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What makes quinoa a superfood worth adding to your diet — and how to use it

Quinoa has many health benefits such as helping in weight loss and is a gluten-free option for meals. But you must know how to eat it right.
A plate of quinoa salad
Quinoa is a great addition to a healthy meal, but must not be eaten in excess. Image Courtesy: Pexels
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 8 Mar 2024, 07:30 pm IST
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If you are looking for healthy substitutes for rice or bread, quinoa is an option that you must explore. Quinoa has gained immense popularity in recent times owing to its rich nutritional profile. High in protein, minerals and vitamins, it is a healthy gluten-free and plant protein fix for a wholesome dinner or lunch or dinner. Besides these nutritional benefits of quinoa, it is also high in fibre that promotes robust gut health.

All said and done, quinoa must be eaten within limits as excessive consumption of quinoa can lead to weight gain, kidney issues as well as allergic reactions. Health Shots got in touch with dietitian Kejal Shah to understand the health benefits of quinoa and how to include in your diet, as well as how much to consume.

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a pseudocereal. That means it has seeds rich in starch and, in consistency, it is similar to a cereal in grains. It is high in protein and containing a perfect balance of amino acids. “It contains minerals, vitamins, and compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids. The seeds have functional properties like solubility, water-holding capacity, gelation, and emulsification. Quinoa is also valuable as an oil crop with omega-6 and vitamin E,” explains Shah.

A spoon of rice and quinoa.
Quinoa has a cereal-like texture. Image courtesy: Pexels

What is the nutritional value of quinoa?

Based on data from the Indian Food Composition Tables (IFCT) 2017, the nutritional value of quinoa per 100 grams is approximately as follows:

– Calories: 328 kcal
– Protein: 13.1 g
– Fat: 5.5 g
– Carbohydrates: 53.6 g
– Total Fiber: 14.6 g
– Calcium: 198 mg
– Iron: 7.5 mg
– Magnesium: 119 mg
– Phosphorus: 212 mg
– Potassium: 563 mg
– Sodium: 4.5 mg
– Omega 3- 204 mg
– Zinc: 3.3 mg

What are the health benefits of quinoa?

1. Quinoa has high protein content

Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair of tissues. This makes it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.

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2. It is rich in nutrients

Quinoa is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, and B-vitamins. These are great for over all well being.

3. Quinoa is gluten-free

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, making it a great alternative for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

4. Quinoa has high fibre content

Quinoa is high in dietary fiber, which can aid in digestion, promote a healthy gut microbiome, and help with weight management.

5. Rich in antioxidant

Quinoa contains compounds like polyphenols, flavonoids, and phytosterols that have antioxidant properties. These compounds help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

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6. May improve heart health

Quinoa is known to be heart-healthy due to its omega-6 fatty acids and beneficial antioxidants. Consuming quinoa regularly may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

7. May regulate blood sugar control

Quinoa has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage blood sugar levels.

8. Weight management

The high protein and fiber content in quinoa can help increase feelings of fullness and satiety, which may contribute to weight loss and weight management.

A plate of quinoa salad
Salads are a great way to add quinoa into your diet. Image courtesy: Pexels

Also read: Best quinoa in India for breakfast to rev up your day

Side effects of eating too much quinoa

1. High calorie content

Quinoa is relatively high in calories compared to other grains, so consuming large quantities of quinoa regularly may lead to weight gain if not balanced with a well-rounded diet and appropriate portion sizes.

2. May lead to kidney stone formation

Quinoa contains oxalates, compounds that can bind to minerals in the body and potentially lead to kidney stone formation in some individuals, especially those with a history of kidney issues.

3. May cause digestive issues

Quinoa naturally contains saponins, compounds that have a bitter taste and may cause digestive issues or interfere with nutrient absorption in some people. Rinsing quinoa thoroughly before cooking can help reduce saponin content.

4. May lead to allergic reactions

While quinoa is gluten-free and generally well-tolerated, some individuals may be allergic to quinoa or experience mild allergic reactions such as itching, hives, or swelling.

5. Antinutrients

Quinoa contains anti-nutritional compounds like phytic acid, which may bind to minerals like iron and zinc, reducing their absorption in the body. However, soaking or sprouting quinoa can help reduce the levels of antinutrients.

6. Heavy metal contamination

Quinoa has been known to absorb heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium from the soil it is grown in. Consuming quinoa in moderation and choosing brands with strict quality control measures can help minimize exposure to heavy metals.

How much quinoa can one eat in a day?

The appropriate amount of quinoa to eat in a day can vary depending on individual dietary needs and preferences. “As a general guideline, a serving size of cooked quinoa is typically around 1/2 to 1 cup. For most people, including 1/2 to 1 cup of cooked quinoa in a meal once a day can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet,” says Shah. This amount provides a good source of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients without going overboard on calories or other potential drawbacks of excessive quinoa consumption.

How to include quinoa in your diet?

There are numerous delicious and creative ways to include quinoa in your diet. Here are some ideas:

1. Quinoa salad

Use cooked quinoa as the base for a hearty and nutritious salad, adding vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and a flavorful dressing.

2. Quinoa bowl

Create a balanced meal by building a quinoa bowl with a variety of toppings such as roasted vegetables, protein sources like grilled chicken or tofu.

3. Quinoa breakfast porridge

Cook quinoa with milk or a plant-based alternative and add your favorite toppings like fresh berries, nuts, seeds, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a nutritious breakfast option.

4. Quinoa stuffed vegetables

Use quinoa as a filling for stuffed bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchinis, or mushrooms for a flavorful and satisfying meal.

5. Quinoa stir-fry

Add cooked quinoa to stir-fried vegetables, protein, and a savory sauce for a quick and easy meal option.

6. Quinoa soup

Incorporate quinoa into soups and stews for added texture, protein, and nutrients.

7. Quinoa burgers

Make vegetarian quinoa burgers by combining cooked quinoa with beans, veggies, and seasonings, then shaping into patties and grilling or baking.

8. Quinoa desserts

Use quinoa flour or cooked quinoa in baking recipes like cookies, muffins, and cakes to add a nutritional boost to your sweet treats.



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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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