The Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa

Quinoa is a crop that’s primarily grown in Peru. It’s often described as a grain although, technically, is not one and is actually more closely related to spinach and beets. It’s grain comparisons, however, are the result of its edible seeds, which are milled and used in a fashion similar to flour. Quinoa has been a dietary staple in several South American countries for many years. Recently, it has become much more popular in the United States, Canada, and Asia because of its healthful properties, range of uses, and lack of gluten.

Quinoa is Very Nutritious

Quinoa is a fantastic food choice for many reasons. It has a high protein quality and several other nutritional properties. Quinoa has a great amino acid balance and near-ideal proportion of omega-6. It is an important source of minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin E. Additionally, quinoa contains polyphenols, phytosterols, and flavonoids, which are thought to offer nutraceutical benefits; and it has high antioxidant activity. Quinoa is also very usable; it has functional characteristics such as solubility, freeze stability, and gelation that allow it to be used in many ways. [1] [2]

Quinoa is a Satisfying Food

A food’s satiety is its ability to make you feel full. Believe it or not, many of the very tasty foods that are popular in the modern western diet lack this quality — which is probably why it’s a little too easy to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting. The Department of Food Science and Microbiology at the University of Milan compared the satiety of alternative crops, including quinoa, with wheat and rice. The result? The satiety for alternative crop foods was highest; white bread was the least satisfying food. Because quinoa satisfies your appetite and satisfies it quicker than less nutritious food, it has garnered attention for its potential to impact eating behavior (specifically, making you eat less). [3]

Quinoa is Excellent for a Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten sensitivity and allergies are increasingly common; one of the most common related conditions is celiac disease. Celiac disease is a chronic redness and irritation of the intestines and it’s triggered by dietary gluten. Persons with celiac disease simply cannot consume gluten-containing foods in any amount; the only solution for relief is to follow a gluten free diet. [4]

Because persons with celiac disease have to follow a limited diet, it’s relatively common for them to experience minor nutritional deficiencies. The Department of Gastroenterology at King’s College London and Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center both recommend alternative grain-based foods, like quinoa, as an important source of nutrients for patients with celiac disease. [5] [6]

Italy’s National Research Council investigated and confirmed the safety of quinoa, along with millet, tef, and amaranth, for persons with celiac disease. [7]

Try Quinoa!

Many foods today are loaded with unhealthy, junk carbohydrates and contribute to the incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and digestive ailments. Many people have improved their life by incorporating quinoa and whole grains into their diet. [8] Quinoa is available at many health food stores, and even some mainstream grocery stores. It costs a little more but the benefits are worth it — we’re talking about your health.

Have you tried quinoa? Do you have a favorite recipe? If so, please leave a comment below and share it with us!

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Abugoch James LE. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): composition, chemistry, nutritional, and functional properties. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2009;58:1-31. doi: 10.1016/S1043-4526(09)58001-1.
  2. Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM, Shetty K. Evaluation of indigenous grains from the Peruvian Andean region for antidiabetes and antihypertension potential using in vitro methods. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):704-13. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2008.0122.
  3. Berti C, Riso P, Brusamolino A, Porrini M. Effect on appetite control of minor cereal and pseudocereal products. Br J Nutr. 2005 Nov;94(5):850-8.
  4. Saturni L, Ferretti G, Bacchetti T. The gluten-free diet: safety and nutritional quality. Nutrients. 2010 Jan;2(1):16-34. doi: 10.3390/nu20100016. Epub 2010 Jan 14.
  5. Lee AR, Ng DL, Dave E, Ciaccio EJ, Green PH. The effect of substituting alternative grains in the diet on the nutritional profile of the gluten-free diet. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2009 Aug;22(4):359-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2009.00970.x. Epub 2009 Jun 10.
  6. Zevallos VF, Ellis HJ, Suligoj T, Herencia LI, Ciclitira PJ. Variable activation of immune response by quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) prolamins in celiac disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):337-44. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.030684. Epub 2012 Jul 3.
  7. Bergamo P, Maurano F, Mazzarella G, Iaquinto G, Vocca I, Rivelli AR, De Falco E, Gianfrani C, Rossi M. Immunological evaluation of the alcohol-soluble protein fraction from gluten-free grains in relation to celiac disease. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Aug;55(8):1266-70. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100132. Epub 2011 Jun 28.
  8. Dixit AA, Azar KM, Gardner CD, Palaniappan LP. Incorporation of whole, ancient grains into a modern Asian Indian diet to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Nutr Rev. 2011 Aug;69(8):479-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00411.x.

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  • SP

    The Natural Standard monograph for Quinoa lists its use as an antioxidant, for its use in celiac disease, food uses, and for hypertriglyceridemia. What I would like to know is how much omega-6 fatty acids are found in Quinoa, as neither this article nor its monograph lists it. I came across an interesting article noting how foods high in omega-6 fatty acids are beneficial for reducing risk of prostate cancer, so I would imagine that foods that incorporate Quinoa in them would be a good recommendation for those patients.

