10 proven health benefits of quinoa (why this grain is IN)

Shannon Clark, SATI STAFF

Think you must ban all carbs from your diet to see optimal fat burning results? If so, you might want to think again.

While reducing your carbohydrate intake and cutting out all those unhealthy sources of refined carbohydrates like bread, cookies, cakes, granola bars, and crackers is definitely a must, there is no need to cut out perfectly healthy natural grains. Grains like quinoa for instance.

Quinoa is one of the best complex carbohydrate sources you could eat in your diet and today, we’re going to prove it to you. Remember that keeping some complex carbohydrates in your menu is a must if you hope to sustain sky-high energy levels to get in that intense workout you have planned for this afternoon or to simply keep your metabolic engine running at top speeds.

While very low carb diets do work in the short term, they tend to be quite to cause a fat loss plateau due to a slowed metabolism. A good dose of healthy carbs in your diet helps to prevent this. So eat up as far as quinoa is concerned. A half to full cup in a couple of your meals could just do the trick to get you feeling great and maximizing your fat burn.

Let’s go over 10 of the proven health benefits of quinoa that you should know.

1. Protein power

First, consider the fact that quinoa doesn’t just provide you with a source of carbohydrates. With this food, you get so much more.

Per one cup serving of cooked quinoa, you’ll take in around 222 calories, 39 grams of carbs with 5.2 of those being dietary fiber, just 3.8 grams of fat, and 8.1 grams of protein.

This is a huge protein amount for a carb source. Compare this to brown rice for instance and you’ll only get five grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber per cup cooked for about the same number of calories.

Clearly, quinoa is the winner here.

What’s more is that quinoa isn’t just a source of fiber – it’s a complete source of fiber. Meaning it will contain all the key amino acids that your body needs to build and repair muscle tissues as well as complete all the other roles that protein has in the body such as forming enzymes, repairing organs, and helping to regulate various tissues in the body.

Simply put, a serving of quinoa after or before a hard workout for instance can help you recover faster and build more lean muscle mass.

2. Cholesterol lowering benefits

Next, thanks to the high dose of dietary fiber you’ll get with quinoa, this makes it very effective for helping to lower your cholesterol level and combat heart disease.

Research published in the Current Atherosclerosis Reports journal noted that when whole grains high in fiber are consumed, they can help to decrease serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol as well as blood pressure levels, two factors that are intricately connected to heart disease.

Given the fact that quinoa is also very low fat in nature, this too lends well to the heart health boosting benefits it will provide.

3. Powerful source of ALA fat

While quinoa is low in fat, don’t let this fool you, the type of fat that you do get from quinoa is a very beneficial type of fat. Remember that your body does need so much fat on a regular basis to function optimally, so it’s never a good idea to cut fat out completely. instead, you want to focus on filling your diet with the right amounts of the right varieties – such as what you’ll find in quinoa.

About 28% of the total fatty acids that are found in this grain come from oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat that is proven to give your heart a boost. On top of this, another 5% of the fats come from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that is often associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body. Research published in the Obesity Surgery journal noted that when subjects supplemented their diet with this particular omega-3 fatty acid, they experienced a significant reduction in various inflammatory markers and this reduction persisted to some degree after 2 weeks of discontinuation of that particular supplement.

The take-home message here is that if you can include quinoa as well as other sources of this fat in your menu on a regular basis, you should maintain a good level of protection against inflammatory related diseases.

4. Blood sugar stabilizing effects

As you move through your diet plan, one of the top concerns you should have if you want to both stay as healthy as possible while also reducing your risk of diabetes is making sure that you are keeping your blood sugar levels stabilized.

We live in a world where we are currently hooked on sugar and this is doing a number on our blood glucose levels. We experience high’s and low’s on a regular basis, all of which completely stress our system out, causing our pancreas to release huge doses of insulin to control this.

By eating a diet that’s low in sugar and high in fiber, you can help avoid this. Quinoa can help. Research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food noted that this grain is an excellent carbohydrate source hat can provide antidiabetes benefits and also help to lower hypertension as well.

