The Health Benefits of Quinoa

Vegan Protein, Slow-Burning Fuel, Easy Preparation

by Kelly R. Smith

Cooked red quinoa, ready  to serve
Cooked red quinoa, ready to serve
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Runners, cyclists, and other athletes for that matter, need extra protein in their diet plans compared to their sedentary counterparts. Protein is an essential component in repairing the muscles which break down when working out.

To compound this issue, many people have adopted vegan/vegetarian diets, whether for health, religious, or trendy reasons. This makes it problematic to include a full range of nutrients, proteins and other amino acids in their meals on a daily basis. Ample protein is just one of the health benefits of quinoa.

So, Eat Quinoa for Protein

One of the simplest (and tastiest) ways to add essential amino acids (proteins) into your diet is to eat organic quinoa. This supergrain (pronounced keen-wa) is widely recognized as a “super food” by athletes, foodies, nutritionists, and others.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, or goosefoot) is not in actuality a true cereal grain, but rather a “pseudo-cereal”; it is a food that is cooked and eaten like grains and has a similar nutrient profile. But from a botanical point of view, quinoa is closer to beets, chard, and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.

This is an very easy food to cook, just like rice, in fact. It can be eaten by itself or in a variety of dishes. It has long been traditionally cultivated in the Andes mountains located in South America. Fora long time in the past, production dipped as the invading Spanish Conquistadors forced the indigenous Inca Indians to grow potatoes instead. Horses weren’t the only thing they brought to the New World.

Nutritional Overview of Quinoa

There are several varieties available and they average an impressive 16.2% protein. To make a comparison, rice averages a meager 7.5%. It also contains an impressive amount of Lysine (398mg), folate (19% RDA), thiamine (13%), Manganese (58%) and vitamin B6 (11%).

To make matters even better, it ranks 35 on the glycemic index. Now compare that with basmati white rice at 58. A lower ranking means it is a slower-burning food. This makes it a natural choice to fuel endurance sports such as distance running.

Lysine is Important for Active People

The University of Maryland Medical Center says, “Lysine is important for proper growth, and it plays an essential role in the production of carnitine, a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into energy. It also helps the body absorb and conserve calcium, and it plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a substance important for bones and connective tissues including skin, tendon, and cartilage.” It can promote wound healing by helping to create collagen.

Additionally, it may:

  • reduce anxiety by blocking stress response receptors.
  • protect against and treat cold sores by blocking arginine.
  • improve calcium absorption and retention.

How to Cook Quinoa

This grain is easy to cook; most varieties only take 10 to 20 minutes to cook. Just combine a 2 to 1 water/quinoa ratio. Check your package to make sure.

  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Add the quinoa.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Eat it by itself, your recipe, or add it to a salad.

It is also very adaptable to baking. For example, as an ingredient when baking bread. Because of the health benefits of quinoa, it is under consideration as a strong contender for a crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights. It has been designated as a “super crop” by the United Nations because of its potential to feed the hungry masses across the globe.

Further Reading

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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