What is Quinoa
Quinoa was discovered years ago as a popular alternative to rice. It’s an ancient annual crop like amaranth, belonging to the foxtail family.
Its shoots and leaves can be eaten but the seeds are more in demand and cooked simply like rice.
It grows on cold, nutrient-poor and dry plateaus. A little night frost doesn't bother it. Fertilizing and watering are not necessary and can even reduce the yield.
There are at least 120 different types of quinoa. These differ in taste and in color. Here is a brief overview of the most famous varieties of quinoa:
White quinoa is the most common and cheaper sold in many supermarkets. It has a mild, nutty taste and contains the lowest fat. Suitable for both hearty and sweet dishes. Cooking time is 10 to 15 minutes.
Red quinoa is similar to black quinoa. Cooking takes a bit longer. It is commonly used in salads or in risotto because it keeps its shape and looks nice.
Black quinoa takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook. It has an intense taste and is best used with oven-cooked vegetables or tossed with salads.
Puffed quinoa is the popcorn of the Incas and like quinoa flakes, mainly used as a cereal ingredient.
In terms of nutritional value, colors don’t play a major role but the darker variants contain higher concentrations of antioxidants.
You can mix three varieties in one dish to pack on the flavor and nutrients!
From soft to mild and nutty, a good mix and great alternative to classic dishes such as rice, potatoes or pasta.
Quinoa is great for people with gluten intolerance, vegan, or for those who want a healthier alternative.
Quinoa Nutritional Contents
Rich in High Quality Proteins.
There are nutrients our bodies cannot produce themselves. We have to get these from food. If not, we suffer from a lack of nutrients resulting in improper body functions and processes.
These include essential amino acids, organic compounds the body needs to break down food and play a role in numerous processes in the body.
Out of the 22 different amino acids in the body, 9 are very important and found in quinoa.
With more than 14 grams of protein per 100 grams, quinoa is an excellent source of protein.
Additionally, because quinoa is a seed, it contains more fatty acids than cereals.
Quinoa is an excellent vegetable source of protein for vegetarians, vegans and strength athletes.
Rich in Fiber.
Quinoa contains 10-15% of digestive fiber. This is essential to reduce blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels.
Dietary fiber is also important in weight loss. Because fibers give a feeling of fullness, and tell the brain you don’t need to eat.
A high number of beneficial intestinal bacteria can lower the risk of developing colon cancer. Dietary fiber also facilitates bowel movements and counteracts constipation
Quinoa fiber is 80%-90% non-soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
A high fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer, healthy blood lipid levels and a stable blood sugar level.
Rich in Antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Too much free radicals in the body can lead to chronic diseases.
Quinoa contains quercetin, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants, which lowers the risk of some forms of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Another important antioxidant is kaempferol which inhibits cancer cell growth.
Word of caution: cooking quinoa results in loss of some of the antioxidants.
Rich in Magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in building up body proteins, bones, stimulating nerves to muscles and producing enzymes.
It is also important in the reduction of body fat.
With a serving of quinoa, your daily magnesium requirements are met!
However, quinoa also contains phytic acid. It binds magnesium and other minerals, making them less easy for the body to absorb.
By allowing it to swell first, or even germinating before boiling, most of the phytic acid is broken down, up to 98%.
In this way, the minerals are absorbed better and you benefit from all the minerals in quinoa.
Rich in Copper.
Quinoa contains 30% of the daily copper requirement. Copper is a trace element that is important for heart and bone health but usually taken for granted by many.
When taken with iron, copper helps in the formation of red blood cells, maintains blood vessels and nerves, maintains healthy bones, improves immunity and iron absorption.
Rich in Phosphorus
Phosphorus is important in the production of tissues and cells, building bones and teeth, filtering waste in the kidneys, and manages storage of energy.
A serving of quinoa provides almost half of your daily phosphorus requirement.
Lack of phosphorus in the body results in poor quality of life and bad bones.
8 Top Health Benefits of Quinoa
1. Maintains blood sugar levels
Quinoa has a low glycemic index of 53.
