Quinoa has gained popularity as a health food in the United States and other Westernized countries, though people have been cultivating it in South America since ancient times (1).

In fact, hundreds of years ago, the Inca people considered this ancient grain a sacred food.

In the past couple of decades, quinoa’s popularity has grown exponentially as the demand for easy-to-grow, nutritious, gluten-free grain alternatives has soared.

Not only is quinoa nutrient-dense, but it may offer health benefits, too.

This article covers 8 health benefits of quinoa and gives tips on how to incorporate it into your diet.

Quinoa is a grain crop grown for its edible seeds. These seeds are what we call quinoa — pronounced KEEN-wah.

Although it’s usually lumped in with cereal grains, like oats and barley, quinoa is actually a pseudocereal grain (2).

In other words, it is basically a seed that is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain. Other examples of pseudocereal grains include buckwheat and amaranth (2).

There are many types of quinoa, including red, black, and white (3).

Here is the nutrient breakdown for 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa (4):

  • Calories: 222
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 3.55 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 39 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Folate: 19% of the daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 8% of the DV
  • Copper: 39% of the DV
  • Iron: 15% of the DV
  • Zinc: 18% of the DV
  • Manganese: 51% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 28% of the DV
  • Potassium: 7% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 22% of the DV

Quinoa is a good source of a number of important nutrients, including folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

It’s also rich in fiber and protein, nutrients that play an important role in helping you feel full (5).

Summary

Quinoa is an edible seed that has become increasingly popular. It’s loaded with many important nutrients, including fiber, protein, folate, and magnesium.

The health effects of real foods go beyond the vitamins and minerals they provide.

For example, quinoa contains several plant compounds that may benefit health in a number of ways.

Two flavonoid plant compounds that have been particularly well studied are quercetin and kaempferol. These are the main flavonoids found in quinoa (6).

Quercetin and kaempferol have anti-inflammatory qualities and act as antioxidants in the body, meaning they help protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals (6).

Consuming more flavonoid-rich foods like quinoa may help promote overall health and protect against certain diseases and overall mortality (7).

By including nutritious foods like quinoa in your diet, you will significantly increase your total intake of these and other antioxidant compounds.

Summary

Quinoa contains flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Another important benefit of quinoa is its high fiber content.

A 1-cup (185-gram) serving of cooked quinoa contains 5.18 grams of fiber. That’s about 18% of the current 28-gram DV (4).

Quinoa contains more fiber than several other popular grains, like brown rice.

For example, a 1-cup (195-gram) serving of cooked brown rice contains 3.51 grams of fiber, which is 1.67 grams less than the same serving size of quinoa (8).

Adding fiber-rich foods like quinoa into your diet can help support your digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and fueling beneficial bacteria in your gut (9).

Plus, eating a high fiber diet can support a body weight that’s healthy for you. Fiber helps promote feelings of fullness. Pairing high fiber foods like quinoa with high protein foods can help you feel full and may help keep your portion sizes in check (9).

Summary

Quinoa is high in fiber, a nutrient that’s important for health. Adding more fiber-rich foods into your diet can help support gut health, body weight maintenance, and more.

Some people with gluten intolerance, including those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, need to avoid foods containing gluten (10).

People following a gluten-free diet need to choose gluten-free alternatives to gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and makes a nutritious choice for people who want to or need to cut gluten from their diet.

Unlike gluten-free products made with refined ingredients, quinoa is a good source of nutrients that gluten-free diets often lack, like (11):

Summary

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. Using it in place of highly processed gluten-free foods can increase the nutrient value of your diet when you’re avoiding gluten.

Quinoa is a good source of protein, providing 8 grams per cooked cup (185 grams) (4).

Quinoa is often referred to as a complete protein. This is because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own.

However, experts argue that quinoa should not be considered a complete protein because it contains low amounts of certain amino acids, like lysine (12).

For this reason, experts have suggested that quinoa be considered a “nearly complete” protein, not a complete protein (12).

Either way, quinoa is a good source of protein — and incorporating quinoa into your diet can help you meet your daily protein needs.

This is especially true for those who follow plant-based diets, like vegans. You can make a plant-based, protein-rich meal in no time by combining quinoa with beans, tofu, and mixed vegetables.

Summary

Quinoa is a good source of protein and can help you meet your daily protein needs.

Many people don’t get enough of certain important nutrients.