The researchers concluded that serving quinoa in your diet regularly may be an effective strategy for managing type 2 diabetes or for preventing it as well.

5. Energy boosting effects

Another benefit of quinoa that you’ll want to know about is the fact that it can also help enhance your energy levels as well. Quinoa is a rich source of iron, providing up to 15% of the total recommended daily intake per one cup serving.

Iron is something that many people, especially those who are focusing on fat loss aren’t getting enough of. As it’s primarily found in red meat and red meat is often removed from the diet due to it’s higher calorie and fat content, this leaves people deficient in this mineral.

Iron is necessary however for the production of red blood cells in the body, which are used to transport oxygen to the various tissues and especially the muscles. Those who start to experience iron deficiency notice they are quick to fatigue, especially during exercise, so if your workout sessions have taken a hit recently, low iron intake could be to blame.

Yoga is great for relaxation and the right poses can help wake your body up and give you a lasting boost for the entire day.

Focusing on consuming more iron in your diet can help remedy the problem quickly before it becomes more severe and you begin suffering from anemia.

If you want to take this benefit one step further, you’ll want to consider serving your quinoa with a food that’s rich in vitamin C as well. For example, add some red peppers to your quinoa while cooking it or prepare it using a tomato based sauce, which is also rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin C helps to enhance the overall absorption rates of iron in the foods we eat, so this can help you derive even better benefits from the quinoa.

On the flip side, avoid drinking coffee while eating your meal containing quinoa as coffee will actually reduce the absorption of iron, potentially rendering this benefit of quinoa useless.

6. Migraine control

Do you suffer from migraines? Anyone who has ever dealt with this severe headache knows that when one strikes, you are looking for the fastest and most efficient way to overcome it.

It’s painful and can be completely debilitating, especially if you are sensitive to daylight when suffering.

The good news is that quinoa may just help you put that migraine aside. The reason for this benefit is because quinoa is a rich source of magnesium, which has been shown to relax blood vessels and therefore may reduce the frequency and severity in which you suffer from your migraines.

One study published in the CNS Drugs journal noted that when subjects were given magnesium through intravenous infusion at the onset of their migraine, half the patients noted prompt and sustained relief from the attack. It was also noted that up to 50% of patients who suffer from this condition may suffer due to a magnesium deficiency.

By eating foods rich in magnesium, you can avoid having to rely on supplementation, while reaping the other health benefits that this grain provides. A one cup serving of quinoa provides up to 30% of your total daily intake for magnesium, thus it’s a very helpful way to get your needs met.

7. Potential anti-cancer food

Cancer is one of the most devastating diseases out there and takes the lives of many on a weekly basis. If you’ve ever been impacted by cancer or have a loved one who has, you know just how serious this condition can be. Therefore, doing all that you can to prevent it is a must.

Turns out, quinoa may be able to help. Quinoa contains two particular plant compounds called quercetin and kaempferol, both of which have been suggested to act as anti-cancer agents in the body by research.

Research published in the Cancer Letters journal noted that Quercetin has been shown to interact with some receptors, particularly an aryl hydrocarbon receptor, which is involved in the development of cancers induced by some chemicals.

In addition to this, the researchers also noted that this particular compound may help to modulate several signal transduction pathways that are associated with the processes of inflammation and carcinogenesis.

In animal studies that have been performed, it appears this may be especially the case when dealing with colon cancer, however it can also be associated with lung cancer as well as possibly other cancers as well.

8. Ideal for those with gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society as people are choosing to avoid gluten entirely with their meal plan. Those who suffer an inability to break down this wheat protein typically experience one or more of the following symptoms whenever this grain is consumed:

  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Feeling ‘fuzzy’ minded
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Aches and pains in the muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Irritability

The degree of severity of the intolerance can vary, so this isn’t to say that everyone will experience these problems, but many do find that it really can make a difference in their quality of life.

This means cutting out all wheat or wheat related products however, which can account for the bulk of the carbohydrate sources in the average diet plan.