Glycemic Index (GI) is used to indicate how quickly carbs are converted into glucose and to what extent they influence blood sugar. The higher the value, the faster the blood sugar will rise due to the type of food.
Unlike complex carbohydrates quinoa fills you up longer and prevents cravings.
Carbohydrate-rich, heavily processed foods like white bread, white rice and sweets cause blood sugar levels to increase and then drop again.
Leading to fatigue, irritability and more cravings. As a result, they turn to the same, unhealthy foods and the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Quinoa can break out of this vicious cycle with a continuous flow of energy that supplies the brain cells and muscles with energy with carbohydrates.
Quinoa is a pseudo-grain and does not contain gluten, ideal for people who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance and wheat allergies.
Those who have gluten intolerance are often frustrated because of very few options.
Not to mention suffering from digestive problems like bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, headache, chronic fatigue, muscle & joint pain due to gluten intake.
But maintaining a gluten-free diet will make these symptoms go away.
Because quinoa is unprocessed and rich in nutrients, it is the perfect alternative for numerous carbs. It can be eaten in the form of muesli and added to vegetables and salads.
It has been shown that quinoa absorbs more nutrients and antioxidants than other typical gluten-free foods like potatoes or corn.
Chronic inflammation is often the starting point of many chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Quinoa contains saponins, a substance produced by plants to protect it from insects, bacteria and mold.
Saponins in quinoa behave like antioxidants, it protects the body from free radicals causing chronic diseases.
4. Reduces migraine
Quinoa improves migraine sufferers because of the magnesium it contains. It relaxes the blood vessels and prevents vasoconstriction, one of the characteristics of migraines.
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is also involved in this as quinoa contains more than twice as much riboflavin as wheat or oats and seven times the amount of riboflavin in rice.
Riboflavin improves the energy production within the cells and promotes the energy metabolism of the brain and muscle cells.
5. Mood booster
Quinoa is a tryptophan-rich food. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps in the production of the happiness hormone, serotonin.
Lack of serotonin leads to depression and misery.
Today, serotonin reuptake inhibitors are now often prescribed as antidepressants. They increase the serotonin level in the brain but with all medications, side effects must be expected. These include: dry mouth, tooth decay, increased risk of suicide, impotence etc.
A gentle alternative is quinoa combined with amaranth, another tryptophan-rich food.
However, meals made from quinoa or amaranth are rarely sufficient. Instead, both must be finely ground and taken in a very specific way to achieve optimum benefits.
The quinoa seeds are mainly processed into powders and capsules and taken with liquid.
Simply mixing quinoa seeds with commercially available food is not enough.
6. Protects against cancer
Quinoa is rich in lysine, a special amino acid that can protect against cancer.
Researchers have discovered that cancerous growths spread and form metastases because enzymes that break down the connective tissues are formed freeing the cancer cells and making their way through the body.
On the other hand, lysine repairs damaged connective tissues and prevents its dissolution.
If there is enough lysine in the body, the cancer cells are contained, not wreaking havoc in the body.
Arteriosclerotic, inflammatory and allergic processes can be stopped in the same way.
7. Aids in weight loss
Quinoa is certainly a food that fits into a diet aimed at weight loss.
It is often used as a substitute for rice. When you compare quinoa with rice, quinoa contains fewer carbohydrates.
Quinoa = 64 g carbohydrates per 100 g
Rice = 78 g carbohydrates per 100 g
The carbohydrates from quinoa are digested more slowly and converted into glucose.
If you want to succeed in weight loss, you need to keep your blood sugar level as stable as possible.
Significant drops and rises in your blood sugar increases cravings between meals.
Additionally, quinoa provides long-lasting energy because glucose is released into the blood quite evenly.
So if you want to lose weight, quinoa is certainly a very suitable source of carbohydrates.
8. Improves digestion
Quinoa contains high-quality fiber ensuring healthy digestion.
A mix of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains activate the intestinal activity. The fiber expands in the intestine, ensures mass and sets the muscles in motion.
