If there is one superfood that consistently topped the charts in the last one decade and became quite popular among mindful eaters, then that’s Quinoa. Ok, if you are confused on how to pronounce this tongue-twister grain/cereal but more of a vegetable according to biologists – it is uttered as Kinwa or Kinuwa or Keen-wah.

This pseudo-cereal available mostly white in colour (it also comes in red and black colours), exudes the texture of hand-pounded brown rice or rolled oats, turns fluffy and nutty when cooked. Be it white, red or black, quinoa undoubtedly found a must-have place in the Indian cuisine and in our kitchens, thanks to its rich amounts of protein, dietary fibre and minerals besides B vitamins. Also Read: Dietary Fibre And Its Role In Preventing Chronic Diseases

Quinoa made a grand entry on to the scene of healthy eating around 2006, with more and more people lapping and whipping it up in European, North American, Australia and Asian countries. Interestingly, quinoa once considered a nondescript food item to share space in the regular kitchens, now found an irreplaceable slot across star hotel menus. With weight watchers demanding a morsel of quinoa in their daily diet, the prices tripled in the last few years. However, the brighter side is that quinoa is now a cash-rich crop, with its cultivation spreading to more than 70 countries, across all continents.

Quinoa plant

Quinoa that goes with the botanical name Chenopodium quinoa is an annual plant growing up to 1-2 metres in height, with wide, hairy and powdery leaves, branching out alternately from the woody stem. The green flowers are self-fertilizing, whereas the fruits (quinoa) grow either in white, red and black, depending on the variety.

Though its origins are found even before pre-Columbian civilization in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa is no stranger to us Indians. This nutty grain is in fact a member of be Chard, Beetroot and Spinach family and is popularly known as ‘Bathua’ in India.

Quinoa is in fact a twin of Amaranth, and in many places, Amaranth flour is passed as quinoa flour in the Indian markets. In the last few years, it is being cultivated widely in the barren lands of a few Indian states as it requires very little water. Also Read: Amaranth -The Magic Seed For Good Health

The rich nutrient profile of quinoa, its total gluten-free nature, convenience to cook easily in various methods, made it a sought-after grain, in and around the world. Raw, uncooked quinoa grain consists 13% water, 64% carbs, 14% protein and 6% fat while the cooked grain possesses 72% water, 21% carbohydrates, 4% protein and 2% fat, besides ample amounts of manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium besides dietary minerals, folate and fiber. (Source: Wikipedia)

Nutritional Facts For 1 Cup Of Cooked Quinoa

Calories: 169

Fat: 2.5g

Sodium: 10mg

Carbohydrates: 32g

Fiber: 3g

Sugars: 0g

Protein: 6g

  • Source as per USDA

How To Pick Right Quinoa?

Quinoa varieties

Though available in three different colours – white, red and black, the nutritional content is same in all these varieties. Red and black quinoa have chewy texture, go well in salads while white variety is slightly less bitter in taste.

Quinoa is coated with saponin, a component that gives this grain bitter taste and serves as a natural pest repellant in the fields. While saponin doesn’t cause any harm to the body, it can make the dish inedible due to its bitterness. So, always buy the grain that is pre-rinsed thoroughly and used for cooking. It is also important to read on the label if the quinoa has been processed along with gluten loaded grains. Quinoa is completely gluten-free but if it is processed in a facility with other products, it may cause gut problems in those suffering from celiac disease or other digestive issues.

Quinoa in Ayurveda:

Ayurveda recommends eating quinoa in daily diet to combat problems related to Kapha Dosha. The patients suffering from this imbalance face severe respiratory issues, congestion and various other lung-related ailments.

Being gluten-free and loaded with huge amounts of calcium – 4 times more than wheat and lots of protein and iron it serves as an ideal grain for those suffering from anaemia. Quinoa has this amazing property of being an energizer and a muscle relaxant at the same time, owing to the ample presence of manganese and magnesium. 

It is also an amazing appetite-suppresser as the gooey texture of the grain helps in relieving constipation. Quinoa has exceptional amounts of lysine, an amino acid that plays a pivotal role in the synthesis of many proteins, helping body absorb more calcium, burn fat, aid in forming strong bones, muscles and cartilage besides maintaining bright skin health.

Heart Healthy:

Quinoa is loaded with phytochemicals like nicotiflorin and rutin that can effectively bring high blood pressure under control naturally. Studies reveal that regular intake of quinoa reduces LDL or bad cholesterol and boosts the presence of HDL or good cholesterol, thanks to the presence of fibers and phytosterols, known for bringing down the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

Deals With Digestive Issues:

Being a gluten-free grain, quinoa is a blessing for those suffering from gluten intolerance. Nutritionists suggest substituting quinoa to wheat and other wheat-based products, if you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. Also Read: Eating Disorders: 5 Superb Yoga Postures To Overcome This Anomaly 

Anti-Inflammatory:

An array of phytochemicals present in quinoa have neuroprotective properties which help in decreasing cytokines and aid in repairing damaged brain cells. This cereal is also a rich source of squalene oil known for anti-inflammatory properties, which can beat chronic inflammation.

