The health benefits of the quinoa on your body and nutrition !

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Quinoa is a good substitute for rice. It contains higher quality protein and fiber and fewer carbohydrates and calories.

I conducted my investigation to find out what makes quinoa rich and what its benefits are.

What is quinoa?

Unlike rice and wheat, quinoa is not a grass. It is a “pseudo-cereal” like buckwheat. Quinoa is the fruit of a plant of the same family as spinach and beets. Quinoa earns more cooked, it shines in your salads and if you want to eat gluten free, it’s the perfect food. On the nutrition side, it contains a large amount of high quality protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids and many micronutrients. Thanks to its nutritional composition, somewhat different from that of other cereals, and its unique taste, its inclusion in the diet allows to bring variety to the menu.

Benefits quinoa

Cooking quinoa: its health benefits

Quinoa, an antioxidant source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Grain products are of great importance to our diet. One of Health Canada’s dietary recommendations for the health of Canadians advises “the largest portion of cereals, breads and other cereal products, as well as vegetables and fruits”. Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating reflects this recommendation and emphasizes the choice of whole grain or fortified grain products. The US authorities, for their part, recommend that at least half of the cereal products consumed be whole grain.

These recommendations are based on the results of some epidemiological studies that indicate that whole grain consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. These benefits would be related to the synergy between the many compounds found in whole grains, such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Since the majority of these compounds are contained in bran and germ, it is advantageous to consume the least refined cereals possible.

Quinoa, ideal for preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes

A 125 ml portion of quinoa contains a quantity of fiber that approximates that of a slice of whole wheat bread or that of 125 ml of cooked brown rice.

Food quinoa

The types of fiber found in quinoa flour may improve the digestibility and uptake of this “pseudo-cereal” in the large intestine. In general, a diet high in soluble fiber can help treat cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes by normalizing blood levels of cholesterol, glucose and insulin. Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, would help maintain proper intestinal function. A high fiber diet would also be associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Finally, even if they do not contain calories, a high intake of total fiber would bring a greater feeling of satiety.

Because of its composition, quinoa has an average glycemic index that makes it a favorite grain for people with diabetes.

The qualities of quinoa for vegetarians:

Quinoa has a variety of nutritious characteristics to be favored by vegetarians. Among these are iron, zinc and vitamin B2. In addition, quinoa is rich in high quality vegetable protein (15%). Its protein content is higher and its amino acid composition is more balanced than those of other common cereals.

Quinoa, a source of gluten-free protein

Quinoa contains about 15% protein and its amino acid composition is better balanced than most other cereals, such as millet, sorghum, rice, wheat and corn.

Proteins are used primarily to form, repair and maintain healthy tissues such as skin, muscles and bones. They are also used for the formation of digestive enzymes and hormones. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has observed that quinoa proteins, with or without saponins, would be equivalent in terms of quality, to those contained in whole milk powder.

Quinoa Benefits health

However, this does not mean that quinoa can replace milk and dairy products in a balanced diet. Quinoa and milk come from two different food groups, each providing essential nutrients to the body.

Quinoa is rich in essential amino acids. An amino acid is said to be essential when the body can not make it itself and must be supplied by the diet. Quinoa has a high content of lysine, an amino acid often missing in grain products such as wheat and corn. Quinoa also has a good content of methionine, cystine, arginine, histidine and isoleucine, making it a perfect supplement for legumes, which have a low proportion of some of these essential amino acids.

Quinoa has a low percentage of prolamins (a kind of protein), which indicates that it is gluten-free and therefore of interest to people who suffer from gluten intolerance, which is called celiac disease.

Learn more about Celiac Disease:

Celiac disease affects approximately 4 in every 1,000 people in North America. People with this disease suffer from permanent intolerance to gluten, a protein found in the grain of many grains. This protein is toxic to celiac people and its consumption can lead to intestinal symptoms, such as malabsorption of several nutrients. The treatment of this disease consists in completely excluding gluten from the diet.

Since quinoa does not contain it, it would be an interesting food for gluten intolerant people. On the other hand, special attention must be paid because quinoa can be contaminated by cereals containing gluten, in the fields, during transport, grain handling or at the time of milling. It is therefore important to choose gluten-free flours and food products, as these products are the safest.

Unfortunately, not all gluten-free foods have this symbol, hence the importance of knowing how to read labels to identify potential sources of gluten.

In a satiety study, the consumption of quinoa before a meal did not produce more satiating effect than the consumption of a similar amount of rice, despite a higher content of protein (and fiber). Some macronutrients whose proteins have a satiating effect more important than others. Quinoa, because of its high protein content, could potentially have an effect on satiety and thus on food intake compared to other cereals. This hypothesis deserves to be studied further.

