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What’s the deal with quinoa?

Posted on September 06 2019

What’s the deal with quinoa?


You’ve most definitely heard of it. You’ve probably tried it. You might know how to pronounce it (it’s ‘keen-wah’, by the way). But do you actually know what’s so good about it? Quinoa absolutely boomed in popularity a few years back, but where has this superfood status come from? Here’s the run-through you need.


What exactly is it?

The pronunciation of this ancient ingredient isn’t its only confusing feature. Although you might know it as a grain, the quinoa we eat is actually a seed. It comes from a stress-tolerant plant known as an Amaranthacean. Because it’s a seed rather than a grain, it’s got an ideal balance of nutrients, which makes it an ideal alternative to other, less nutritious grains such as white rice. You’re probably used to seeing the more common white quinoa, but there’s actually around 120 varieties of the stuff. So, you know it’s popular, but why?




It’s packed with protein

Quinoa is a complete protein source, which is pretty rare when it comes to plant-based produce. This means it contains all 9 essential amino acids that your body needs to function properly, as well as offering up a healthy amount of protein per serving. Your body can’t make all of these amino acids on its own, so your diet is what supplies them. Usually, only animal products like meat and eggs are able to provide all at once, which is what makes quinoa so special. Not only that, but for a food that’s used as a grain, quinoa boasts a great protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. Thanks to this, adding it to your diet can keep you feeling fuller for longer. From salads to side dishes, all aspects of your diet can benefit from a quinoa protein boost.


It helps digestive health

Quinoa contains plenty of insoluble fibre, which helps improve digestion. Fibre is pretty much central to maintaining your digestive health and regularity, moving through your digestive tract slowly and easing the process as it does so. Cooked quinoa is much higher in fibre than most grains, as well as providing some resistant starch, which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. It also acts as a prebiotic, which further promotes good gut health. Prebiotics work by feeding and strengthening the existing healthy bacteria in your tum, keeping your digestive system happy.




It’s full of nutrients

Quinoa is packed full of vitamins and minerals that can benefit your body. Nutrient-dense is a bit of an understatement! It’s an abundant source of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate (vitamin B), and more. Iron is usually pretty hard to come by in plant sources, but quinoa offers up around 3 grams per serving. The same goes for omega-3 fats. They aren’t usually found in large amounts in plant foods, but quinoa is high in ALA, as well as other healthy monounsaturated fats.

Quinoa also packs in a healthy helping of antioxidants, including flavonoids, quercetin and beta-carotene, all of which can reduce inflammation and help protect you against disease. The best way to preserve these valuable compounds is to wash quinoa before cooking it, and avoid toasting it.




It’s incredibly versatile

This might not be a health benefit, but it’s definitely one of the reasons for quinoa’s lasting popularity. It’s readily available in most supermarkets nowadays, meaning you can grab some on your usual food shop. Making quinoa a part of your diet is pretty easy, as it works as a great substitute for grains you might usually eat. Try and shape it into a veggie burger, roll it in sushi, use it in meatballs or eat it for breakfast as a porridge or with yogurt. The neutral flavour means it works in both sweet and savoury dishes, making it a nutritious kitchen staple you can rely on.


What to remember

Working quinoa into your diet can have some serious health benefits, particularly if you’re using it to replace some less wholesome grains along the way. The nutrients and versatility it offers up means its superfood status is well earned. There are plenty of ways to work with quinoa, making it the perfect addition to any healthy, well balanced diet. Grab some next time you pop to the shop and create something new (and nutritious!).