Health Benefits of Quinoa

What Are The Health Benefits of Quinoa and Is It Safe To Eat?

8 min read

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06 May 2018

Things you'll learn here

  1. What is quinoa?
  2. What are the benefits of quinoa?
  3. Is quinoa safe to eat?
  4. Nutritional tips for eating quinoa safely
  5. Some quick and easy quinoa recipes

Quinoa, (pronounced “keen-wah”) has soared in popularity with foodies over the last few years. 

A wheat-free alternative to more commonly used starchy grains, it’s a superfood in all senses of the word. It’s now making regular appearances on supermarket shelves, as more people are reading about its health benefits—and the demand is getting greater. 

What is quinoa? 

Quinoa is an edible seed with a fluffy texture that is often referred to as a whole grain and comes in various colors, and is indigenous to the Andean region of South America. 

It's becoming increasingly popular due to the high quality of nutrients it contains, like proteins (all nine essential amino acids),  vitamins, and tip-top dietary minerals. Quinoa is also naturally gluten-free—great news for anyone with an intolerance.

Quinoa has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It’s a highly versatile, and nutritious addition to your daily diet.

There’s no denying that superfoods are here to stay, but is it safe to eat quinoa? 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

What are the health benefits of quinoa?

Quinoa is a highly nutritious seed that offers a range of health benefits that can make it a valuable addition to your diet. 

When taking on a weight loss journey, it’s essential to concentrate on food which is nutrient-rich, as it will make you feel less hungry while giving you your daily fill of essential vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is one of those foods.

So what exactly can this superfood do for you?

It’s a complete protein Source

This is great news for those of us counting the calories. Calorie-controlled diets can make you feel tired, and hungry. So grabbing superfood that makes you feel fuller gives you an energy boost, and does so without packing on the pounds is the way to go. 

Quinoa is a great choice as it contains all nine essential amino acids, which are important for bone and blood health, and nutrient absorption. And it’s the perfect find for vegans and vegetarians. Bonus.

It’s packed full of dietary fiber

Red, black and white quinoa

You want results? You’ll need to look after your digestive system and quinoa can help with that as it’s packed full of high-quality fiber. 

Why? Well, because this will aid digestion, prevent constipation and lower the risk of intestinal diseases. A decent dose of quinoa will also help your stomach to feel fuller for longer, which will reduce your snacking urge.

It’s full of antioxidants

Quinoa is a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect the heart and other organs from damage. Antioxidants help to combat free radicals in the body which can be harmful to your health.

It’s absolutely packed full of essential nutrients

Quinoa, being gluten-free, is packed with essential nutrients which will support your health and wellbeing, including…

  • Magnesium: Great for regulating sugar levels, and improving exercise performance
  • Iron: Crucial for oxygen transport in the body
  • Folate: Essential for heart health and brain function
  • Zinc: Necessary for immune function, digestive health and wound healing.
  • Potassium: Vital for heart health and muscle function.

It contains plenty of important vitamins

Getting a pure vitamin source is essential for your health and quinoa certainly packs a punch. Here are just some of the essential vitamins this superfood contains…

  • Vitamin E:  An antioxidant which helps with immunity, cardio and skin health
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Important for overall health and energy production
  • Vitamin B6: Great for cognitive function, and the formation of red blood cells
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Important  for energy metabolism and nerve function 

It’s great for gut health

Quinoa promotes gut health by acting as a prebiotic to support their growth of “friendly” bacteria.  It’s also a great source of fiber, essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Including gluten-free quinoa in your diet can help promote regular bowel movements and reduce constipation.

It can help with diabetes

Quinoa can help those with diabetes due to its low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause a spike in sugar levels. It’s also high in fiber and magnesium which can help sugar management.  

Of course, there are many more benefits to quinoa than the ones we’ve named above. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that so many smart dieters incorporate quinoa into their meal plan.

But is quinoa really as safe and beneficial as it seems?

Is quinoa safe to eat?

Spoon of quinoa

Is quinoa bad for you? Why do some believe it’s not safe to eat?

This rumor originates from the fact that quinoa contains chemicals called saponins. Saponins are naturally occurring phytochemicals that coat the outside of unwashed quinoa, giving it a bitter taste. 

Saponins serve an important purpose when quinoa is still growing: They deter pests from eating it. But, when consumed by humans, they can cause digestive issues, such as mild bloating, or even diarrhea

So how can you make the most of this superfood, without the digestive side effects?

