The Amazing Health Benefits of Quinoa
Cue-noa, qwi-noah, keenwah — it really doesn’t matter how you say it, just that you know the amazing health benefits of quinoa. The tiny little quinoa seed masquerades as a grain, but it isn’t actually a real grain that comes from a grass plant. It’s only considered a whole grain due to its nutritional makeup. Regardless, Smithsonian Magazine calls it the “Mother of Grains” because of how long of a history it has (despite sounding like a trendy new food to us). Cultivated by Inca long ago, quinoa disappeared from mainstream foods until about the 80’s when it made a resurgence in Colorado. Many believe that it’s gluten-free(ish) characteristics helped it gain speed and popularity in mainstream culture.
Is it hard to cook quinoa? Not really. Don’t overthink cooked quinoa. One of the best things about this superfood is how easy it is to prepare: wash the grains, boil two cups of water for every cup of quinoa, and let it steam for 15 minutes. That’s it! Meal preppers love how easy it is to make quinoa in large batches and reheat later in the week (because it’s just as good reheated as it is fresh).
So what does the nutrition profile look like? Here’s the USDA Food Composition report on all the nutrients cooked quinoa has in just a cup of quinoa (185g):
- Calories: 222
- Protein: 8g
- Total lipid (fat): 3.55g
- Carbohydrate: 39.41g
- Fiber, total dietary: 5g
- Sugars: 1.61g
- Calcium: 31mg
- Iron: 2.76mg
- Magnesium: 118mg
- Phosphorus: 281mg
- Potassium: 318mg
- Sodium: 13mg
- Zinc: 2mg
- Folate: 78µg
- Vitamin A: 9 IU
- Plus, trace amounts of other vitamins
Let’s hone in on the key points about the health benefits of quinoa:
Quinoa has all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own but still requires for normal functioning. That means it’s a “complete protein”. And protein is needed to maintain the most important component of your body: it’s cells. Cells make up everything, and if those are healthy, than the body isn’t healthy. Protein repairs cells and helps make new ones, making it super important for children and pregnant women. But it’s important to note that finding protein in a grain is not exactly common, which is just one reason why quinoa is a superfood. Having a grain with protein is especially important for vegans and vegetarians, who should consider making it a staple in their diet (if they haven’t already).
Higher in fiber content than most other grains, quinoa helps keep you fuller, longer (which is a key component of weight management). The fiber in quinoa is also great for people who have to watch their sugar intake, as this superfood won’t create spikes in sugar while it’s being digested. The high fiber in quinoa also performs in the other ways we expect it to, like helping to prevent constipation and hemorrhoids while making “Number Two’s” go a little… smoother.
Quinoa is packed to the brim with essential minerals that are required by our bodies for natural and important functions. For example, magnesium is reported to be essential for more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, and is especially important for nerve and muscle function. Athletes can’t get enough of that mineral, making quinoa a part of many athletic diets. Also found in large quantities is the mineral phosphorus, which is essential for bone and teeth formation. It also works with Vitamin B to help with things like kidney function and nerve signaling. That’s just touching the surface, check out potassium, sodium, zinc, and iron.
You can find milled quinoa as an ingredient in our Pumpkin Seed Protein Bars, where we’ve used this superfood to pack even more of a nutritional punch into our bars.