What’s so good about quinoa anyway?

You have heard it all before. Another “SUPER” food you have to keep up with.

It seems every month or so, a new food arrives on the block. With the promise of curing cancer, acne, making you feel “vital” and everything else in between.

what's so good about quinoa

quinoa salad

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) has been around in western countries for awhile now (it’s traditionally grown in South America).

The fact it’s becoming a bit of staple highlights to me it’s not so much of a fad food. It does have some great nutritional benefits.

So if you are one of those people that has been buying quinoa because it’s gluten free or because it’s healthy or SUPER, I thought you might be interested to learn what’s actually so good about it.

What’s so good about quinoa?

OK. Well there are actually quite a few nutritional benefits to quinoa.

  • It’s a great source of protein – One of protein’s key roles in our body is growth and repair. It also helps with satiety (making us feel full). Quinoa compares really well to other grains we might eat. One cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8g of protein. (A cup of brown rice contains about 4.5g and a cup of pasta 7.5g).
  • It’s a “complete protein” food. This means it has all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Most grains don’t have all the essential amino acids but quinoa handily does and this makes it a nifty grain for vegans and vegetarians who may struggle to ensure a good protein intake from non-animal sources.
  • It’s a low GI (glycemic index) carbohydrate choice meaning it doesn’t send your blood sugars up as high as some other carb choices. It’s GI is not as low as some other foods but it’s lower than cous cous and a lot of rices.
  • It’s gluten free which on it’s own does not mean a food is “healthy”. It does mean people with gluten intolerances and coeliac disease can include quinoa in their diet though.
  • It contains quite a few key vitamins & minerals such as iron (super important for oxygen transport in our body), zinc (important for our immune system, wound healing and with DNA and protein synthesis), magnesium (involved in loads of reactions in our body including bone maintenance and growth, muscle health and nerve health) and B vitamins like folate and B1.
  • It contains potassium which is important for fluid balance in our body, helps with muscle contraction and the regulation of our blood pressure
  • It also contains a good amount of fibre. A cup of cooked quinoa contains about 5g of fibre. That’s double the amount of fibre that’s in brown rice, about the same as what’s in amaranth and a touch less than oats and millet.  It is important to note there are grains that have more fibre than quinoa like maize, rye and wheat. Most of us know how important fibre is for our gut health. If you are interested in learning more, you might want to check out this article on 3 reasons to take control of your gut health.

How to cook with quinoa

Quinoa is handy in that you can cook it like a porridge for breakfast but can also have it for main meals (kind of like rice or cous cous) and in desserts.

Popular ways to have it include:

  • in salads
  • cooked in stock (kinda like a risotto)
  • in veggie burgers
  • stuffed in vegetables like mushrooms or pumpkin (squash)
  • as a side dish to curry
  • as a dessert similar to a rice pudding and as an ingredient in slices, bars, muffins and cakes
  • and of course as a porridge – lovely topped with stewed fruit and cinnamon

If you haven’t cooked with quinoa, try this quinoa, broccoli and feta salad recipe - very tasty and easy.

Summing up

Although quinoa is a bit trendy, I think the marketing is warranted. It’s got loads of nutritional benefits and I think is here to stay.

Happy cooking :)

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