Quinoa is one of the most popular healthy foods in the world.
Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein, and one of the few plant foods that contains good amounts of the nine essential amino acids.
It is also rich in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and various antioxidants.
This article describes the benefits, uses, properties and nutrients of quinoa.
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What is quinoa?
Quinoa or quinoa ( Chenopodium quinoa Willd. ) Is a plant of the Amaranthacae family, native to the Andean regions of the South American continent.
Quinoa is a pseudocereal, that is, a food that is obtained through the seeds of the plant’s flower. The quinoa plant can grow in humid areas and supports temperatures from -4 ° C to 38 ° C. (1)
Due to its wide benefits in terms of nutrients, the FAO and other international organizations recommend including quinoa in meals both as a way to achieve the ideal healthy weight and to reduce hunger in the world.
In 2013, the FAO declared the year of quinoa as a way to promote the cultivation of this type of food and promote healthy eating rules.
Quinoa is a cereal adaptable to all kinds of foods. Not only is it easy to produce but it is a suitable food for most people. In addition, it is the food with the highest content of plant proteins that is known. The benefits and properties of quinoa are:
- Does not contain gluten
- High content of vegetable proteins
- Average glycemic index
- High mineral content
- Rich in polyphenols
- High in healthy fats
- Preparing quinoa is easy
1. Does not contain gluten
Quinoa does not contain gluten. About 1% of the world’s population is gluten intolerant. For these people it is extremely important to find alternatives to wheat without being rice. One of the benefits of quinoa is that it is allowed for celiacs.
2. High content of vegetable proteins
The protein content of quinoa is higher than that of any other plant food. Therefore, it is considered the leading plant-based protein food on the market. This is considered one of the most important benefits for vegetarians and vegans.
3. Average glycemic index
Another benefit of quinoa is its medium glycemic index . 150 grams of cooked quinoa has a glycemic index of 50. This is explained due to its high fiber content; about 7% of its weight. Due to this fact, it is considered a recommended food in a diet for type 2 diabetics .
4. High mineral content
100 g of quinoa covers the RDA for manganese, 49% magnesium, 25% iron and 21% zinc (1) . The lack of zinc is one of the most frequent in nutrition since it is a difficult mineral to find.
5. Rich in flavonoids
Quercetin is the main flavonoid in quinoa. This type of molecule is classified as a natural antioxidant. Among other things, one of its benefits is to neutralize the action of free radicals and prevent the development of cancer cells.
6. High in healthy fats
Quinoa contains a healthy fat content equal to 7% of its weight. Like chia seeds , the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids stands out, its content is approximately 80 mg in 100 g of dry cereal.
7. Cooking quinoa is easy
You don’t need to be a kitchen expert to cook quinoa. For each part of quinoa you need two parts of water. Like all shelled grains, it must be soaked and pre-washed with water. One of its benefits in the kitchen is that it is easily adaptable.
Quinoa – nutrients in 100 g
The following table of nutritional value was extracted from the USDA database. The nutrients contained in 100 g of quinoa are:
|Total fat||6.1 g|
|C vitamin||0.4 mg|
|Vitamin B6||184 µg|
|Vitamin B12||1 µg|
|Vitamin A and||14 UI|
|Vitamin A, IU||2.5 mg|
Table of nutritional value of quinoa – 100 g . Sources (1) (2)
As can be seen in the table, quinoa is a very complete food in nutritional terms. Including it in meals leads to a host of health benefits.
The carbohydrates in quinoa are complex carbohydrates . These types of molecules deliver energy slowly and gradually. Something essential for people with a tendency to diabetes or who suffer from other disorders in insulin metabolism. WHO recommends that up to 60% of total calories come from this energy source.
Quinoa is the food with the highest protein content of plant origin. No other cereal or pseudoceral surpasses quinoa in quantity or quality of protein. 200 g of quinoa provides about 28 g of protein, a quarter of the recommended amount of protein per day .
Quinoa is considered a low-fat food. 100 g of quinoa provide only 6 g of fat. Compared to the 30 g that a steak can provide, it is a really low value. The fats in quinoa are fundamentally monounsaturated; a type of fat associated with improved cardiovascular health.
Quinoa vs rice vs wheat
The main difference between quinoa and cereals is its amino acid profile. This pseudocereal contains a high content of essential amino acids : lysine, glycine and tryptophan. Fundamental compounds for the functioning of the nervous and muscular system.
When comparing quinoa to rice, it’s not just about the nutrient content ; but from where they are. In rice the amino acids are concentrated in the husk. When processed industrially, rice loses most of its properties. In the case of quinoa, the amino acids are found in the nucleus by which they are maintained. (1)
If we confront quinoa with wheat, the first thing that should be highlighted is the presence of gluten. Unlike wheat, quinoa does not contain this protein so it is a food allowed on a gluten-free diet .
Other nutritional differences are a higher content of healthy fats and proteins, in quinoa the values are up to 5 times higher. (2)
Nutritional table quinoa vs cerales
|Fats||7.0 g||3.2 g||1.3 g||2.8 g||5.3 g||1.8 g||3.6 g|
|16.3 g||8.8 g||11.0 g||14.8 g||10.5 g||11.6 g||12.4г|
|Ash||2.7 g||1.7 g||1.2 g||1.8 g||1.3 g||1.8 g||1.7g|
|Fiber||7.0 g||3.5 g||15.6 g||10.7 g||7.3 g||15.1 g||6.3г|
|74.0 g||86.3 g||86.5 g||80.6 g||82.9 g||84.8 g||82.3г|
How to cook quinoa?
Cooking quinoa as a main dish takes just 20 minutes. The ideal is to combine it with vegetables: zucchini, peppers, tomatoes; a source of protein: meats, tofu or cheeses and healthy fats: olive , coconut or chia oil.
100 g of quinoa are boiled in 200 mL of water for 20 minutes. Vegetables and / or meat are sautéed with the oil. The quinoa should be drained and then combined with the vegetables and spices. Ready: a gourmet quinoa-based dish to welcome your guests.
Is quinoa a cereal?
No, quinoa is a pseudocereal. In other words, although its production is similar to that of cereals, its grains are obtained from flowers. It is also important to know that since quinoa began to be cultivated for industrial purposes, genetic modifications were made to the original plant.
What we know today as quinoa is a variety of plant and seed of larger sizes. As well as the pigmentation levels have been modified. (3) In health food stores you can buy different types of quinoa: green, red or black.
Where to buy quinoa?
Quinoa can be purchased in most supermarket chains as well as online stores and health food stores. Its price depends on the country although its yield is high, it is also a food that causes long-term satiety.
We recommend buying organic quinoa. The organic foods have the advantage of not using any synthetic chemicals in their production.
Currently the leading country in exporting this food is Bolivia. (1) Followed by Peru and Ecuador. The main importing countries of this pseudocereal are: the United States (45%), France (16%), the Netherlands (13%), Germany, Canada, Israel, Brazil and the United Kingdom. (1)