  • wildbad

    Thanks for this timely article. I live in germany and have recently been using quinoa. It is delicious and obviously a healthy altrernative to the factory grains being manipulated and pushed around the world by big-AG.

    I am also a big fan of something they call “Dinkel” over here. It is an old-time type of wheat which was largely abandoned due to the greater yields to farmers of the now standard “wheat”. The only english translation I have found for this is an exact cognate for the past participle of “to spell” namely: spelt.

    Have you heard of Spelt (Dinkel) ? If so can you say anything about its benefits or weaknesses?

    thanks

    ps: loved the monsanto video project, great work

  • wildbad

    Hey SP, great post, good questions. My tip for increasing the Omega fatty acids via non-animal food is a seed called Chia-chia. The numbers are great, it is inexpensive and simple to incorporate into almost any diet.
    cheers.

  • ghc_health

    Thanks for the feedback. We don’t have any information up yet about spelt but we’ll add it to the hopper of topics to cover in the future.

  • Shantelle:0)

    Oh, I am so glad that you asked! I have a knock your socks off fantastic quinoa recipe. I got the recipe from a friend who found it in an ashram’s cookbook. The ashram is located in Crestone Colorado. I’ve tweeked the recipe just a little and I like to call it Enlightenment Salad.:)

    Here it is:

    Enlightenment Salad

    1 c. dry quinoa
    2 c. (filtered) water

    Rinse and drain quinoa
    Put (pure) water and quinoa in a medium sauce pan
    Bring to a boil
    Cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until all water is
    absorbed (adjust for altitude – my experience lwhen iving at just over 6,000ft was that roughly 3 to 1 works well – sometimes 2.5 to 1 – play with it if you are at altitude)
    Place cooked quinoa in a shallow bowl and cool in the fridge – stir
    occasionally

    While quinoa is cooking and cooling, prepare veggies of choice

    ½ c. cucumber peeled, seeded, finely chopped (I
    chop the whole cucumber and put it all in there.)
    ¼ c. red onion finely chopped
    1 c. scallions finely chopped
    1 med. carrot grated (I usually just do finely chopped carrot pieces)
    1 ½ c. chopped broccoli crowns – blanched and cooled (I’ve never blanched my broccoli but it is good both raw and blanched.)
    I add a few more fresh veggies. I also thaw some frozen peas and add them as well, about ½ to 1 cup.
    You can add fresh herbs such as parsley and cilatro, and/or dandelion leafs, chopped kale, spinach, zuchinni, radish, whatever veggies you like.

    When cooked quinoa is chilled, fold in chopped veggies
    Serve with Green Goddess Dressing (see recipe below – tthe dressing is really good! I use in on EVERYTHING!)

    Yields about 7 cups

    Green Goddess Dressing

    1 clove garlic (I use 2 medium sized cloves)
    ¼ c. fresh lemon juice (approx. 1 -2 lemons)
    ½ c. fresh cilantro (whole)
    1 c. fresh curly parsley (whole)
    4 Tbs. Braggs Liquid Aminos (I use 2-3 Tbs. Braggs Liquid Aminos – get it at health food stores)
    ½ tsp umeboshi plum vinegar or other apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar, I’ve never tried the umeboshi)
    ½ c. cold pressed olive oil

    Blend ingredients in Blender, Vita Mix or Blend-Tech

    Chill
    Makes 1 cup

    Pour dressing over quinoa salad before serving.

    (I use all organic everything when possible, it tastes a
    million times better than conventional.)

    It’s a little work but completely worth the effort. Solicit some friends or family to help chop, chop, chop those veggies, etc. and then share. It is definately a crowd pleaser!

    Enjoy!
    May Blessings reside in you kitchen,
    Shantelle:0)

  • Edward Group

    Great info Shantelle, thanks for sharing!

    -Dr. Edward Group

  • courageandhope

    I will try your recipe, Shantelle. My daughter invented this quinoa salad, so let’s call it Eliza’s Quinoa Salad. It is very good: “A box of red quinoa, frozen peas [or other peas], chopped fresh tomato, 1-2 cans black olives, halved, 1-2 cans kidney beans, a teensy bit of olive oil. Cook together: 1 packet frozen boca burger, tomato sauce (about 2 cans), ketchup, mustard to taste. Eat plain on its own or as a filling for tortillas.” You could leave out the boca burger, but it adds protein. Curly red quinoa is pretty and tastes great.
    And this one I had in the file but haven’t tried, from our health food store: Quinoa Salad with Lime Dressing: 3 cups cooked quinoa (1 c. raw, 1 l/2 c. water, l/2 c cucumber, l/2 c corn, l/4 red pepper, 2 T scallions, 4 tsp cilantro. Lime dressing: 3 T lime juice, 3 T canola oil (optional; I guess I’d use olive oil because canola is GMO), l/2 tsp toastes sesame oil, l/2 tsp salt, pinch pepper. Refrigerate 1-3 hours. Serves 3.

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