When it comes to proteins, the foods that come to mind are meats, fish, eggs, dairy like milk, cheese and poultry, all of which are animal based. This is the reason that people are often skeptic about vegetarian diets such as the vegetarian GM diet and doubt whether it can properly sustain the body for its proper functioning. It is here that this power grain- Quinoa comes in to play. It is one of the ancient grains like amaranth and barley that have remained almost unchanged for thousands of years. Although its benefits were neglected for long, but it is making a comeback in the modern American diet because it is a complete source of plant based protein, a highly energizing food packed with health benefiting nutrients like fibers, essential amino acids, iron, lysine, magnesium, Riboflavin (B2) and manganese.
Quinoa is one of the most protein rich foods containing all the nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber that helps with digestion and reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol. It is packed with minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese, and vitamins like lysine and Riboflavin (B2) that helps in improvising metabolism. Let us take a look at the nutritional facts of quinoa.
100 grams of Quinoa contains:
Quinoa was first domestically harvested by the Incas of South America almost 5000 years ago. It is a powerful grain that was known as “the gold of the Incas” and consumed by Inca warriors for strength, stamina and muscle development. Although there are hundreds of varieties of Quinoa, but the most popular are the white, red and black ones. Although it is called a grain, but it is not a true member of the grass family, it is a chenopod and more closely related to species like spinach and beet root.
The Amazing health benefits of Quinoa are beyond measure and it is an all-round grain that not only helps reduce the risk of most widespread diseases heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer but also promotes weight loss and maintenance of a fit and healthy body.
The high soluble fiber content of Quinoa helps in reducing cholesterol and plaque formation in the blood vessels thereby protecting the heart from various risks like blockage and stroke. The soluble fibers react with the bile acids and reduce the level of harmful LDL cholesterol while leaving healthy HDL cholesterol levels intact. It also contains a certain amount of heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids that helps in proper functioning of the cardiovascular system.
One of the most common reasons for high blood pressure is unbalanced sodium level in blood. The high levels of potassium and magnesium present in quinoa helps in balancing the sodium content in blood thereby controlling blood pressure. In addition, magnesium also acts as a vasodilator that helps in relaxing and proper functioning of the blood vessels that keeps blood pressure under control.
Protein and fiber are the two key nutrients essential in controlling diabetes and quinoa is a rare seed that is rich in both. Almost 60% of the quinoa seed consists of the germ which is a great source of protein and works wonders in controlling blood sugar levels. It is also a rich source of soluble fibers that slows down the process of carbohydrate breakdown to glucose and provides higher satiety than conventional food grains, thereby controlling obesity and weight gain, that is directly related to diabetes. The anti-inflammatory agents like phenolic acids (hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids) and vitamin E compounds like gamma-tocopherol controls inflammation that is yet another factor related to Type 2 diabetes.
Research shows that a diet rich in soluble and insoluble fibers helps in lowering the risk of colon and breast cancer to a great extent. Quinoa being a great source of fiber acts as a powerful cancer preventive food. The fibers in the seeds absorb water and add bulk to the stool and help in its movement through the GI tract, thereby keeping the colon clean, healthy and free from potential toxins and carcinogens. In addition, it also reduces the growth of harmful bacteria in the colon.
For those looking to shed the extra pounds and staying in shape, quinoa is a power-packed, fat free grain that will help you reach your health target with ease. With just 172 calories per 1/4th cup and loaded with fibers, proteins and complex carbohydrates, it is the safest bet to a long term healthy body. The fibers in quinoa absorbs water and keeps you fuller for longer and reduces cravings thereby controlling hunger and mindless eating that is also a major cause of weight gain.
The high level of soluble and insoluble fibers present in quinoa helps in proper digestion and also relieves problems of constipation, hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. It keeps the digestive tract clear and healthy and flushes out traces of toxins and waste products thereby promoting optimum digestion and steady bowel movement.
Yet another health benefit of quinoa is that it helps in fighting migraine headaches. Being rich in antioxidants and riboflavin (vitamin B2), it helps relax and expand the blood vessels in the brain and improve energy metabolism with in brain and muscle cells thereby reducing the frequency of migraine attacks.
