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With the alarming rise in morbid obesity around the world (especially in the urban areas), people these days look for healthier alternatives to foods they have consumed all their life, but which isn't all that great for them.
Quinoa is one such grain alternative that has taken the world by a storm in the recent years.
But what you may not know is that this seed (yes, it's a seed!) has been cultivated in South America for thousands of years, especially in the regions of Chile, Bolivia, and Peru, which was the stronghold of the ancient Incas.
In fact, quinoa was called the "gold of the Incas" because it increased the strength and stamina of their warriors.
So, here are the 13 mind-blowing health benefits of quinoa that will definitely convince you to stop eating grains and start eating this.
P.S. This is the second post in our brand new series - Seed Superheroes. So, if you've missed out our take on wild rice and its amazing health benefits, you can read it right here.
#1 It Is Rich In Antioxidants
Quinoa is a super seed with an incredible number of phytonutrients in its nutrient profile. So much, in fact, that it can protect you from inflammation and prevent diseases caused by free radicals.
#2 It Is Great For Your Heart!
Quinoa contains omega-3 fatty acids in it that can protect your heart and brain from diseases. And while the amount of this is quite minimal, it is still a lot more than what common food grains contain.
Plus, it contains a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids that are known to reduce your LDL cholesterol level and increase the level of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.
#3 It Is A Complete Protein
There are very few foods in the world that contain all the 9 essential amino acids in them, including lysine and isoleucine. And quinoa is one such complete protein.
Plus, it has twice the amount of protein contained in barley or rice.
No wonder the Inca menfolk loved this seed so much!
#4 It Is Rich In Fibre
Quinoa has a distinct, nutty taste and crunchy texture even after it's cooked. And this is an attribute of its high fiber content, which is extremely good for your digestive tract.
#5 It’s Gluten Free
Since quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain, it does not contain gluten, the composite protein found in most grains, like wheat and barley, which are known for their high-allergenic potential.
So if you have gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease, you can add quinoa to your diet without a second thought.
#6 It Can Help You Lose Weight
Because it is a complete protein and contains a high amount of dietary fibres, quinoa is the perfect food for all those who wish to lose weight and tone up.
This is because the protein content of it improves your metabolism, while the fibre content decreases fat absorption from your gut and improves the function of insulin in your body.
#7 It Can Prevent Cancer
Numerous studies of quinoa and its nutrient profile have found 3 important cancer-fighting compounds in this seed. Namely, saponins, quercetin, and lunasin.
Saponins are found in a lot of plants and give them a mildly alkaline, soapy texture when washed. And you can see this white detergent-like foam when you wash quinoa as well.
While saponins are not always good for your body, when it comes to cancer, studies have shown that it is very effective against brain cancers, like glioblastoma, lymphomas, and leukaemias because it has the ability to cross various barriers in the body, including the highly specialized blood-brain barrier.
Lunasin is another cancer-fighting compound found in quinoa, which in-vitro studies have shown to be a very effective component against cancer cells while harmless for normal cells.
Quercetin is a strong anti-inflammatory compound and is very powerful against lung cancer.
That's why when you consume quinoa regularly, you end up protecting your body from cancer.
#8 It Can Prevent Atherosclerosis
Quinoa is rich in butyrate, which is a fatty acid capable of preventing arterial hardening and plaque formation due to cholesterol.
#9 It Is Rich In Potassium
Your body has a tenuous sodium-potassium balance. And when you eat more of the former but skip the latter, you end up with life-threatening consequences.
Quinoa contains 10% of your daily potassium requirement, and therefore, is a great way to balance out the high sodium found in most foods, and this protects you from stroke and hypertension.
#10 It’s Good For Your Bones
Quinoa is rich in three important bone-building nutrients - manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. That's why it's a great alternative to milk for those suffering from lactose intolerance.
In fact, one cup of quinoa contains 58% of your daily manganese requirement!
#11 It Can Protect You From Diabetes
As mentioned above, quinoa is rich in manganese and magnesium, both of which have an added benefit of protecting your body from diabetes, especially type 2, insulin-resistant diabetes.
In fact, manganese is an integral part of the gluconeogenesis pathway, and therefore, great for regulating your blood sugar level.
#12 Diabetic Patients Can Eat It
Quinoa has a low glycaemic index, which means it will not cause abrupt spikes in your blood sugar. Therefore, if you are suffering from diabetes, you can add this grain alternative to your diet without fear.
#13 It Is Rich In Multiple Essential Minerals
Besides the ones mentioned in the previous points, quinoa is also rich in iron (15% RDA), copper (18% RDA), and zinc (13% RDA), all of which are minerals that most of us are deficient in.
Soak It Before You Eat
Quinoa might be rich in nutrients, but it also contains a compound named phytic acid, which binds to the essential nutrients in this seed and prevents their uptake from your gut.
So, soak your quinoa seeds in water (after washing them) until they sprout slightly, as this will reduce the phytic acid concentration in them and improve the availability of the other nutrients.
How To Eat Quinoa
There are 3 varieties of quinoa - red, white, and black.
The white quinoa (a.k.a, ivory) is the quickest to cook, while the red variant holds its shape the best and so is preferred as an ingredient in salads.
The black quinoa is the toughest to cook, but not as tough as brown or wild rice. It requires 15 to 20 minutes in the pot and has a slightly sweet taste that the other types of quinoa lack.
All variants have a slight bitter taste (because of the saponins contained in it) that is not very obvious as long as you have cooked them with veggies and other ingredients.
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And come back on Monday at 7 PM for the next post in our brand new series - Seed Superheroes - where we will discuss more about the phenomenal health benefits of the notorious poppy seeds.