Looking to eat healthier? Adding quinoa to your diet is a great way to do it. Check out these important facts about quinoa nutrition and you will see why.
In fact, New Crops Agronomist Dr. Duane Johnson has said “If I had to choose one food to survive on, quinoa would be the best.”
As it turns out, quinoa may be the ultimate survival food because it has everything that your body needs – fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, carbohydrates and protein.
Quinoa Nutrition Facts
It is NOT a Grain!
Though you will very often hear quinoa referred to as a “super grain” the fact is that quinoa really is not a grain at all! It is an ancient seed that is in the same family as spinach (Chenopodiaceae). If you were to classify quinoa correctly, the proper term would be a “pseudo cereal” or “pseudo grain”.
The Protein Stands Above the Rest!
It is quite simply one of the best plant based protein sources you can hope to find!
Although it does indeed have a lot of protein, it’s the quality not the quantity that is so impressive.
We often hear that plant based proteins are inferior, because they are incomplete. When looking at nutrition facts, quinoa is unique for a vegetarian protein in that it contains eight essential amino acids our bodies need in order to function properly. These are substances that we must get from food, because we cannot produce them on our own.
The vast majority of plant based foods come up short when it comes to amino acids. Most grains do not contain lysine, which is an amino acid that is essential for cellular repair. Legumes, on the other hand, come up short in cysteine and methionine. This isn’t the case with quinoa! It is a complete protein source which delivers our bodies an almost perfect cocktail of amino acids.
Many people believe that it is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has compared the nutritional profile and protein quality of the seeds to that dried whole milk. Surprisingly, it is just as rich in calcium as milk is as well. The obvious benefit of quinoa over milk is that it provides your body with fiber and is cholesterol free!
More than Just Protein
The health benefits go way beyond just the exceptional protein content. It is rich in enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. When you compare quinoa to corn, wheat or barley, it is higher in calcium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. Here a few other things to know:
- Phytonutrients and antioxidants are believed to help stabilize blood sugar levels
- It is especially rich in manganese, which is known to activate enzymes for the metabolism of cholesterol and carbohydrates. It is also a great antioxidant that can help your body eliminate toxins.
- It is a good source of magnesium, which helps to relax blood vessels and muscles which may be helpful for those with both migraines and high blood pressure.
- The fiber content can help to tone your colon and is believed to work as a pre-biotic, feeding micro flora to your intestines.
- Most grain foods are very acidic, which is believed to cause health issues. (This is why we here so much talk about following an Alkaline diet.) Quinoa is considered neutral, and is a good alternative for those who are concerned about a candida yeast overgrowth. Grains feed yeast and in some individuals can cause a systemic fungal infection with numerous health implications. This isn’t an issue with quinoa
Is Quinoa Gluten Free?
Not only is it nutrient-packed, it is also gluten-free and wheat-free, making it very attractive to people who are gluten intolerant or who have wheat allergies. Quinoa flour can be used in gluten free baking, and is a great way to add extra nutrition to baked goods. Additionally, quinoa pasta is a great alternative for those looking to make gluten free pasta dishes.
The impressive nutrition facts don’t end here!
Quinoa is a great source of iron, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, copper, phosphorous, tryptophan, B6, niacin and thiamine. One cup of cooked quinoa has only 220 calories. It also has 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. (The protein content can vary some) If you team it up with black bean recipes, you can get your daily fiber all in one meal!
The vegetable protein found in quinoa is much easier to digest than meat protein and the slow releasing carbohydrates help maintain blood sugar levels and keep you fuller longer. It is free of cholesterol and trans fats making it a great part of a heart healthy diet.
Quinoa is a great way for those who struggle with anemia to get some extra iron. Additionally, it is a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, B vitamins, B6, Niacin and Thiamine.
Quinoa & Migraines
Recently, I read Jillian Michaels The Master Your Metabolism Cookbook. I was surprised to learn that quinoa may actually help people fight migraines. This is because the magnesium in it works to relax your blood vessels. This prevents constriction and dilation that comes along with migraines. Studies have shown that when you increase the amount of magnesium that you consume that the frequency in which you experience migraines will go down.
The riboflavin in quinoa may also help migraine sufferers. Energy production in cells relies on riboflavin. Research has shown us that it may improve the energy metabolism in the brain and decrease the frequency of migraine attacks.
Quinoa Nutrition at a Glance
Nutrients per 1 cup of Cooked Quinoa
|Total Fat||3.5 g|
|Saturated Fat||0 g|
|Trans Fat||0 g|
The Amino Acid Profile
Quite simply, quinoa is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! Vegans in particular should consider adding it to their diet, because it is a great way to get the amino acids that are missing in many other grains. It also has a higher protein content than any grain.
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