If you know only one thing about quinoa, it might be this fact: Quinoa is a gluten-free super food, without the unhealthy additives that many gluten-free products contain. It can fill in for grains and flours ably. And even if you don’t have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, cutting back on processed gluten-containing foods is a good idea for overall heath.
2. It’s a Complete Protein
Not only is quinoa a good source of protein, it’s a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. This complete nutrition profile distinguishes quinoa (and soy!) from other plant-based proteins, which is one reason why it’s so popular with vegetarians.
3. Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Quinoa is a very good source of fiber, and it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are vital components to a balanced diet. Soluble fiber, as the name suggests, combines with water and creates a gel-like substance that slows digestion and can contribute to a feeling of fullness (or satiety) so that you may eat less. Insoluble fiber is the kind you are probably more familiar with – the one that keeps you regular.
4. It Stays “Whole Grain” after Processing
When turned into flakes, some “whole” grains lose their wholeness, but not so with quinoa. Unlike other grain cereals, quinoa flakes remain “whole grain” after processing. The hull, endosperm, and bran are all intact after quinoa is steam-rolled (rather than broken into pieces, as is the case with the others) into a flake that cooks in minutes.
5. The Sprouts Are Even More Nutritious
Sprouting quinoa boosts its nutritional value even higher. The germination process activates enzymes that increase quinoa’s already admirable vitamin richness. The softened grain sprouts are easy to chew and digest and make a great addition to salads and sandwiches.
6. It May Prevent Headaches
Quinoa contains magnesium, a mineral that helps blood vessels relax. Increasing magnesium intake has been linked to decreased frequency of headaches in migraine sufferers. So if you’re prone to migraines, eating a diet high in quinoa may help prevent them in the first place.
7. Rich in B Vitamins
Quinoa is rich in B vitamins, many of which are good for your skin and hair (B-6 and B-9) and for nervous system functions (B-6). Bottom line: The B vitamins in quinoa constantly help you convert all the other good stuff in quinoa into forms your body can use.
8. It Has Beneficial Fat
Although many grains are not a sufficient source of fat – and yes you do need fat in your diet (the “good” kinds, known as mono- and polyunsaturated) – quinoa is an excellent source of beneficial fats. About 25 per cent of quinoa’s fatty acids come in the form of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and about 8 per cent come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – the omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in plants and associated with decreased risk of inflammation-related disease. Quinoa also has omega-6 fatty acids in sufficient amounts to support a healthy skeletal system and metabolism.
9. Excellent Source of Calcium
You know you can turn to milk for calcium, but vegans or people who have dairy allergies or want to avoid milk for some other reason need an alternative. Although quinoa doesn’t provide all the calcium you need, it’s an excellent alternative source of calcium. A cup of milk has 300 mgs of calcium, and a cup of quinoa has about 150 mgs.
10. Good Source of Antioxidants
This wonderful little seed is a good source of antioxidants – in particular the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Studies have shown these flavonoids to be antiinflammatory, and they may help to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. You may be surprised to learn that these antioxidants have been found in greater concentrations in quinoa than in some other popular and well-known sources, such as cranberries and black currants.
Get the book! Love quinoa, but don’t know how to cook it?
In Cooking with Quinoa For Dummies ($29.95), bestselling author and nutritionist for NBC’s The Biggest Loser Cheryl Forberg shows you how to incorporate this delicious food into your everyday lifestyle. We’re talking 140 gluten-free recipes, including Thai Quinoa-Coconut Chicken Soup, Quinoa Currant Hotcakes, Grilled Chili Beef with Quinoacado Relish and Quinoa Chocolate Cake.
“I look at quinoa as the scrumptious solution,” says Cheryl Forberg, bestselling author and nutritionist for NBC’s The Biggest Loser. “It checks all the boxes – it’s versatile, gluten-free, requires little to no processing and is extraordinarily healthy. It can transform your life.”