I have always been a big fan of quinoa for its taste—I love that it is slightly nutty and earthy because it pairs so well with many different kinds of plant foods. But once I learned about all of quinoa’s amazing health benefits, I started including it as a main ingredient in my cooking as often as possible! Read on to discover all of quinoa’s impressive health benefits as well as some of my favorite quinoa-based recipes.
What Is So Special About Quinoa?
Besides the fact that quinoa is tasty and highly versatile (think warm cereals, burgers, side dishes, salads, and even chili), it is also really good for you. This pseudo-grain is rich in fiber and phytonutrients and is low-glycemic, celiac-friendly, anti-inflammatory, and gluten-free. It is even a complete source of protein! That means it provides all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce on their own. And it is loaded with vitamins and nutrients such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and folate.
But what is it? Quinoa is often referred to as pseudo-grain or pseudo-cereal because the identity of this complex carbohydrate is difficult to pinpoint. In its raw form, it’s more like a seed, but once it’s cooked it seems to masquerade as a grain. This explains why it is often used to replace rice in many kinds of dishes.
Why Quinoa is Superior to Rice
Like rice, there is more than one variety of quinoa: there is white, red, and black. White is the fluffiest most commonly used type and takes the least amount of time to cook. Red holds its shape best and is the preferred option in cold salads and recipes that call for a bit more of a crunch. And black tastes earthier and a bit sweeter—and takes the longest to cook. But what sets quinoa apart from white, wild, and even brown rice is that it is a complete protein. Not only is rice not a complete protein, but it also has only four or five grams of protein per cooked cup while its quinoa counterpart packs eight grams.
Quinoa is also lower in carbohydrates than rice, with about 39 grams compared to brown rice’s 45 grams. In rice’s defense, both grains are a good source of micronutrients, but quinoa again outperforms rice in copper, calcium, and zinc levels, and has 3-4 times the nutrients of brown rice! Lastly, most rice contains arsenic … quinoa consistently tests significantly lower for arsenic than any type of rice.
The Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Quinoa
The health benefits of quinoa go beyond the noteworthy vitamins and protein as quinoa may also have anti-cancer properties. The antioxidants found in quinoa can help keep harmful free radicals at bay. And it contains other powerful healing compounds such as saponin, lunasin, and quercetin, which are all known to help protect against cancer.
Its anti-inflammatory properties (oleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, potassium, and magnesium) may help stave off heart disease and promote heart health. And quinoa is known to help regulate blood sugar, promote regular bowel-movements, support weight-management, increase bone and gut health, reduce the risk of diabetes, boost the immune system, and enhance liver function. It is somewhat of a miracle food!
How Do You Prepare Quinoa?
It is not unheard of for little bits of debris and pebbles to infiltrate quinoa during harvest, so you may want to do a quick check before you start cooking it. I do this by digging through it with my hands while I rinse it under the faucet in a fine mesh strainer and removing any micro-rubble.
Rinsing quinoa also removes the coating of saponins which can taste bitter as it is nature’s very own natural pesticide (isn’t quinoa cool?). To thoroughly remove the coating, soak the quinoa seeds for at least five minutes before rinsing them. This step is not required but can be useful for those with sensitive tummies. If you develop an upset stomach, diarrhea, or bloating, after eating quinoa that you prepared at home, try washing your future quinoa seeds more thoroughly before cooking them to see if that helps.
If you have cooked rice before then you already know how to cook quinoa. The easiest way is in a pot on the stove with a 2:1 water to seed ratio—so if you are cooking one cup of quinoa, you will boil it with two cups of water. Simply put the rinsed quinoa seeds and the water in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until nearly all the water is absorbed and you can fluff the quinoa with a fork. A single serving of quinoa is equal to ¼ a cup uncooked, so one cup raw should feed 3-4 people (about three cups cooked).
Some of My Favorite Ways to Eat Quinoa
The texture of quinoa is soft yet springy, so it can make your dishes more toothsome and satisfying. I use quinoa all the time, not only for its wonderful health benefits but because it is just plain yummy. So much more than just a side dish, quinoa can easily shine as the star of the meal! Here are a few of my favorite recipes to take quinoa to the next level:
- Crispy Quinoa Broccoli Salad
- Kale Quinoa Bites
- Leafy Lettuce Taco Wraps with Red Quinoa and Purple Potato
- Quinoa Patties
- Masala Chickpeas, Cashews & Spinach over Quinoa
- Lemony Lentil and Quinoa Salad
Please note: If your diet has been relatively low in fiber up to this point, you will want to introduce quinoa (which is fiber-rich) slowly and in smaller portions so as not to disrupt your digestive system.
When done right, food is medicine, and eating quinoa is just one of the ways you can benefit from all it has to offer—so do not stop there. Order my S.O.U.P. cleanse to boost your energy, gut health, and immunity and lower your sugar and carb cravings.