Quinoa: properties, nutritional values, benefits and how to prepare it

Quinoa is a plant native to South America rich in beneficial properties for the body, so much so that it is rightly called a superfood. Let’s see how it is prepared and what are the properties of quinoa.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family, native to central and southern America.

Mistakenly considered a cereal, first of all for its appearance and then for its high starch content, quinoa is actually a pseudo-cereal, closer to spinach and beets and, above all, it is totally gluten-free, so indicated in case of celiac disease.

Despite this, it is widely used in the kitchen to replace pasta or rice (it is, in fact, considered “a carbohydrate”), accompanying dishes based on vegetables, legumes, etc … Widely known and used by vegetarians and vegans for its great properties , quinoa contains a concentrate of different and important nutrients for the body, making it almost a unique food. Let’s see below what are the properties of quinoa and its nutritional values.

Quinoa: properties and nutritional values

Quinoa is composed of about 60% complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, which help to contain blood sugar levels and keep hunger under control: its satiating power makes it suitable for entering fully into low- calorie diets, front of the approximately 370 kcal / 100gr provided.

The proteins present in quinoa (about 14%) are of high biological value as they contain several essential amino acids, that is to say amino acids that our body is unable to synthesize on its own and which, therefore, must be taken through Power supply. Among them stand out in particular lysine (essential for the production of antibodies and for the creation of bone and cartilage tissue) and methionine (with lipolytic action both on the liver and towards the fats that adhere to the arteries).

Fats (about 6%), like proteins, are also of high biological value, being mostly composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially linoleic acid), important protective factors against cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.

A high percentage is given by dietary fibers, which, in addition to helping to lower cholesterol, give quinoa various beneficial properties for the digestive system: they improve intestinal functioning and transit, favor the reduction of gastric acidity and disorders related to it (ulcer and gastritis). Furthermore, fiber is an excellent ally in the fight against type II diabetes as it helps the glycemic index to remain low.

To top it all, there is a good dose of minerals: potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and three important vitamins: vitamin C, vitamin B2 and vitamin E. The latter is certainly the most abundant and gives quinoa antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The following table shows the nutritional values ​​of quinoa.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of quinoa:

  • Waterfall: 13.28 g
  • kcal: 368
  • Proteins: 14.12 g
  • Fat: 6.07 g
  • of which saturated: 0.71 g
  • Carbohydrates: 64.16 g
  • of which sugars: 0 g
  • Fibers: 7 g
  • Potassium: 563 mg
  • Glycemic index: 35
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

The benefits of quinoa

Now let’s see in detail the benefits that the consumption of quinoa can bring to our health.

✓ Effects on body weight

Quinoa has a high content of quercetin, which is an antioxidant compound from the flavonoid family. It appears that this compound is capable of increasing the energy consumption of muscle cells. For this reason, quercetin, and consequently the consumption of quinoa, could provide help in fighting overweight by increasing the body’s energy expenditure, as well as being an excellent nutritional source for its protein and fiber content.

✓ Anti-inflammatory properties

Among the benefits of quinoa we also find the anti-inflammatory effects. In particular, thanks to its content in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, quinoa is a food that can help us prevent various inflammatory diseases. In particular, the quercetin contained in this food, according to a study, would be able to reduce the synthesis of inflammatory molecules.

✓ Effects on the lipid profile

Quinoa seeds have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering properties, i.e. they are able to reduce blood cholesterol levels. This property is due to the presence of soluble fibers which prevent the reabsorption of bile acids in the intestine and consequently the ex novo synthesis of bile acids is stimulated. This is a process that requires cholesterol which is then removed from the blood. In addition, quinoa contains oleic and linoleic acids, respectively a monounsaturated fatty acid and a fatty acid of the omega 6 series, both of which are able to reduce cholesterol levels.

✓ Benefits on the cardiovascular system

By virtue of its ability to control cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, quinoa brings great benefits to the cardiovascular system. In addition, the polyunsaturated fatty acids it contains also help protect the heart. The soluble fibers present in large quantities in these seeds have also been shown to have a fundamental role in lowering the risk of contracting cardiovascular disease.

✓ Useful against diabetes

Once again, the fibers contained in quinoa seeds give this food a particularly low glycemic index. This means that quinoa is also recommended for those with diabetes or insulin resistance problems, as it helps to keep sugar levels and, consequently, insulin in the blood under control.

