It´s one of those “new” super foods that has been here for thousands of years but we have been ignoring it up until recently. Quinoa used to be perceived as sacred by the Incas in South America where they consumed it heavily thanks to its status - “mother of all grains.” In paradox, quinoa is actually not a grain but more of a seed and it´s only cooked the way grains are. Thanks to this characteristics though, it has even more to offer than any other form of grain or seed we now know. From the high amount of nutrients to a weight-loss aid, quinoa certainly deserves the status of a super food.
The nutrients contained in quinoa seeds are amazingly concentrated which makes it a perfect little snack food or a quick lunch if you only need to replenish the vitamin and mineral stores in your precious body. Half a cup of cooked quinoa, which is approximately 90g, is considered one portion, containing 20g of carbohydrates, and only 2g of fat, some of which are omega-3 fatty acids preventing you from cardiovascular diseases like hardening of arteries, strokes, and heart attacks. This portion also contains 15% of recommended daily amount for magnesium helping you to calm down, concentrate better, and sleep better. Above all the minerals that we are already familiar with, there are a few you may have never heard about but they play a very important role in protecting our organisms from catching disease. Quinoa contains amazingly high amounts of quercetin and kaempferol, flavonoids which have “anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant” properties.
Because quinoa is currently produced only organically, you don´t have to worry about GMO which is a matter that creates great concern in society nowadays. The year 2013 was even called “The international year of quinoa” as to celebrate its rediscovery and promote its nutritional value to the general public. This message came through very quickly, as now it seems with everything claiming to be “healthy and organic,” and so now, we can enjoy the benefits of quinoa easily in almost every supermarket.
Weight loss & muscles mass
When we´re trying to lose weight, our only goal is usually not only the weight-loss itself, we want to reshape of our figure, feel better physically and have more confidence about our appearance. To build muscle and shape the body, your protein intake should reach its upper limit of the official government recommendations. That is 10-35% of your daily calories coming from protein which, on average, makes it 45-157g a day. It is pretty difficult to measure how much protein you´re getting, especially if you´re trying to avoid packaged and processed foods – you certainly won´t find a nutritional content table on a piece of vegetable, right? Therefore, you should be aiming for eating those fresh foods you´re sure about have enough protein to keep you going. Quinoa contains 4g of protein for one portion which is quite good considering you´ll probably be eating it with some protein-rich foods like meat, fish, nuts, or legumes. It is also important to eat the right types of protein and quinoa is undoubtedly the best source of quality protein amongst grains and seeds. It contains protein made out of ALL the essential amino acids which are hardly found in other grains, and in much higher quantities. The essential amino acids are so important because our body cannot produce them itself; therefore it is advisable to incorporate some quinoa into your diet at least once a week for good health, any maybe more for the muscle mass you´re aiming for.
This 90g portion has only 110kcal while its nutritional value is incomparable to other seeds or grains. It has 2.5g of fiber which binds toxins and fats and eliminates them from your body. This way, your digestive system is clean and is able to perform some quality work. Besides, quinoa seeds are very light and easily digestible also thanks to its gluten-free nature so that you can have a bowl of it with some salmon and grilled vegetables just half an hour before training and you won´t feel full or bloated. Moreover, it is classified a low-glycemic food so it doesn´t raise your blood sugar rapidly but slowly releases the carbohydrates and keep you feel satisfied for a longer time. It is also great for diabetics who have to keep track of their carbs intake to prevent spikes of blood sugar.
Allergies & intolerances
The first thing we have to mention here is obviously the gluten-free property of quinoa. Many people stopped eating gluten-rich foods because of an irrelevant fear brought on by media advertisement for gluten-free stuff for allergic people without a real reason to do that. We cannot really shift this bubble about gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free things because it´s just natural to follow media messages about health and fitness. However, there are real allergic people whose intestines just gave up on gluten and started creating antibodies against it. These are the ones who will appreciate that quinoa is gluten-free and it can save them from some unpleasant and painful situations. Since it´s very easily substituted for starchy foods like potatoes or rice and can be used for cooking lunch with meat or sweet little “milk rice-like” pudding, quinoa will be just perfect for anything. The only concern arises from “Paleolithic diet” fans who claim that the natural protective system of grains – lectins contained especially in their seeds in high amounts, can basically dissolve your gut´s mucous membrane and let the food leak into the bloodstream – and thus, creating a condition called “the leaky gut syndrome.” Since not too much has yet been discovered about this disease, we cannot claim this theory is right in any way. Quinoa seeds may contain some protective system, however, so do tomatoes or potatoes (the nightshade vegetables) and still majority of people have no problem dealing with them. We believe there´s always a possibility that some food will harm you specifically because of allergies, immune system impairment, or just some inherited conditions. That´s why it´s reasonable to try everything yourself and make your own conclusion. In the end, everybody´s different, so listen to your body and if it likes quinoa, enjoy its benefits to the fullest.
by Katarína Vicová
Gunnars, K. (2014). 11 proven health benefits of quinoa (No. 1 is my favorite). Retrieved from: http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa/
Mercola (2015). Eating grains can “tear holes” in your gut. Retrieved from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/21/grains-causing-gut-leaks.aspx