Want a 15-20 minute meal that’s delicious but also healthy? Use quinoa. This gluten-free superfood comes packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and is a complete source of protein. This makes it an ideal food for everyone but especially vegans and vegetarians looking for protein sources. Who doesn’t love that? It also cooks easily and quickly, with a flavor to accompany almost anything. Here’s why you should add this awesome food to your pantry if you’re looking to live a whole foods life of health and vitality.
#1 – Quick, Simple & Delicious
Quinoa is very easy to incorporate into your diet which makes it a great pantry staple. It’s also tasty, goes well with many foods and quick to prepare.
Depending on the type of quinoa, it can be important to rinse it with water prior to cooking to get rid of saponins, which are found on the outer layer and can have a bitter flavor. However, some brands have already been rinsed, making this step unnecessary.
It can be ready to eat in as little as 15–20 minutes:
- Put 2 cups (240 ml) of water in a pot, turn up the heat.
- Add 1 cup (170 grams) of raw quinoa, with a dash of salt.
- Boil for 15–20 minutes.
It should now have absorbed most of the water and gotten a fluffy look. If done right, it should have a mild, nutty flavor and a satisfying crunch. I cook mine in the rice cooker so I don’t have to monitor it, leaving me free to do other things.
You can easily find many healthy and diverse recipes for quinoa online, including breakfast bowls, lunches and dinners.
#2 – It’s a Whole Grain – Sort of
Quinoa is a grain crop that is grown for its edible seeds. Although quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is prepared and consumed like a cereal grain, it’s categorized as a pseudocereal, as it doesn’t grow on grass like wheat, oats, and rice. In other words, it is basically a seed, which is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain. Though quinoa technically isn’t a grain, it’s still considered a whole-grain food. This little seed beats out most grains though when it comes to its nutrition content.
#3 – Highly Nutritious
Quinoa is higher in nutrients than most grains and often marketed as a “superfood” (1, 2). It’s also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.
This is the nutrient content in 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa (2):
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Fiber: 5 grams.
- Manganese: 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA.
- Folate: 19% of the RDA.
- Copper: 18% of the RDA.
- Iron: 15% of the RDA.
- Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
- Potassium 9% of the RDA.
- Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
- Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin) and vitamin E.
This comes with a total of 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat. It also contains a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are the main vitamins and minerals in quinoa:
- Manganese. Found in high amounts in whole grains, this trace mineral is essential for metabolism, growth, and development (28).
- Phosphorus. Often found in protein-rich foods, this mineral is essential for bone health and maintenance of various body tissues (29).
- Copper. A mineral that is often lacking in the Western diet, copper is important for heart health (30).
- Folate. One of the B vitamins, folate is essential for cell function and tissue growth and considered particularly important for pregnant women (31, 32).
- Iron. This essential mineral performs many important functions in your body, such as transporting oxygen in red blood cells.
- Magnesium. Important for many processes in your body, magnesium is often lacking in the Western diet (33).
- Zinc. This mineral is important for overall health and participates in many chemical reactions in your body (34).
#4 – Fiber Rich
Cooked quinoa is a relatively good source of fiber, beating both brown rice and yellow corn (10). Fibers make up 10% of the dry weight of cooked quinoa, 80–90% of which are insoluble fibers like cellulose (10). Insoluble fibers have been associated with reduced diabetes risk (11, 12 , 13).
Plus, some of the insoluble fiber may be fermented in your gut like soluble fibers, feeding your friendly bacteria and promoting better overall health (14, 15). Quinoa also provides some resistant starch, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting the formation of short-chain fatty acids, improving gut health, and cutting your risk of disease (16, 17).
#5 – Gluten-Free
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. Using it instead of typical gluten-free ingredients can increase the antioxidant and nutrient value of your diet when you’re avoiding gluten.
According to a 2013 survey, about one-third of people in the US are trying to minimize or avoid gluten (15). A gluten-free diet can be healthy, as long as it’s based on foods that are naturally gluten-free. Problems arise when people eat gluten-free foods made with refined starches. These foods are no better than their gluten-containing counterparts, as gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
Many researchers have been looking at quinoa as a suitable ingredient in gluten-free diets for people who don’t want to give up staples like bread and pasta. Studies have shown that using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free ingredients like refined tapioca, potato, corn and rice flour can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of your diet (16, 17).
#6 – Protein Protein Protein
Quinoa is fantastic for vegetarians and vegans because it is a complete source of protein. Protein is made of amino acids, nine of which are called essential, as your body cannot produce them and needs to obtain them through your diet. If a food contains all nine essential amino acids, it’s referred to as a complete protein.
The problem is that many plant foods are deficient in certain essential amino acids, such as lysine. However, quinoa is an exception to this, because it contains sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids.. For this reason, it’s an excellent source of protein. It has both more and better protein than most grains (18).
Super Nutritious, Super Delicious
Quinoa is a fantastic gluten-free food for anyone going the whole food, vegetarian or vegan route. Because quinoa cooks up like any grain, you can use it in place of grains like barley or rice. It’s versatility easily lends it as an ingredient into soups, salads and bowls of all sorts. It’s nutty, delicious flavor will addict your taste buds while its nutrition heals and fortifies your body. That’s a win-win. Add this superfood to your pantry and enjoy more health and vitality – as well as a great new flavor to mix up your kitchen.
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