✓ Rich in antioxidants

Quinoa is particularly rich in antioxidant compounds, including carotenoids, flavonoids and phenolic compounds, which have a protective role not only on the endothelial cells of blood vessels, but also in other areas of our body, protecting it from oxidative damage and from cellular aging.

✓ Does not contain gluten

As we anticipated above, quinoa is a totally gluten-free food and, for this reason, it can be consumed by those suffering from celiac disease. It is an excellent replacement for a portion of cereals and at the same time provides proteins of high biological value.

✓ Counteracts osteoporosis

As we have seen above, quinoa is an extraordinary source of mineral salts, including magnesium (197 mg per 100 g), manganese (2 mg per 100 g), calcium (47 mg per 100 g), all of which are essential compounds for health. of the bones. For this reason, quinoa is a food to be included in our diet, especially if you have osteoporosis problems. Furthermore, the proteins contained in quinoa are particularly useful in preventing bone loss.

The protein content of quinoa is high and, moreover, the proteins contained in it have a nutritional value comparable to that of milk proteins.

How much quinoa to eat

A portion of quinoa is comparable to that of other cereals and corresponds to about 70/80 grams. This quantity provides just under 300 kcal, therefore quinoa should be included in the diet as a substitute for other cereals. In this sense, therefore, it is possible to eat quinoa even every day. We remind you, however, that a healthy and balanced diet, also aimed at weight loss, is based on the variety of foods we bring to the table. So it is definitely recommended to introduce quinoa in your diet (even 3 or 4 times a week) but it is also recommended to do it alternating it with other cerealssuch as rice, spelled, millet or buckwheat. In this way we will provide our body with a greater variety of nutrients, which are valuable for health.

How quinoa is prepared

Quinoa is very versatile in the kitchen and is ready for the preparation of many recipes. Quinoa seeds are coated with saponins, toxic substances for the human body as they cause the alteration of the composition of cell membranes. For this reason, before being cooked, the seeds should be thoroughly rinsed with cold water. It is also possible to soak for a few hours, although this is not strictly necessary.

Only at this point, the quinoa will be ready to be cooked. The procedure for cooking quinoa is what you would follow to cook the pasta: abundant boiling water for about 10/15 minutes (in any case, always follow the instructions on each package). The only precaution is to drain it in a narrow-mesh colander because of the very small grains. Alternatively, it can be cooked in a quantity of water equal to double its weight, again for about 10/15 minutes. For more information on cooking methods and times, please read: How to cook quinoa: cooking and combinations.

The versatility, but above all the high and very rich nutritional properties of quinoa, make it suitable to be consumed in any meal of the day, starting from breakfast, mixed with yogurt and fresh fruit in pieces, for lunch or dinner with vegetables or legumes, or as a key and delicious ingredient in sweets and biscuits.

So let’s learn to incorporate quinoa recipes into our daily cooking habits. Just a little imagination will be enough to experiment with new recipes!

Quinoa: contraindications

Despite its numerous properties, quinoa has some drawbacks. First of all, as we have already said above, it contains saponins, substances that cause the alteration of the composition of cell membranes. To eliminate them, however, it is sufficient to rinse the beans thoroughly under running water before cooking. It is also good to pay attention to any personal allergies or intolerances. In this regard, we remind you that, unlike many cereals, quinoa does not contain nickel and can also be consumed by those who are allergic to this metal.

Furthermore, quinoa, as well as other cereals and vegetables of the same family such as spinach and beets, contains calcium oxalates, insoluble saline compounds that occur in the form of tiny crystals that in predisposed subjects can favor the onset of kidney stones and can also prevent the correct absorption of mineral salts. For this reason, people with kidney problems are advised to use it in moderation.

Quinoa: where to buy

Quinoa is found on the market both in grains and in flour but there are also snacks or preparations based on quinoa. You can buy quinoa in grains in bio-shops, in specialized food stores or directly on the internet. The online sale by the companies allows you to save and receive the product directly from the manufacturer, skipping the intermediaries. A pack of 200 grams can be found at an approximate price between 4 and 6 USD. Packs of 400 grams cost around 7-10 USD.

As for the price of quinoa flour, on the other hand, a pack of 300/350 grams fluctuates between about 7 and 10 USD. The 1 kilo package instead between 15 and 20 USD. The expense changes based on the brand but also on the quality and processing technique, so the advice is to carefully evaluate and maybe try the various types of flour.

In general, if you intend to use it often, remember that the larger the quantities, the more you save. If you plan to use it only occasionally then a smaller package is better. Always try to buy organic products, even when making your online purchase. The price is important but so is the quality, so look for the right solution!


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