By Kris Gunnars
Quinoa is the world's most popular “superfood."
It is loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, but doesn't contain any gluten.
Quinoa is non-GMO, gluten gree and usually grown organically. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Here are 10 proven health benefits of quinoa.
1. Quinoa Is Incredibly Nutritious
Quinoa is a grain crop that is grown for its edible seeds. It is pronounced KEEN-wah.
It technically isn't a cereal grain, but a pseudo-cereal. In other words, it is basically a “seed" which is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain.
Quinoa was an important crop for the Inca Empire. They referred to it as the “mother of all grains" and believed it to be sacred. It has been consumed for thousands of years in South America, although it only became trendy and reached “superfood status" a few years ago.
These days, you can find Quinoa and products made with it all over the world, especially in health food stores and restaurants that emphasize natural foods.
There are three main types of quinoa: white, red and black.
This is what they look like:
Here is the nutrient breakdown for one cup of cooked quinoa, or 185 grams:
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Manganese: 58 percent of the RDA
- Magnesium: 30 percent of the RDA
- Phosphorus: 28 percent of the RDA
- Folate: 19 percent of the RDA
- Copper: 18 percent of the RDA
- Iron: 15 percent of the RDA
- Zinc: 13 percent of the RDA
- Potassium: 9 percent of the RDA
- More than 10 percent of the RDA for Vitamins B1, B2 and B6
- Small amounts of Calcium, B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin E
This is coming with a total of 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and four grams of fat. It also contains a small amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Quinoa is non-GMO, gluten free and usually grown organically. Even though not technically a grain, it still counts as a “whole grain" food.
NASA scientists have been looking at it as a suitable crop to be grown in outer space, mostly based on its high nutrient content, ease of use and how easy it is to grow.
The year 2013 was actually called “The International Year of Quinoa" by the United Nations (UN), based on its high nutrient value and potential to contribute to food security worldwide.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is an edible seed that has become very trendy among health conscious people. It is loaded with many important nutrients.
2. Quinoa Contains Potent Bioactive Substances Called Quercetin and Kaempferol
The health effects of real foods go way beyond the vitamins and minerals we're all familiar with. There are thousands of trace nutrients in there, and some of them are extremely healthy.
This includes interesting molecules called flavonoids, which are plant antioxidants that have been shown to have all sorts of beneficial effects on health. Two flavonoids that have been particularly well studied are quercetin and kaempferol, and they happen to be found in large amounts in quinoa. In fact, the quercetin content of quinoa is even higher than typical high-quercetin foods like cranberries.
By including quinoa in your diet, you will significantly increase your total intake of these (and other) important nutrients.
Bottom Line: Quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These are potent plant antioxidants with numerous health benefits.
3. It Is Very High in Fiber, Much Higher Than Most Grains
Another important benefit of quinoa is that it is high in fiber.
One study that looked at four varieties of quinoa found a range of between 10 and 16 grams of fiber, per every 100 grams of uncooked quinoa. This equals 17-27 grams per cup, which is very high, more than twice as high as most grains. Boiled quinoa contains much less fiber, gram for gram, because it absorbs so much water.
Unfortunately, most of the fiber is insoluble fiber, which doesn't appear to have the same health benefits as soluble fiber. That being said, the soluble fiber content is about 2.5 grams per cup (or 1.5 grams per 100 grams), which is still decent.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is much higher in fiber than most grains, with one source finding 17-27 grams of fiber per cup of uncooked quinoa.
4. Quinoa Is Gluten Free and Perfect for People With Gluten Intolerance
According to a 2013 survey, about a third of people in the U.S. are currently trying to minimize or avoid gluten. A gluten-free diet can be healthy, as long as it is based on foods that are naturally gluten free. The problems arise when people eat “gluten free" foods made with refined starches instead. These foods are no better than their gluten-containing counterparts, because gluten free junk food is still junk food.
Well, many researchers have been looking at quinoa as a suitable ingredient in a gluten-free diet, for people who don't want to give up staples like breads and pasta.
Studies have shown that by using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free ingredients like refined tapioca, potato, corn and rice flour, it can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of the diet.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is naturally free of gluten and using it instead of typical gluten-free ingredients can increase the antioxidant and nutrient value of a gluten-free diet.
5. Quinoa Is Very High in Protein, With All The Essential Amino Acids That We Need
Protein is made out of amino acids. Some of them are termed “essential" because we can not produce them and need to get them from the diet.
