Isabelle Razis

Eight proven health benefits of quinoa 

Quinoa is one of the world’s most popular health food, and it is considered as a superfood by the nutritional community. 

Why is it so popular? 

Did you know that quinoa originally comes from the high plains of the Andes Mountains in South America and that thanks to this grain’s fabulous power, the Incas could run long distances at high altitudes? 

Did you know that the United Nations declared 2013 “The International Year of Quinoa” due to its high nutrient value and potential to contribute to food security worldwide? 

I encourage you to read further the ten reasons why it is worth including quinoa in your life: 

1. It is very nutritious. 

Quinoa is one of the few plant foods and source of complete protein with a large amount of amino acids. More particularly, in one cup of quinoa, you find 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of natural fibres, 58% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of manganese, 30% of the RDAS of magnesium, 28% of the RDA of phosphorus, 19% of folate, 18% of copper, 15% of the RDA of iron, 13% of the zinc, 9% of the potassium, more than 10% of the RDA of vitamin Β1, Β2 and Β6. It also contains calcium, vitamin Β3 and Ε, as well as Omega 3. It has 222 calories, 39 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fat. It has no gluten and is non-GMO, and usually, it is grown organically. 

2. It is rich in flavonoids.  

The health effects of “real” foods go beyond the vitamins and minerals you are probably familiar with. I refer to flavonoids and more specifically to the plant compounds quercetin and kaempferol. Those two flavonoids have been studied for their significant nutritional value, and they co-exist in large amounts in quinoa. It is proved that these important molecules have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and even anti-depressant effects. 

3. Very high in natural fibre compared to most grains.

There are 17 to 27 grams of fibres in one cup of quinoa, which is more than twice as high as most whole grains. Unfortunately, most of the fibre is insoluble, which doesn’t appear to have the same benefits as soluble fibre. Nevertheless, the amount of soluble fibre is still acceptable. The soluble fibre looks like jelly and helps with evacuating the residues of foods in your organism. Doing so helps to reduce blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, increase fullness, and support weight loss.  

4. It is the perfect food if you have gluten sensitivity or allergy. 

Gluten is a type of protein which you find in rye, wheat and barley. Most probably, gluten isn’t a problem for you. But some people are sensitive to gluten and causes bloating, gas and even fatigue. Moreover, to some (few) people gluten can also attack their immune system due to healthy cells being damaged. In such a case, the decrease of intake or even total removal of gluten is necessary. A gluten-free diet can be beneficial as long as it’s base don foods that are naturally gluten-free. You need to avoid any gluten-free based on refined starches or gluten-free junk food. A significant benefit of quinoa is that it is naturally gluten-free, and this is a fantastic alternative to flour in a balanced healthy diet. 

5. It is very high in protein with all the essential amino acids. 

Protein is made of amino acids, nine of which are “essential”; your body cannot produce them and need to obtain them through your diet. A food containing all nine essential amino acids is a “complete protein”. The problem is that all essential amino acids do not exist in plant proteins. Quinoa is an exception because it contains sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids. This is the reason why quinoa is an excellent protein source. It has more proteins and also the best of them. Therefore if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, quinoa is a saver! 

6. It has a low glycemic index which is suitable for blood sugar control. 

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise your blood sugar levels. Consuming foods that are high on the glycemic index stimulates hunger and contribute to weight and fat gain. Such foods are also linked to many common, chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53 which is considered low. But don’t forget that quinoa is relatively high on carbs. Therefore if you are on a low-carb diet, it might not be the right choice. 

7. It is rich in minerals like iron and magnesium. 

Often we tend to forget the importance of minerals in our nutrition. Quinoa is rich in minerals and especially in magnesium. The problem is that it contains a substance called phytic acid, which can reduce iron and other minerals’ absorption. But by soaking quinoa before cooking it, the quantity of phytic acid decreases and therefore the minerals are better absorbed. Also, we note that quinoa is relatively high in oxalates which reduces the absorption of calcium. This can cause, in some cases, kidney stones. Therefore if you have a sensitive kidney, you’d better not consume large quantities of quinoa. 

8. It is effortless to incorporate in your diet 

Quinoa is very easy to cook. You need to boil two cups of water, you add one cup of quinoa and a bit of salt and wait for approximately 15-20 minutes. The water should be absorbed completely, and it will have a fluffy appearance and feel crunchy. Remember than depending on which quinoa you choose, you might have to rinse it well before eliminating any trace of saponin, a substance found at the exterior of the grain and which will not harm you but will give a bitter taste. In any case, let the quinoa soak for ½ hour or so before cooking, as said before. What is also magic with quinoa is that you can use it with lots of other food. You can add it in any salad, you can eat it with yoghurt, with grilled vegetables and virgin olive oil. You make a quinoa salad with buts, cucumber, raisins, seaweeds, cranberry and anything else you like! You can even prepare breakfast with quinoa, adding some fruits and cinnamon.

The secret to having balanced and healthy eating habits is to experience new foods and nutrients and explore their benefits and cooking methods. Eat them consciously acknowledging the impact they have on your organism. By doing so, you will never feel bored by always having the same foods which have traditionally been used in diets and often reminding us of hunger! 

This article was originally written by Isabelle Razis in Greek and published in