Quinoa, also known as pseudo-cereal, brings similar taste and nutritional benefits as that of other whole cereals and grains. It is not of Indian origin and is actually Andean plant which originated in the Andean region of South America. It belongs to the amaranth family and can be replaced by famous Indian crops like amaranth (rajgira) or jowar (sorghum) because of its similar nutritional and health benefits. Recently, quinoa became the most popular grain worldwide and its production also increased on a large scale in many countries like India, France, North America, China, and Africa.
Quinoa seeds are available in different varieties with different colors but only three varieties are usually preferred for consumption which are red, white, and black. Black quinoa takes little extra time to cook and have a slightly sweeter taste as compared to other varieties of quinoa. White and red quinoa seeds are the most popular varieties because of their crunchy and flavorful properties. Apart from these, the tricolor quinoa is another attractive option for quinoa lovers as it is the combination of all the three varieties which looks very colorful while providing all the nutritional benefits.
Quinoa seeds are very famous and healthy option as compared to millets. They are easy to prepare and take less time in cooking than millets. Quinoa and millets both contain an excellent amount of dietary fiber and antioxidant which helps to protect cells against free radicals.
Nutritional benefits -
Quinoa seeds are the powerhouse of nutrients such as dietary fiber, high-value protein, vitamin B1, B6, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, and zinc. They are totally gluten-free and the best alternative for gluten-containing foods. They make a healthy option for people suffering from celiac disease or other types of gluten-intolerance conditions.
Health Benefits of quinoa seeds -
Heart - Quinoa is nutrient-dense seeds rich in phytonutrients, magnesium, and potassium and low in sodium which make it good for people with high blood pressure. Quinoa provides dietary fiber, phytosterol, monounsaturated fat as well as omega 3 fatty acids which aid to lower ‘LDL’ or bad cholesterol and increase ‘HDL’ or good cholesterol levels in the blood that reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Skin & Hair - Quinoa is one of the nutritious seed grains that contain vitamin A, B3, E, iron, and essential amino acids which are good for healthy skin and growth of hair. Quinoa is also a good source of lysine which helps to build collagen in the skin which repairs deeper pores, wrinkles, and scars. The damages caused by pollution or UV rays also get repaired.
Digestion - Quinoa is gut-friendly food that contains high amount of dietary fiber. It improves bowel moments and cures bloating and constipation. Quinoa also reduces the risk of hemorrhoids (piles) and colon cancer.
Bones - Quinoa contains almost double the amount of calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and protein than other grains which are needed for the development of muscle tissues and healthy functioning of the bones.
Weight loss - Quinoa is well-known food for losing weight as they are rich in insoluble dietary fiber and protein which enhances the feeling of fullness and reduces cravings of unhealthy foods. They also help to boost metabolisms while reducing the appetite which turns out to be a useful option in a healthy weight loss plan. Few best dishes of quinoa for losing and maintaining weight are quinoa flour chapati, quinoa khichdi, quinoa salad, quinoa with dals or lots of vegetables, and quinoa kheer with skimmed milk.
Thyroid - Quinoa is superfood which has a huge impact on thyroid health. The high-quality protein, iron, magnesium, and zinc support the thyroid gland in many ways during the production of thyroid hormone. Quinoa also helps in fast recovery of autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto and Grave disease due to its gluten-free, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Diabetes - Quinoa seeds can be the best replacement of white rice as they contain good amount of complex carbohydrates and are low on the glycemic index. This reduces the risk of sudden rise in blood sugar levels after a meal. The fibers and protein content in quinoa also help to slow down the digestion process and keeps blood sugar levels under control.
Recommended amounts of quinoa per day -
We can replace quinoa with rice, chapati, or other grain in any meal like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The portion size of raw quinoa should be 25-30 grams for adults and 10-15 grams for children per day.
Side effects of quinoa -
Quinoa seeds are coated with a natural compound called saponin which helps to protect the quinoa plant from pests, but they give a slightly bitter taste and also contain some toxic substance in high concentration. Some people may be sensitive to saponin and prone to get allergic reactions. The most common side effects of quinoa you might face includes irritation, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, inflammation, or itchiness on the skin. If you are allergic to quinoa seeds, it is not necessary to avoid them totally. For including quinoa in your diet, you just have to wash it well or soak for 45-60 minutes, rinse water and wash couple of times before preparing any recipe.
How to use quinoa seeds -
You can use any variety of quinoa for these ways of consumption. Keep in mind to always wash them before use and soak for at least 30-45 minutes to reduce its toxic compound saponin and the bitter taste.
Boiled quinoa - For boiling quinoa, you have to take almost double amount of water, as we take for cooking rice. In a pan, add 1 cup of well-washed quinoa, 2 cups of water, and ¼ tsp salt. Now cover and cook for 15-20 minutes on slow flame. Stir occasionally if required. You can eat this boiled quinoa directly or with any seasonal curry, gravy, dals, plain curd, or raita.
Quinoa salad - Take boiled quinoa and add chopped tomato, cucumber, red- yellow bell pepper, coriander leaves, lemon juice, black pepper and salt to taste.
Quinoa flakes - Quinoa flakes and quinoa puffed seeds are easily available in the market. You can have them with milk like cornflakes or porridge.
Quinoa chapati - Either prepare plain quinoa flour chapati or mix quinoa flour with 1 portion of wheat flour. This will make rolling of chapati easier. Quinoa flour can also be used to make cake, pastry, pancakes, dosa, idly etc.
Other recipes of quinoa - Quinoa bars, puffs, muesli, flakes, flour, macaroni, chips, breads etc. are easily available in the market.
Note - A number of food items made of quinoa is available in the market. Some are good to consume while many others are filled with excessive salt, chemicals or preservatives. Always read the ingredients and nutritional facts mentioned on the packaging before choosing any product of quinoa. Benefits vary from person to person, so please consult your dietician or healthcare provider before you start using it frequently in high amounts.