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Issue 195: Quinoa's Qualities

Brush Health

Quinoa sure has some amazing nutritional qualities.

Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wah, really is a keenly nutritious superfood recommended by celebrity trainers and enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians and just about everyone else. Hailing from South America and grown high in the Andes Mountains, quinoa is a seed which can also act as a grain. It is a member of the Amaranthaceae / Chenopodiaceae plant family, which also includes spinach, chard and beets.

Unlike many grains, however, quinoa is gluten free and highly digestible, is packed with fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats—including heart-healthy monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid. Additionally, quinoa is a complete protein, which is a status that most grains don’t have, since they lack adequate amounts of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine. Add that to the fact that, ounce per ounce, quinoa offers twice the amount of calcium that wheat does, and you have a fascinatingly impressive nutrient profile.

Quinoa also ranks low on the glycemic index—and, hence, is better for blood sugar levels—and does not cause unhealthy inflammation levels. In fact, studies show that quinoa has numerous anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, including polysaccharides, flavonoids, saponins as well as the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. In preliminary animal studies, these nutrients in quinoa have decreased the risk of inflammation-related problems. Other studies indicate that quinoa helps to lower total cholesterol and to maintain levels of HDL cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, while also supporting digestive and cellular health.

Appreciated for its high, complete protein content, which ranges from 12 to 18 percent, gluten-free, low-calorie quinoa is also highly digestible. Unlike some grains, quinoa supplies a high amount of lysine and provides an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. It also provides a variety of nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E, all eight amino acids, calcium (mentioned earlier), manganese, magnesium, iron, folate, potassium, tryptophan, zinc, copper and phosphorous. Incidentally, the high levels of manganese and copper in quinoa act as co-factors for producing superoxide dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant that protects the mitochondria of the cells from free radical damage.  

In short, quinoa is perfect for vegans, vegetarians and those on a gluten-free diet, but it is also a food of choice for anyone who wants a nutrient-packed superfood.  

In fact, quinoa’s so special that it’s to have international attention for an entire year, since the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” The FAO highlights quinoa as a food with “high nutritive value,” impressive biodiversity and playing an important role in gaining food security worldwide. 

There are many ways to add quinoa to your diet, but here are some ways you may want to try it. Since quinoa is rather bland by itself, you may want to add some extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, clarified butter or herbs and seasonings for a desirable consistency and for flavor. Adding some raw honey, fruit and nuts to cooked quinoa delivers a tasty breakfast dish, while combining cooked and chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander makes a satisfying salad.

You can also add it to soups, stews and casseroles or even grind it to use as flour for your favorite homemade cookies or breads. And let’s not forget about a raw version of quinoa—quinoa seeds that are sprouted (in only about 2 to 4 hours) and eaten as a raw, live food. 

Quinoa—pretty amazing qualities, huh?


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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