Drink plenty of water with fiber rich foods like quinoa so that the fiber can expand and transport the nutrients throughout the body properly.
Where to get Quinoa
You can now get quinoa in many places; health and organic food stores, supermarkets, and in your local farmer’s markets.
Before you buy, look for seals or symbols for organic and / or fair trade on the packaging.
This is the only way the Andean farmers in Peru and Bolivia benefit from their work in growing grain substitutes.
A good alternative to quinoa is flax seeds.
How to Cook & Prepare Quinoa
Cooking with quinoa is easy. There are three ways to use quinoa for cooking.
- Roasting. You can roast it with a little olive oil in the pan and enjoy the subtle, nutty aroma.
- Boiling. The other way is boiling quinoa in water or broth. For this purpose, pour two parts of liquid and one part of quinoa in a saucepan. Cover it and as soon as the water boils, lower the heat and let it cook for 15 minutes. You can add a little salt to taste, just like with rice.
After cooking the quinoa, turn off heat and let the quinoa rest with the lid on for 5 minutes. Then stir well and let it rest for another 5 minutes. Finally, drain the water and your quinoa is now for consumption.
>>> Make your own Puffed Quinoa at home! Check out the video!
- Baking. Quinoa can only be used as a small component in a dough because it lacks the adhesive protein essential in the baking process. However, not only quinoa flour can be used for baking, but also the whole grain, which is processed into breakfast cereal or puffed rice.
Quinoa seeds can be prepared in a number of ways.
Soaking. Before cooking, it’s important to wash and let it expand to break down the phytic acid it contains.
Using a mesh strainer, wash the quinoa under running water. Soak for 10 minutes then rinse again under tap water.
Sprouting. Germination allows the phytic acid to be broken down even better than when soaked. The method requires more time to do and seeds naturally take time to germinate.
Soak the seeds for 2 to 4 hours. Germinate for 12 to 48 hours in a special germination bag, in an empty container or a bowl.
In between those hours, rinse the seeds.
PRO Tip: Even when packaged, quinoa can still contain traces of saponin, which gives its bitter and soapy taste.
To avoid this, wash the seeds thoroughly before cooking. Simply put them in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse them well under running water.
How to Store Quinoa Properly
How long does the superfood quinoa stay fresh in the fridge?
Dry and cool place
Unprocessed, dried quinoa can be kept for at least as long as indicated on the packaging. Store it in an airtight container in a dry and dark place with consistent temperature. The cooler and darker the better.
You can put it in the kitchen cupboard, in the basement shelf or in the utility room.
Raw and dried quinoa seeds can be kept for two to three years after harvesting. The best-before date on the packaging should not be confused with the expiry date.
Literally, the product can be enjoyed at least until the specified date, but if stored properly, it can last longer.
In principle, you can even use quinoa beyond the best-before date.
Keep freshness intact
Once cooked, always keep quinoa airtight in the fridge. It will stay fresh for six to seven days.
However, quinoa should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Otherwise invisible but unhealthy mold spores can develop.
If the quinoa grains have already been added to a specific dish, for example, a salad, the fastest perishable ingredient always decides its shelf life.
If you want to pre-cook quinoa or want to prepare for a longer period and in larger quantities, you store quinoa in a freezer-safe container or packed in a freezer bag.
Cooked quinoa stored in the freezer lasts for at least eight months. However, after twelve months at the latest, dispose of the old quinoa grains.
How to know if your quinoa has gone bad?
If you follow all the rules of food storage, you can use untreated or pre-cooked quinoa for your diet.
But how do you recognize spoiled quinoa seeds?
With the dried, untreated grains, it is very difficult to tell whether they’re still edible, because this is not really recognizable by their appearance or smell.
However, this is easier with the cooked version. When it cools down, the consistency changes and mold can form.
Ultimately, trust your gut feeling and your sense to decide if your quinoa has gone bad. As soon as you notice something different, throw it out!
PRO Tip 2: Store your quinoa airtight containers. You can use the same process to puff amaranth or sorghum. To increase fiber and protein content, add puffed seeds to muffins, cookies and breads.