I’m kind of embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the incredible benefits of quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’). A relatively new addition to American diets, quinoa is an ancient grain harvested by the Incas of South America and used for centuries. Quinoa is actually a seed, although it is classified as a grain. The plant is related to Swiss chard, beets and spinach.
- Protein Powerhouse: Called a “supergrain” by nutritionists and food gurus, quinoa is derived from the seed of a plant that is related to spinach. Quinoa has a higher protein content than wheat, barley or other major grains. One cup of quinoa has 9 grams, which trumps the protein-rich egg (6 grams). Quinoa, which contains all 8 of the essential amino acids; it’s secret is that it contains an amino acid called lysine, which is lacking in most grains; lysine makes quinoa a complete protein. The World Health Organization equates the protein levels in quinoa to the amount found in milk. Complete proteins are rare in the plant world, making quinoa an excellent food for vegetarians and vegans, or for anyone looking for healthy protein source.
A Great Way To ‘SHRED FAT': Quinoa’s high fiber content can help you feel full, which helps you stick to a low-calorie diet. Its heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats will leave you feeling full while providing more nutritional content than breads or cereals made of refined grains. Compared to food products that rank high on GI, Quinoa slowly increases a person’s blood sugar levels making him or her less prone to eating in between meals. So if you aim to lose weight and reduce your total body fat, you can easily do so by sticking to a Quinoa diet.
- Develop Strong Bones: For vegans, people with lactose intolerance or those who are simply looking for non-dairy sources of this vital mineral, quinoa is a flavorful source of plant-derived calcium. On an ounce-for-ounce basis, quinoa provides over twice the amount of calcium as is found in whole wheat. Calcium builds and maintains bones and teeth, helps regulate the contraction of the heart, and facilitates nerve and muscle function.
Keeps You Regular: Quinoa offers plenty of insoluble fiber, which helps in regulating bowel movements. This type of fiber can’t dissolve in the water and passes through your intestinal tract to help move stool efficiently through the colon. Good bowel activities reduce the risk of gas, pain, and bloating associated with the lack of fiber. It also lowers the possibility of small pouches formation at weak spots found on the intestine. As a complex carbohydrate, quinoa acts an internal cleanser, easing the progress of food through the digestive tract. Used regularly in your diet, quinoa can help keep you free of constipation and bloating. Unlike more common grains such as wheat, quinoa is gluten-free and can be enjoyed by people with digestive disorders, like celiac disease. The vitamin B and folate in quinoa also help the liver in its role of eliminating wastes from the body, adding to quinoa’s detoxifying properties.
- Brain Food: A cup of cooked quinoa offers 15 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. Quinoa’s vitamin B content can help keep the mind sharp, maintain brain volume and stabilize mood.
If you are drinking Shakeology every day (as I strongly recommend), then you might know that quinoa seeds are one of the many super ingredients found in Shakeology. If you aren’t consuming this nutritional powerhouse, what are you waiting for?