to alleviate migraines. Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses. Body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2)

B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells.

Contains Flavonoids

There are flavonoids in *Quinoa that are typically only found in other foods like berries. And the levels that it contains are pretty substantial. These flavonoids can help with things like cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions. This means that if you are at risk for heart disease or just want to do your best to prevent it. You can start eating more *Quinoa and be doing a great service in this regard. And if you have arthritis or other inflammatory conditions you should start adding more of it to your diet right away for potential relief.