Protein is the key nutrient in cell development and muscle building and most of us depend on animal proteins as a quick and easy protein source. But what about the vegans and vegetarians? This is where the role of quinoa comes in to play. It is the richest source of plant protein that promotes muscle and bone growth and also helps in repairing the wear and tear of muscle tissues. Being rich in iron and magnesium, it also helps in increasing energy levels and regulating muscle tone. No doubt it was the staple food of the Inca warriors.
Quinoa works wonders in preventing gall stone formation mainly because of the high level of soluble and insoluble fibers present in the seeds. The soluble fibers control bile secretion while the insoluble fibers prevent the collection of bile in the liver. It also helps in reducing excessive triglyceride formation in blood which is also a major cause of gall stone formation.
Last but not the least; quinoa is also a great food for youthful and younger looking skin. Collagen is the structural protein that gives shape to the skin cells and lysine is one of the key amino acids that help in building collagen and muscles. Our body is capable of producing collagen by itself, but in certain cases the production is lower than normal which leads to loss of elasticity, wrinkles and saggy looking skin. Quinoa is a great source of lysine that helps in maintaining supple and vibrant skin and slows down the onset of aging.
Now that you are familiar with the health benefiting aspects of this wonder seed, let’s take a look in to some easy to make and healthy recipes with quinoa that you can easily incorporate into your diet and the best thing is- it won’t take up much of your time.
This is a typical South American salad dish that has an amazing tangy taste of tomatoes and avocados and is packed with the goodness of quinoa that is easy to prepare and one you can fix in a jiffy.
Directions:Boil the quinoa in water till it turns soft and fluffy, strain and keep aside. Transfer the quinoa in to a large mixing bowl and add salt, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well with a fork. Now toss in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, corn and avocado and mix. Sprinkle the chopped chilies from above and your spicy hot quinoa salad is ready to enjoy.
This is an extremely simple and easy to make quinoa recipe which is absolutely oil free and makes use of very less spices. Enjoy it as a salad, side dish with chicken or by itself.
Directions:Toast the pine nuts for 5 minutes and keep aside. Boil the quinoa in a pot and add salt to it. Let the water dry completely; remove from flame and let it cool. Transfer the quinoa in a large mixing bowl and add the pine nuts, celery, onion, pepper, cumin powder and parsley, sprinkle the lemon juice from above and mix well, season with salt and black pepper powder as required.
This is an amazingly healthy recipe that combines the goodness of fresh leafy green vegetables with the health benefiting aspects of quinoa in to one yummy dish that you will love to eat.
Directions:In a sauce pan add 2 cups of water add the quinoa and bring to boil, let the water be absorbed completely and remove from flame. Heat oil in a pot and sauté the sweet potatoes and mushrooms for 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for another minute, add the kale, salt, pepper and cook all the vegetables till they turn tender. Spread the quinoa on a plate, add the vegetables over it and sprinkle Parmesan from top.
This is an easy and quick recipe that is open to innovations as you can add your favorite vegetables and nuts in order to give an edge. The sumptuous taste of the chicken combined with the fresh crunchy vegetables it sure to be loved by the entire family.
Directions:In a saucepan boil the chicken broth and add quinoa to it, let it simmer until the broth is absorbed and quinoa turns fluffy and soft. Remove from flame and keep aside. In a pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil add the garlic, onions and chicken strips and sauté for 8 minutes and keep aside. Now add rest of the oil and sauté the vegetables- celery, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms till they turn tender, return the chicken strips and cook with the vegetables, add salt, lemon juice and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve over the quinoa, sprinkle chopped parsley from above.
Enjoy the delicious taste of seafood with this healthy quinoa recipe that is prepared from a combination of fresh and colorful veggies and shrimps.
Directions: Boil the chicken broth in a pot and add quinoa to it, simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa turns soft and fluffy, remove from flame and set aside. Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add garlic, onions, bell pepper and mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, now add the shrimps, sprinkle some salt and black pepper and fry till the shrimps turn pink, now add the lemon juice and quinoa and cook the entire mixture for a minute and serve hot.
Enjoy these simple yet mouth watering recipes and bask in the awesome goodness of quinoa and don’t forget to share your quinoa recipes with us.