Nutritional tips for eating quinoa safely 

If you’re a quinoa addict, don’t panic, all is not lost! You don’t have to eliminate quinoa from your diet because of saponins. You just need to make sure you remove them during the cooking process.

Give it a rinse

To remove saponins safely and effectively, simply give your quinoa a good rinse prior to cooking. While cooking, it’s easy to tell whether you’ve removed all the saponins, as any frothy water when you cook quinoa is an indication that some still remain. 

If this happens, simply use clean boiling water to rinse through the quinoa once again, much like you would with white rice.

As smart dieters, we’re used to washing salad, rice, fruit, and vegetables to prevent health issues, so it’s no biggie that quinoa needs a good rinse before use, too. Besides, the health benefits vastly outweigh the mild inconvenience.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

If you’re going to add the nutrient superfood as a regular part of your diet, make sure you back it up by leading a healthy lifestyle to get the maximum body-boosting benefits. 

For example, you won’t feel the benefit of quinoa if you’re waking up hungover after just a few hours of sleep. 

Get plenty of sleep, limit alcohol consumption, reduce your stress levels, and be body positive. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel when combining all of these factors.

Get plenty of exercise

Quinoa Benefits

Physical activity is essential if you want a healthy lifestyle, and is a must for weight management. Try to get on your feet as much as possible during the day. 

Even standing still burns calories. Even with a busy lifestyle, you’ll be able to get active if you’re creative enough. Getting your heart rate up is essential for burning those calories so get moving in a way that makes you happy.

Read: 4 Ways To Fall Back in Love With Exercise

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

A healthy diet is essential to your health and eating a variety of foods containing essential nutrients will ensure you’ll reap the benefits of all quinoa has to offer. 

Concentrating on nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats will help to keep you healthy, and draw out the best properties of quinoa.

Read: 10 Tips For Eating Out And Staying Healthy

Keep hydrated

Hydration, important for digestion, complements a diet rich in gluten-free quinoa, ensuring you keep your body hydrated. Try to steer clear of sugary, carbonated drinks, as they’ll simply add empty calories.

Quinoa can be used in so many ways to add a nutritional boost to your meals. If you don’t have some in your cupboard right now, you’re seriously missing out.

Read: Does Drinking Water Help You To Lose Weight?

Some quick and easy quinoa recipes

Weaving quinoa into your diet will provide a versatile and nutritious ingredient that you can use in various dishes, from salads to breakfast options.

By including quinoa in your meals, you can enjoy its nutritional value and contribute to your overall wellbeing.

Still not sure? Check out these ideas.

Chicken and quinoa salad

Chicken quinoa salad

Making a salad with quinoa is a great idea, not just because it’s incredibly healthy, but also because you can make a bulk load and store it in the fridge for use as a side dish whenever you need one. It’s a quick and easy recipe that will have you coming back for more. For a vegetarian and vegan option, you can ditch the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 100g cooked chicken
  • 80g quinoa
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can of sweetcorn
  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 tbsp mint

Method

  1.  Remove the sapions by simmering the quinoa in boiling water for 20 minutes. Once the grains have burst, rinse under cold water to clean it.
  2. Mix the quinoa, the tomatoes, and  onion. Add the sweetcorn and spring onions and mix together. 
  3. Chop up the cucumber and add to the mix, along with the chicken, sweetcorn and mint.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top of the salad and mix thoroughly.

Quinoa porridge with strawberry

Quinoa and strawberry porridge

Start the day with a bang by getting a healthy dose of protein, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Ingredients

  • 250g strawberries or raspberries
  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup porridge oats
  • ½ cup Skimmed or almond milk
  • Honey

Method

  1. Chop the strawberries into halves.
  2. Mix the porridge oats and skimmed milk together, and add the quinoa, and strawberries.
  3. Heat in the microwave for added warmth.
  4. Top with honey.

Quinoa: Final thoughts… 

There’s no denying the health benefits of quinoa are plentiful—and it will make a tip-top addition to a healthy diet. 

But, to reap its body-boosting rewards, you must prepare it properly before cooking by washing it thoroughly to remove the saponins—then you’re good to go. 

Be creative and weave quinoa into your diet regularly to get a power-packed boost of essential nutrients. Enjoy.

For more insider advice on nutrition, check out our guide on how to eat healthily on a budget