Fortunately, quinoa is completely gluten free, so is safe for these individuals to eat. It’s also safe for those who are experiencing Crohn’s disease, which is a more severe form of gluten intolerance where if you consume gluten, it may actually go on to seriously damage the intestinal track. For those who are suffering, this grain must be avoided or serious health damage can occur.

It’s also been noted that quinoa tends to have a low allergy risk, so those who are allergic to other grains should do fine consuming quinoa. It has a high level of digestibility, so most people can eat this grain without suffering from any sort of digestive strain or discomfort.

If you are someone who deals with digestive related issues such as irritable bowel syndrome for example, this is all the more reason to include quinoa in your menu.

9. May combat fructose related concerns

When it comes to your health, sugar isn’t the only concern. While glucose (pure sugar) does spike blood gluose levels and sets off the release of insulin by the pancreas, another cause for concern is fructose.

Today’s consumption of high fructose corn syrup for example is thought to be a leading cause of obesity due to the fact the body has limited storage capacities for fructose. Fructose can only be stored by the liver, which has about 50 grams of open space per day. Once that 50 grams is filled, the remaining fructose that is consumed will quickly get converted into excess body fat, increasing triglycerides and your chances of heart disease in the process.

The good news is that adding quinoa to your diet may help to negate some of the negative benefits that fructose has. One study published in the Plant Foods Human Nutrition journal noted that when quinoa seeds were consumed by test subjects, they were able to reduce the level of glucose as well as the level of HDL in the blood stream.

While this doesn’t mean you should feel like one meal of quinoa gives you a free pass to consume all the fructose you want in your diet, it does illustrate that quinoa may help you avoid some of the unwanted consequences related to your heart health.

The researchers concluded the study by stating that quinoa seeds can reduce most of the adverse effects exerted by fructose on lipid profile and glucose level. This demonstrates an extra layer of protection that quinoa can therefore offer.

10. Promotes safe and natural weight loss

Finally, if you are looking to get leaner, quinoa may be part of your solution. The nice thing about this grain is because it does have a relatively high protein content as well as a higher fiber level coupled with no sugar at all, this makes it very slow digesting in the body, which will therefore help to keep hunger at a much more reasonable level.

When on a fat loss diet plan with a reduced calorie intake, it’s vital that you keep your hunger as low as possible as hunger is often the number one factor that will drive food cravings. With greater hunger control, you’ll be able to easily make smart food choices as you go about your day.

Just do remember that quinoa does still contain calories and at around 221 per cup as noted earlier, you do need to watch how much you eat. Limit yourself to half a cup of quinoa per meal, adding it two to three times per day if desired. Be sure to work these calories into your daily total and there is no reason you should have to avoid quinoa in your fat loss diet.

The Sati line

So there you have the top health benefits that quinoa has to offer. This great is highly versatile and can be used in just about any of the same manners you would use brown rice, so don’t be afraid to start including it in your diet today. Experiment with it and you’ll be sure to find at least one or two ways of eating it that you enjoy.


References

Harris, Kristina A., and Penny M. Kris-Etherton. “Effects of whole grains on coronary heart disease risk.” Current atherosclerosis reports 12.6 (2010): 368-376.

Ranilla, Lena Galvez, et al. “Evaluation of indigenous grains from the Peruvian Andean region for antidiabetes and antihypertension potential using in vitro methods.” Journal of medicinal food 12.4 (2009): 704-713.

Mauskop, Alexander, and Burton M. Altura. “Magnesium for migraine.” CNS drugs 9.3 (1998): 185-190.

Murakami, Akira, Hitoshi Ashida, and Junji Terao. “Multitargeted cancer prevention by quercetin.” Cancer letters 269.2 (2008): 315-325.

Paśko, Paweł, et al. “Effect of quinoa seeds (Chenopodium quinoa) in diet on some biochemical parameters and essential elements in blood of high fructose-fed rats.” Plant foods for human nutrition 65.4 (2010): 333-338.