If a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is seen as a “complete" protein. The problem is that many plant foods are deficient in certain essential amino acids, such as Lysine.
However, quinoa is an exception to this, being particularly high in in all the essential amino acids. For this reason, quinoa is an excellent source of protein. It has both more and better protein than most grains.
With eight grams of quality protein per cup of cooked quinoa (or 4.5 grams per 100 grams), quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is high in protein compared to most plant foods and contains all the essential amino acids that we need.
6. Quinoa Has a Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels.
It is known that eating foods that are high on the glycemic index can stimulate hunger and contribute to obesity. Such foods have also been linked to many of the chronic, Western diseases that are so common today, like diabetes and heart disease.
Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, which is considered low. However, it's important to keep in mind that quinoa is still pretty high in carbs, so it is not a good choice for a low-carb diet, at least not in large amounts.
Bottom Line: The glycemic index of quinoa is around 53, which is considered low. However, it is still relatively high in carbohydrates.
7. It Is High in Minerals That Most People Don't Get Enough of, Especially Magnesium
There are many nutrients in the modern diet that people tend to be lacking in. This is particularly true of some minerals, especially magnesium, potassium, zinc and (for women) iron.
Interestingly, quinoa is very high in all four minerals. It is particularly high in magnesium, with one cup having about 30 percent of the RDA.
The problem is that quinoa contains a substance called phytic acid, which can bind these minerals and reduce their absorption. However, by soaking and/or sprouting the quinoa before cooking it, you can reduce the phytic acid content and make these minerals more bioavailable.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is very high in minerals, but the phytic acid can partly prevent them from being absorbed. Soaking or sprouting quinoa degrades most of the phytic acid.
8. Quinoa May Have Some Major Benefits for Metabolic Health
Given the high amount of beneficial nutrients, it makes sense that quinoa could lead to improvements in metabolic health.
Although this needs to be studied more thoroughly, I did find two studies (one in humans, the other in rats) that examined the effects of quinoa on metabolic health. The human study found that using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free breads and pastas significantly reduced blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels. The rat study found that adding quinoa to a diet high in fructose almost completely inhibited the negative effects of fructose.
Bottom Line: Two studies, one in humans and the other in rats, show that quinoa can improve metabolic health. This includes lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
9. Quinoa Is Loaded With Antioxidants
Quinoa also happens to be very high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals and are believed to help fight aging and many diseases.
One study looked at antioxidants in 10 foods: five cereals, three pseudocereals and two legumes. Quinoa had the highest antioxidant content of all 10.
Bottom Line: Quinoa appears to be very high in antioxidants, which are increased even further after the seeds are sprouted.
10. Quinoa Has Several Important Characteristics That Make It a Weight Loss Friendly Food
In order to lose weight, we need to take in fewer calories than we burn. It is known that certain properties of foods can facilitate this process, either by boosting metabolism (increasing calories out) or reducing appetite (lowering calories in). Interestingly, quinoa has several such properties.
It is high in protein, which can both increase metabolism and reduce appetite significantly.
The fact that quinoa has a low glycemic index is another important feature, but choosing such foods has been linked to reduced calorie intake.
Although there is currently no study that looks at the effects of quinoa on body weight, it seems intuitive that it could be a useful part of a healthy weight loss diet.
Bottom Line: Quinoa is high in fiber, protein and has a low glycemic index. These properties have all been linked to weight loss and improved health.
11. Quinoa Is Easy to Incorporate Into Your Diet
The last point is not a health benefit, but still incredibly important. It is the fact that quinoa is very easy to incorporate into your diet. It is also tasty and goes well with many foods.
Depending on the type of quinoa, it can be important to rinse it with water in order to get rid of saponins, which are found on the outer layer and can have a bitter flavor. However, some brands have already been rinsed, so this may not be necessary.
You can buy quinoa in most health food stores and many supermarkets. It is also available on Amazon, with many reviews, testimonials and usage tips from real customers.
Quinoa can be ready to eat in as little as 15-20 minutes:
- Put 2 cups of water in a pot, turn up the heat.
- Add 1 cup of raw quinoa, with a dash of salt.
- Boil for 15-20 minutes.
It should now have absorbed most of the water and gotten a fluffy look. If done right, it should have a mild, nutty flavour and a satisfying crunch.
Then there are dozens of other delicious ways to use quinoa.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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