Builds Bones:

Being a super combination of bone-strengthening minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese it aids in building bone power. While lysine facilitates easy absorption of calcium, L-arginine boosts the production of osteoclast cells for further strengthening of bones.

Controls Blood Sugar:

The glycemic index of quinoa is 53 making it a much-suited food item on the plate of a diabetic. Since, it is loaded with all amino acids, making it a complete protein, it prevents a sudden spike in the levels of blood sugar. The good combination of fibre and protein plays a pivotal role in controlling blood glucose levels.

Improves Metabolic Function:

Quinoa being a rich source of minerals and vitamins, shows a positive effect on the metabolic health. It reduces the levels of blood glucose and help manage diabetes especially in summer, triglycerides, bad cholesterol or LDL and improves insulin thus aiding bodily functions.

Fights Cancer:

Researchers and doctors believe that regular consumption of quinoa helps in preventing different types of cancer. Very high on antioxidants, quinoa fights free radical damage and protects healthy cells. It is often suggested to eat sprouted quinoa to increase the content of antioxidants.

Aids in Weight Loss:

The incredible amounts of protein makes it an ideal choice if you are willing to lose weight and sustain it. The protein in quinoa increases metabolism, promotes weight loss, reduces appetite by keeping you satiated for a long time.

Cooked quinoa

Quinoa For Babies:

Do you know that quinoa serves as an amazing nutrient-loaded food even for the babies as young as 8 months? It is in fact called as a ‘Mother Grain’ and including quinoa in your baby’s diet at least thrice a week provides ample amounts of plant-based protein, calcium and carbohydrates.

Adding quinoa to your little one’s diet plan eases constipation, digestive issues and boosts immunity to fight various allergies and infections.  Also Read: Newborn Care Week: Dos & Don’ts With Your Little One

Quinoa baby cereal is quite popular in Southern American nations. You can use it whole or ground it into powder.

Here’s How You Can Make Quinoa Baby Cereal:

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa, whole

2 cups water

½ cup of mashed vegetables like potato, peas, carrot

Method:

Pressure cook quinoa for up to 6 whistles.

Drain extra water and mash it completely.

Add mashed vegetables, stir well

Serve immediately

Quinoa For Skincare:

And if you thought, the goodness of quinoa is confined to only diet intake, think again. Westerners use quinoa in various home remedies related to skin beauty, as it contains huge amounts of lysine which serves as a building block in the synthesis of collagen in skin and joints and elastin.

Provides Elasticity:

Quinoa rich in Vitamin E fights free radicals, provides collagen and repairs deeper pores in the skin damaged from sun and pollution. The quinoa-based face packs penetrate deep into the skin with the help of peptides and amino acids and aid in the stimulation of healthy, new collagen.

Fights Acne:

The presence of Vitamin B3 or niacinamide in quinoa plays a major role in soothing the skin, irritated and inflamed due to acne, rosacea and even eczema. Ecdysteroids, a compound found in quinoa helps in removing scars appeared due to acne, repairs skin and minimizes irritation.

Excellent Exfoliator:

This whole grain also plays the role of an amazing exfoliator and it is a tried and tested formula among the women in countries like Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The soft husk gently removes dirt and other pollutants on the skin without causing any damage. Just use grounded quinoa mixed with honey or organic oil or water and gently massage on the skin for that instant glow.

Removes Dark Spots:

Dark spots are a common problem faced by men and women alike and it is caused due to excessive deposits of melanin in the skin. Vitamin B in quinoa is an excellent remedy in regulating the production of melanin while Vitamin B12 in this cereal grain decreases pigmentation and brightens skin tone.

Slows Down Aging:

Quinoa has good amounts of Vitamin A and riboflavin which functions as a natural anti-aging component. It not only helps the skin in stimulating fresh collagen but also reduces fine lines, wrinkles thus providing glowing skin. Also Read: 5 Ways To Build Basic Beauty Regimen For Aging Skin

Quinoa, Honey, Yogurt Facemask:

Ingredients:

½ cup well-cooked and mashed quinoa

1 tsp organic honey

1 tsp yoghurt

Water

Method:

Cook quinoa in a pressure cooker for up to 6 whistles and let it cool.

Mash it softly in a bowl.

Add honey, yoghurt and little water to make it into a paste

Apply it on the face like a mask covering the neck and let it dry

Wash gently with lukewarm water and pat dry

If you have any leftover mixture, store it in an air-tight container in a fridge for up to 3 days.

How It Helps:

Quinoa rich in various vitamins and minerals removes pigmentation, clears acne, improves collagen while honey loaded with antioxidants slows down the signs of ageing, improves complexion, while yoghurt soothes and moisturizes the skin.

Quinoa For Hair:

Just like in the case of skin, quinoa helps in promoting hair health too. The protein in quinoa nourishes and protects hair follicles from its root. In fact, the hydrolyzed protein extracted from this whole grain is a major ingredient in various hair products.

