What is Quinoa?

We often hear about Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wah) and how it is a modern-day superfood. But do we know what quinoa is and where does it come from? Belonging to the amaranth and spinach family, it is a flowering plant that's grown for its edible quinoa seeds. Though it was considered to be a sacred grain around 7,000 years ago, the world largely forgot about it until recently it was recognized again for its health benefits. The majority of its production is done in Peru and Bolivia along with some European countries, India, the United States, and Kenya.

What are the Different Types of Quinoa?

There are almost 3,000 varieties of quinoa, out of which three are the most popular. These include:

  • White quinoa
  • Red quinoa
  • Black quinoa
  • Rainbow quinoa

These quinoa seeds are available in various forms such as flour, flakes, crisps, and puffed quinoa. That's not all, quinoa can also be popped like popcorn and sprouted. Quinoa foods are loved for their unique crunchy texture and nutty taste. Its seeds are tiny and oval that puff up when soaked in water. Cooking quinoa is easy and it is made into a variety of dishes such as salads, casseroles, breakfast bowls, and much more. Some of the best quinoa recipes include citrus chicken & quinoa salad, quinoa pumpkin khichdi, and quinoa pesto Buddha bowl.

What is the Nutritive Value of Quinoa?

Quinoa seeds, though tiny, are considered to be a powerhouse of nutrition. So much that they are considered to be amongst the healthiest on the planet. Here is a breakdown of the nutritional value of 100 grams of quinoa:

  • Calories: 120
  • Carbohydrates: 21.3 grams
  • Sugar: 0.9 grams
  • Fiber: 2.8 grams
  • Water: 72%

Other nutrients in quinoa include:

  • It is considered to be a complete plant-based source of proteins. It provides all the essential 9 amino acids, especially those like lysine and histidine.
  • It is a great source of antioxidants.
  • Quinoa contains minerals such as phosphorus, copper, folate, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
  • It also contains beneficial plant compounds like quercetin, saponin, squalene, phytic acid, and oxalates.

What are the Health Benefits of Quinoa?

With its unique nutritional content, quinoa has amazing health benefits for our minds and body. Here are some great reasons to include quinoa in your diet:

  • Quinoa is gluten-free and is tolerated well by people who have Celiac diseases and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. It makes a great substitute for rice, pasta, and bread.
  • It has a low glycemic index and doesn't cause a rise in blood sugar levels. It also reduces your blood cholesterol and triglycerides. All these lower your risk of type-2 diabetes.
  • The protein quality of quinoa is comparable to that of dairy foods. This high protein content helps in building muscle mass, lowering blood pressure, and maintaining healthy kidney function.
  • Rich in insoluble fiber, higher than many whole grains, which ferment in your gut and produce gut-friendly bacteria, it keeps your digestive system healthy. It reduces constipation, bloat, and flatulence.
  • Its high protein and fiber content speed up your metabolism and keep you satiated for longer. This helps in preventing obesity and the risk factors associated with it.
  • The plant compounds in quinoa help prevent the risk of osteoporosis and certain types of cancers.
  • Its antioxidants prevent damage to your cardiovascular system and prevent several coronary heart diseases such as angina and heart failure.
  • Quinoa helps in preventing the formation of kidney stones in sensitive individuals. This can be avoided by soaking before cooking quinoa.
  • It improves cell function and tissue growth, making it very beneficial for growing children and pregnant women.
  • The iron content in quinoa food enhances the production of hemoglobin, which provides oxygen to all our organs and muscles. This also supports the production of hormones and the regulation of body temperature.
  • It improves brain function and prevents neurodegenerative issues such as dementia, memory loss, lack of concentration, Alzheimer's, etc.

Are there any Side Effects of Quinoa?

Though it has several health benefits and is one of the most nutritious foods in the world, still as is with any food, you may experience some side effects. These usually arise from its over-consumption and include:

  • Gastro-intestinal distress may include gas or bloat.
  • Some people may be allergic to quinoa and develop nausea, increased heart rate, hives, and itchiness.
  • It may increase your risk of kidney stones.
  • Quinoa may lead to a flare-up in people with Crohn's disease.
  • Adding too much oil for dressings & dips to your quinoa recipe may lead to weight gain. Opt for low-calorie options such as puffed quinoa to keep your weight in check.

Which is the best Quinoa recipe?

Quinoa is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be made into some delicious fare. However, the best quinoa recipe is quinoa with sweet potatoes and mushrooms. This recipe is loved for its superb flavors, unique layered texture, and fine taste. What's more, cooking quinoa and this recipe are super easy too. Follow these steps to make this best quinoa recipe at home:

  • Stir in quinoa in a pan over low heat for around 5 minutes till it gives out a toasty aroma. Pour water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. You can use red quinoa to give the dish an earthy hue.
  • In a separate pan, heat olive oil and add minced garlic and chopped sweet onion. Cook for around 5 minutes till the onions turn soft and translucent.
  • Add mushrooms, cayenne pepper, sweet potatoes, along with salt and pepper. Cook for around 20 minutes till the veggies are soft.
  • You can add a little water in case you feel the veggies are getting too dry.
  • Combine the veggies with the cooked quinoa.
  • Top with chopped pecan nuts and serve this best quinoa recipe as a warm side dish or the main meal.

Besides its amazing taste, this is known as the best quinoa recipe for its nutritional value too. This dish contains approximately 173 calories, 4 grams of protein, 19.3 grams of carbohydrates, 9.2 grams of fats, and 108.1 mg of sodium. 

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January 11, 2022
Healthy Eating

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