For example, studies show that many children and adults don’t consume enough vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium (13, 14).

Plus, studies estimate that 95% of American adults and children don’t consume the recommended amount of fiber. Not getting enough fiber can affect your health in a number of ways (15).

Quinoa is high in fiber, plus several vitamins and minerals that are low in many people’s diets.

Regularly eating quinoa can help you meet your needs for magnesium, potassium, iron, fiber, and folate, a vitamin that’s especially important during pregnancy due to its role in fetal growth and development (14).

It’s important to note that quinoa contains antinutrients, including:

  • saponins
  • tannins
  • phytic acid

These can bind with certain nutrients like iron and magnesium and reduce their absorption (16).

However, by rinsing, soaking, or sprouting the quinoa prior to cooking, you can reduce the antinutrient content and make these minerals more bioavailable (16).

Quinoa is also pretty high in oxalates. This could cause concerns if you have recurring kidney stones because oxalates can contribute to this condition (17, 18).

Summary

Quinoa is very high in minerals, but it also contains some antinutrients like saponins and phytic acid. Rinsing, soaking, and sprouting helps reduce these antinutrient compounds.

Some studies suggest that eating quinoa could benefit certain aspects of health.

A 2020 study in 40 older adults had participants eat 0.5 ounces (15 grams) of quinoa flour biscuits daily for 28 days.

By the end of the study, the participants who ate the quinoa biscuits had significantly greater reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and body weight than those who ate wheat-based biscuits (19).

Additionally, studies have found that eating quinoa and quinoa-based products may benefit (20, 21):

  • blood sugar regulation
  • fullness
  • body weight
  • triglyceride levels

A 2017 study that included 50 people with excess weight or obesity had participants consume 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of quinoa daily for 12 weeks.

Those who ate the quinoa had significant reductions in triglyceride levels compared with the control group and a group that consumed 0.88 ounces (25 grams) of quinoa per day (21).

Even though these results suggest that quinoa has a positive effect on metabolic health, it’s your diet and lifestyle as a whole that matter most when it comes to decreasing your risk of disease.

Following a dietary pattern rich in nutritious foods like quinoa, vegetables, fruits, fish, and beans is a smart way to protect your health and reduce disease risk factors, like high blood lipid levels and high blood sugar levels.

Summary

When you enjoy it as part of a well-rounded diet, quinoa can help support overall health and may improve certain disease risk factors, like high blood lipid levels.

While it’s not directly a health benefit, the fact that quinoa is very easy to incorporate into your diet is still important.

Quinoa is also tasty and goes well with many foods.

Depending on the type of quinoa, it can be important to rinse it with water before you cook it to get rid of saponins. These are found naturally on the outer layer and can have a bitter flavor.

However, some brands have already been rinsed, making this step unnecessary. Plus, you can purchase sprouted quinoa, which has a reduced antinutrient content and can help improve nutrient absorption (16, 22).

You can buy quinoa in most health food stores and many supermarkets.

How to cook quinoa

It can be ready to eat in as little as 15–20 minutes. To cook it:

  1. Rinse 1 cup (170 grams) quinoa thoroughly using a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Put 2 cups (240 mL) water in a pot and turn the heat to high.
  3. Add rinsed quinoa with a dash of salt.
  4. Boil 15–20 minutes.
  5. Enjoy.

It should now have absorbed most of the water and gotten a fluffy look. If done right, it should have a mild, nutty flavor and a satisfying crunch.

You can easily find many diverse recipes for quinoa online, including breakfast bowls, lunches, and dinners.

You can use quinoa in both sweet and savory recipes.

For example, you can try making a savory quinoa and vegetable salad topped with feta and grilled chicken. Or make a sweet breakfast porridge with cooked quinoa, coconut milk, fresh fruit, walnuts, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey.

Summary

Quinoa is widely available, and you can use it in many different dishes, including sweet and savory options. Just make sure your quinoa has been rinsed before cooking to remove compounds called saponins — these can taste bitter.

Quinoa is becoming more popular in Western countries, but people in South America have eaten this ancient grain for thousands of years.

It’s technically a seed and is considered part of a small group of grains called pseudocereals, along with amaranth and buckwheat.

It’s a smart carbohydrate choice because it’s rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and protein. It’s also gluten-free, delicious, versatile, and incredibly easy to prepare.

Quinoa is a great carb option to include in your diet.

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