Promotes Hair Growth:

Quinoa is a rich source of 9 essential amino acids that can strengthen hair follicles naturally, repair hair by nourishing and hydrating the scalp. Studies reveal that humectant – a natural substance forms a layer of protection on the scalp from pollution and dust.

Treats Dandruff:

A powerhouse of various minerals including calcium, iron and phosphorous, quinoa is an instant remedy to wash dandruff away. Ground quinoa into powder, add water to make a paste and apply it on the scalp. Wash it after 15 minutes and rinse thoroughly with a mild shampoo.

Is Quinoa Better Than Rice?

Well, it depends. If you are a staunch rice-eater, it may take some time to accept it as a substitute to your staple. But when it comes to nutrition, a cup of cooked quinoa provides double the protein and 5 grams of more fibre when compared to the equal amount of rice.

And if you are wondering if you can eat daily – by all means. In fact, it is a staple in many South American countries.

Quinoa salad is a popular dish worldwide and it is can be tossed in less than ten minutes.

How To Make Quinoa Salad?

Mix cooked quinoa, along with finely chopped capsicum, onions, boiled chickpeas and season it with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Voila! It’s ready! Serve chilled.

Quinoa salad

Is Quinoa A Carb?

Quinoa contains 23.1% of carbs per serving making it a high-carb food item. However, it is its ample amounts of protein and dietary fibre making it a superfood.  

Quinoa Recipes:

The wide range of benefits offered by quinoa suit all age groups. Contrary to the opinion that quinoa recipes could be bland and boring, this whole grain can be whipped up into delicious recipes. We bring you two popular desi quinoa recipes that can be cooked easily.

Quinoa Pulao:

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

1 cup onion, finely chopped

1 tsp ginger, garlic paste

1 cup carrots, cubed

1 cup red, green and yellow bell pepper, cut julienne

1 cup beans, finely sliced

½ cup green peas

1 cup potatoes, cubed

1 bay leaf

½ cinnamon stick

2 cardamoms

2 cloves

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp garam masala

2 tsp ghee or oil

Salt to taste

Method:

In a pressure cooker, add oil or ghee.

Let it heat and add bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, clove, stir well.

Add chopped onion and ginger-garlic paste, fry till onions turn translucent. 

Add all the vegetables, season it with chilli powder, salt, turmeric and garam masala powder and let it fry for 5 minutes

Wash quinoa and rinse it. Mix it with the fried veggies and give it a stir

Pour 2 ½ cups of water and let it boil

Close the lid and cook up to 2 whistles.

Allow the cooker to cool down before fluffing it with a fork

Serve hot with raita or sabzi

Nutritional Benefits:

This yummy, unique pulao is loaded with protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is rich in fibre and it helps soothing the tummy while vegetables like carrot, potato, peas, carrots, capsicum are a great source of vitamins and minerals.

Quinoa Payasam:

Quinoa Payasam is a South Indian version of this delicious pudding that can be made in a jiffy.

Quinoa payasam

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa, thoroughly washed

1 cup jaggery powder

2 cups fresh or canned coconut milk

1 tsp cashew

1 tsp almonds

1 tsp pista

1 tsp raisins

½ tsp cardamom powder

Ghee as required

Method:

In a pressure cooker, add ghee and roast cashew, almonds, pista and raisins and fry till they turn golden brown. Take it out and keep aside.

Add more ghee, roast quinoa till it turns aromatic. Add jaggery powder and mix well.

Pour coconut milk along with water and give it a stir

Close the lid and let it cook for 3 whistles

Switch off the stove and allow it cool.

Add roasted dry nuts, cardamom powder to the payasam, adjust sweetness before serving.

Nutritional Benefits:

This delicious dessert is loaded with calcium, protein and ample amounts of fibre. Ghee is a powerhouse of fat-soluble vitamins that aid in losing weight, lowers bad cholesterol, balances hormones besides omega-3 fatty acids. Coconut milk has quite a few nutritional components including vitamins E, C, B1, B3, B5 & B6 besides iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium and phosphorous. Cashews, almonds, pistachios and raisins are nuts that are loaded with good fats to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and to maintain heart health.

Toxicity:

Quinoa is a very safe grain to consume but, in few cases, it may cause allergy. This may be due to saponin, a component that gives this gluten-free grain a bitter taste. The person suffering from quinoa allergy may experience nausea, vomiting, hives, wheezing, shortness of breath, inflammation on the digestive tract, skin and lungs. It is better to avoid breads, breakfast cereals, soups made from quinoa. If you are allergic to this grain also get tested if beetroot, swiss chard, spinach, amaranth seeds belonging to family of quinoa also cause a similar reaction.

Conclusion:

Quinoa is a nutrition-loaded super grain originating from South American countries offering a plethora of health benefits. Available in red, white and black colours, this pseudo-cereal is a powerhouse of protein, calcium, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins, quinoa is all you need in your daily diet if you want to maintain heart health, keep your blood sugar levels under check, lose weight and prevent various types of cancers. Quinoa in fact, became a popular food in the global cuisine for its versatile taste and cooking methods. Ayurveda vouches by quinoa for its numerous health benefits and recommends it strongly for those suffering from Kapha related doshas.