Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) is a grain-like food crop that is often marketed as a “superfood” for its nutritious qualities; it now plays an increasing role in human diets globally. Moreover, quinoa is one of the crops selected by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to offer food security.
The most common and available types of quinoa cultivate are black, red and white. The seeds have been consumed as whole grains similarly to rice, prepared in soup, puffed to make breakfast cereal and porridge, or ground to flour to produce toasted and baked goods (cookies, breads, biscuits, noodles, flakes, tortillas, pancakes). Also, quinoa leaves have been eaten similarly to spinach and beetroot leaves, and the germinated quinoa seedlings (quinoa sprouts) have been incorporated in salads. The protein quantity and quality of quinoa grains are generally superior to those of cereal grains, while offering gluten-free property and high digestibility.
Quinoa has a higher total protein content (12.9% to 16.5%) than barley (10.8% to 11.0%), oat (11.6%), rice (7.5% to 9.1%), and maize (10.2% to 13.4%), and a total protein content equal to that of wheat (14.3% to 15.4%). Quinoa makes a good alternative to rice or couscous while also having a low glycemic index, which is suitable for diabetic patients.
The high nutritional value, medicinal properties, and gluten-free quality of quinoa may benefit several at-risk consumer populations, including children, the elderly, high-performance athletes, lactose-intolerant consumers, osteoporosis-prone women, and people with anemia, allergy, cancer, diabetes, dyslipidemia, obesity, or celiac disease.
Despite all these health benefits, quinoa is not widely consumed due to several reasons, such as the lack of knowledge regarding the grain benefits among consumers.
Nutritional Profile of Quinoa
100g of cooked quinoa amounts to:
● 120 kcal
● 21 g carbs
● 4.4 g protein
● 1.92 g fat
● 2.8 g fibre
Quinoa contains a variety of health-beneficial nutrients including high quality amino acids, fibre, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals such as saponins, phytosterols, phytoecdysteroids, phenolics, betalains, and glycine betaine.
Some research reported that quinoa has considerable positive effects on metabolic, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal health in humans.
Nutritional Health Benefits of Quinoa
*High in Proteins (an excellent grain, plant protein)
Quinoa represents an excellent source of nutrients and bioactive phytochemicals that contribute to a healthy diet as well as supplies good quality proteins to support one healthy growth especially that of children. The protein quantity and quality of quinoa are generally superior to those of cereal grains, while also offering gluten-free property and high digestibility. Quinoa is also an, important plant source of all nine essential amino acids. ,Quinoa is highly nutritious and suitable for individuals with coeliac disease and gluten intolerance.
*Packed with Dietary Fibre
Dietary fibre is considered essential for optimal digestive health, and also imparts various functional benefits. A diet rich in fibre may be beneficial for those looking to loose and manage their weight as the filling nature of fibre helps us manage our appetite. A study reported that the dietary fibre in whole grains like quinoa may help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol), boost digestive health, and potentially lower the risk for some gastrointestinal cancers such as colon cancer.
Dietary fibre can also promote satiety, reduce cholesterol and lipid absorption, modulate postprandial insulin response, promote endogenous cholesterol conversion to bile acids, improve intestinal microbiota, and reduce risk and severity of gastrointestinal infection and inflammation. Furthermore, epidemiological studies have shown an inverse relationship between dietary fibre consumption and the development of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
*Quinoa is also Packed with Vitamins and Minerals.
Quinoa contains micronutrients in sufficient quantities to maintain a balanced human diet; the vitamins concentrations in quinoa are higher than typical cereal grains. These micronutrients to name a few are vitamins β-carotene-vitamin A precursor (0.39 mg/100 g), thiamine-vitamin B1 (0.4 mg/100 g), riboflavin-vitamin B2 (0.39 mg/100 g), niacin-vitamin B3 (1.06 mg/100 g), panthothenic acid-vitamin B5 (0.61 mg/100 g), pyridoxine-vitamin B6 (0.20 mg/100 g), folic acid/vitamin B9 (23.5 to 78.1 mg/100 g), ascorbic acid-vitamin C (4.0 to 16.4 mg/100 g), and tocopherols-vitamin E (3.7 to 6.0 mg/100 g). It also contains ,minerals such as ,calcium (275 to 1487 mg/kg), copper (2 to 51 mg/kg), iron (14 to 168 mg/kg), magnesium (260 to 5020 mg/kg), phosphorus (1400 to 5300 mg/kg), potassium (75 to 12000 mg/kg), and zinc (28 to 48 mg/kg).
The vitamins are required in the human diet to act as enzymatic cofactors in metabolism, regulate cell growth and development, protect against oxidative damage, improve vision, and play beneficial roles in various other physiological processes.
Moreover, a study found that consumers of magnesium-rich foods have a reduced risk of stroke specifically ischemic stroke. Because of its high magnesium levels, eating quinoa on a regular basis can help maintain an optimal magnesium level, which has been linked to improvement in heart health.
*Quinoa Contains Compounds Like Polyphenols, Essential In The Prevention Of Some Disease
Quinoa is potentially beneficial for human health in the prevention and treatment of some chronic diseases. That’s because quinoa contains bioactive phytochemicals such as dietary fibre, carotenoids, phytosterols, squalene, fagopyritols, ecdysteroids and polyphenols.
These bioactive compounds are anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that can inhibit inflammatory enzymes such as phospholipase A2, Cyclooxygenase 1/2 and Lipoxygenase. These compounds are also able to decrease cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and leukocyte immobilization and reduce 5-lipoxygenase enzyme activities.
How to Cook Quinoa
Quinoa is easy to prepare and can be prepared much like rice; It can be rinsed or soaked before use. Bring two cups of water to the boil then add one cup of the grain, cover, simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ should have a slight bite to it (al dente). When cooked, its grains quadruple in size and become almost translucent.
Quinoa can be considered an invigorating, wellness-promoting, and endurance-enhancing food. Quinoa can also be promoted as an alternative agricultural crop due to its stress-tolerant characteristics, crop capable of withstanding extreme environmental conditions and survive in an extreme range of temperatures (−4 to 38 °C), frost, low rainfall (as little as 50 mm/y), nutrient-poor soils with pH ranging from 6.0 to 8.5, high salinity (40 mS/cm) and adaptable to different types of soil. Moreover, the whole quinoa plant has also been used as a rich nutritional source to feed livestock, including cattle, pigs and poultry.
From all the above, quinoa is a plant with a high nutritional value, various health benefits and characteristics that confer to the plant the title of novel functional food; the quinoa plant is a promising alternative cultivar, even in the western diet and farms.