Quinoa, a powerful antioxidant

Antioxidants are compounds that can delay or inhibit the oxidation of lipids or other molecules and thus reduce the damage caused by free radicals. A recent study has shown that pseudo-cereals such as quinoa have high antioxidant activity. In addition, quinoa also contains isoflavones, including daidzein and genistein. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, molecules of plant origin that act in the body a little like the estrogen naturally produced by the body.

Estrogens have a role in regulating the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breastfeeding, in addition to helping prevent bone demineralization and keeping the blood vessels healthy. One wonders then if phytoestrogens can mimic the effect of estrogen. The effects are promising but other studies remain to confirm these hypotheses.

The most important nutriments in quinoa

Manganese. Quinoa is an excellent source of manganese for the woman and a good source for the man, their needs being different. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. He also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.

Iron. Quinoa is a good source of iron for the man and a source for the woman, their needs being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the manufacture of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses).

Copper. Quinoa is a good source of copper. As a constituent of many enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used for tissue structure and repair) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also contribute to the body’s defense against free radicals.

Phosphorus. Quinoa is a source of phosphorus (see our factsheet Phosphorus nutrients list). The second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium, phosphorus plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates in the growth and regeneration of tissues, among other things, and helps to keep blood pH normal. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Magnesium. Quinoa is a source of magnesium. Magnesium is involved in bone development, protein building, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and immune system function. It also plays a role in the metabolism of energy and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Zinc. Quinoa is a source of zinc. Zinc is involved in immune responses, the production of genetic material, taste perception, wound healing and fetal development. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, he participates in the synthesis (manufacture), storage and release of insulin.

Vitamin B2. Quinoa is a source of vitamin B2. This vitamin is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to the growth and repair of tissues, the production of hormones and the formation of red blood cells.

Before cooking quinoa: wash it thoroughly to remove all traces of saponins

Saponins are plant substances produced mainly in plants. They are considered to be antinutritional factors, that is, substances that interfere with the body’s absorption and use of important nutrients, such as iron. For this reason, they must be eliminated before consumption.

Quinoa nutrition

The quinoa present in our supermarkets contains very few saponins since it was washed out. It is still advisable to rinse well until the water does not foam any more to remove residual traces of saponin and avoid that the bitter taste persists after cooking.

The presence of saponins and other so-called anti-nutritional substances such as tannins, phytic acid and protease inhibitors do not only have deleterious effects. Studies indicate beneficial effects of different saponins on health (antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, cancer prevention, cholesterol-lowering …). However, since most of these studies are done in animals, further studies in humans are needed.

Saponins also have a pharmacological interest because they may alter the permeability of the small intestine and thus help the absorption of specific drugs. Quinoa saponins would not have a negative effect on the nutritional quality of quinoa proteins.

The results of one study demonstrated that the amino acid profile of quinoa was very similar before and after washing, which could mean that the process for removing saponins does not alter the amino acid composition of quinoa seeds. To extract the saponins from quinoa, the grains must first be polished by rubbing and then washed with water.

Quinoa, a grain rich in oil

When compared to other cereals, quinoa has a relatively high oil content, which is another of its important nutritional characteristics. Its oil content represents an average of 5.8% of its mass in the natural state. The essential fatty acids (linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids) account for 55% to 63% of the lipids present in this oil. Despite the high levels of these essential fatty acids, which cause oxidation, the oil extracted from quinoa is relatively stable because of its high level of vitamin E15.

Quinoa, rich in iron and excellent against anemia

Quinoa is a food rich in non-heme iron (plant iron) (1.85 mg of iron per 20 g of quinoa). This is a good way to include more iron in the diet, especially for people with anemia.

Benefits food quinoa

Note that iron in foods of plant origin (such as quinoa) is less well absorbed by the body compared to iron in foods of animal origin. In addition, for a better absorption of non-heme iron, it is preferable to consume at the same meal, one hour before or after the meal, foods containing vitamin C (for example citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwis, pepper, cabbage).

Quinoa, gluten-free

Celiac disease affects approximately 4 in every 1,000 people in North America. People with this disease suffer from permanent intolerance to gluten, a protein found in the grain of many grains. This protein is toxic to celiac people and its consumption can lead to intestinal symptoms, such as malabsorption of several nutrients. The treatment of this disease consists in completely excluding gluten from the diet.

Since quinoa does not contain it, it would be an interesting food for gluten intolerant people. On the other hand, special attention must be paid because quinoa can be contaminated by cereals containing gluten, in the fields, during transport, grain handling or at the time of milling. It is therefore important to choose gluten-free flours and food products, as these products are the safest.

Unfortunately, not all gluten-free foods have this symbol, hence the importance of knowing how to read labels to identify potential sources of gluten.

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