June 14, 2024

Quinoa’s popularity has grown over the years as more people search for nutritious whole grains to add to their diets. Many call quinoa the optimal “super grain” because it’s loaded with protein, fiber, antioxidants and numerous other nutrients.

Of course, its easy preparation and fluffy texture make it ideal for just about any mealtime. If you’re wondering what health benefits you can reap from eating quinoa, keep reading.

Photographer: Brie Goldman, Food Stylist: Annie Probst, Prop Stylist: Gabe Greco

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa’s health benefits are hard to overlook and will make you want to start eating more of it. With its highly enriched nutritional profile, adding quinoa to your diet can improve your health in the following ways.

Might Contain Anti-Cancer Properties

Findings from a 2021 Food Frontiers study suggest quinoa’s bioactive compounds— phenolic compounds, polysaccharides and saponins—may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects. In vitro studies on polysaccharides, in particular, suggest that these components may help protect cellular health and prevent certain types of cancer, such as liver and cervical cancers. However, more research is needed to confirm this in humans.

May Reduce Inflammation

Polysaccharides and saponins aren’t the only antioxidant compounds found in quinoa. This grain also contains flavonoids and polyphenols. The antioxidant properties of these compounds may help protect your cells from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation, per a 2019 analysis in Food Science & Nutrition.

Can Help Regulate Blood Sugar

In a small 2022 study in Nutrients, participants over 65 with blood glucose levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL consumed quinoa for four weeks. The results indicated a significant reduction in glucose and slight weight loss. The researchers suggest that eating quinoa to replace other complex carbohydrates may be a preventive measure against type 2 diabetes.

Protein and fiber contribute to quinoa’s low glycemic index. Phenolic compounds are also present, slowing carbohydrate digestion to prevent a high post-meal glucose spike.

May Smooth Digestion

As mentioned above, quinoa is packed with fiber, a critical nutrient for healthy digestion. Consuming quinoa may also increase healthy bacterial growth in the gut microbiome since fiber helps nourish those beneficial bacteria.

May Lower Cholesterol

People susceptible to heart attack, cardiovascular disease and stroke can benefit from eating more quinoa to help manage their cholesterol levels. The fiber content found in quinoa may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, quinoa’s ample omega-3 fatty acids may have a significant positive impact.

Is Suitable for Celiac Disease

Awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance has become more prevalent. For those following a strict gluten-free diet, quinoa has proven to be a good alternative to gluten-containing grains.

According to a 2020 Proceedings study, quinoa seeds contain a gluten-free protein with ample amino acids. Malting the quinoa seeds—a process involving soaking and germination—enhances nutrient absorption. The amino acids, simple sugars and fatty acids released during malting move more easily through your intestine when consumed.

May Prevent Anemia

People who do not eat enough iron-rich foods, experience chronic blood loss or routinely do rigorous exercise may have iron deficiencies. Iron-deficiency anemia is often associated with fatigue, paleness, dizziness, brittle nails and weakness, among other symptoms.

Quinoa may compensate for this missing nutrient in a vegan or vegetarian diet. A 2023 entry in StatPearls says 25% of people worldwide have anemia—50% of which occurs from iron deficiency.

Dietary sources of iron—like quinoa, leafy greens and red meat—are conducive to building up this essential mineral in the body.

Quinoa Nutrition Facts

Quinoa has been around for a long time. According to a 2020 Foods review, the South American Andes indigenous people cultivated quinoa as far back as 5000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. The Inca civilization even deemed it sacred. Quinoa cultivation and use waned in urban areas during the Spanish colonial period, but many quinoa varieties, including white, red and multicolored, continued to be grown on communal lands. Worldwide production and consumption has increased hugely in recent decades due to quinoa’s crop hardiness and nutritional value.

A 2022 study from the journal Nutrients highlights the prevalence of omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids and protein in quinoa. Experts even go so far as to suggest quinoa could deliver a solution to the world’s malnutrition crisis.

Your body receives the following nutrients from a 1-cup serving of cooked quinoa, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 222
  • Total Carbohydrates: 39 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5 g
  • Total Sugars: 2 g
  • Protein: 8 g
  • Total Fat: 4 g
  • Saturated Fat: <1 g
  • Sodium: 13 mg

Quinoa is a nutritious choice for people looking for plant-based protein sources—it’s a complete protein, containing all nine of the essential amino acids. Plus, its dietary fiber may help improve your digestion. Likewise, its fiber and protein content can help make you feel more satiated than other grains.

People who eat quinoa consume a healthy dose of manganese, folate, zinc, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B1.

How to Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is a quick-cooking grain. As a rule, you should use 1 3/4 to 2 cups of water or broth for 1 cup of quinoa—equivalent to four servings. Rinse the quinoa in a strainer to remove its bitter coating.

Then, add the quinoa, liquid and salt—if you opt to use it—to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Allow the quinoa to simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the grains look like they’ve popped open, about 15 minutes.

Once done, remove the saucepan from the burner and allow the quinoa to stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How to Add Quinoa to Your Diet

Quinoa’s versatility makes it easy to add to your diet, including breakfast. You can store a quinoa, oats and chia seed mix in an airtight container for warm and hearty oatmeal. Just one serving of our Quinoa & Chia Oatmeal Mix contains 6 grams of fiber to start your day.

Quinoa also makes an excellent filler for stuffed peppers, such as in these Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers—just prepare quick-cooking quinoa beforehand to speed things up. Some other ideas for incorporating quinoa into your diet include:

Quinoa has a mild, nutty flavor you can enjoy at any time of the day. Get creative using this ingredient and make it a staple in your daily meal plans.

The Bottom Line

Quinoa is a great whole-grain source and has a high fiber content for optimal digestion, steady blood sugar and lower cholesterol, among other potential benefits. It is also an excellent grain option for people with celiac disease. Whether you eat it as a side dish or incorporate it into different recipes, you can reap quinoa’s many health benefits. Of course, its quick cook time makes it an excellent choice for any meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is quinoa better than rice?

    Both quinoa and rice are great sources of complex carbs. However, quinoa has a higher protein content than rice, providing different benefits, such as slowing down your digestion and keeping you satisfied.

  • Is quinoa good for weight loss?

    Quinoa’s high fiber and protein content makes you feel satiated for longer. Those trying to lose weight may find quinoa an essential food source for healthy weight loss and weight management.

  • Is it OK to eat quinoa every day?

    While the exact recommendations vary depending on sex, age and medical condition, among other factors, the USDA recommends eating whole grains daily. And, luckily, quinoa fits into this category of daily dietary recommendations.

  • Can you eat quinoa if you have diabetes?

    Quinoa contains fiber, which can help regulate glucose levels. Therefore, people with diabetes may benefit from eating quinoa regularly.

  • Are there any downsides to quinoa?

    Like anything, you should eat quinoa in moderation. For example, overeating fiber can lead to an upset stomach, gas and bloating, constipation and diarrhea.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *