Superfoods have been a trending topic for quite some time now. This term generally refers to foods that are incredibly high in nutritional value.
Quinoa is considered to be one of these superfoods, offering a wide range of nutrients that helps people implement a more balanced diet. This gluten-free food is great for people who want a healthier substitute for grains like rice and offers a number of health benefits.
Some people turn to quinoa as an addition to their weight loss diet. In addition to potentially helping a person lose weight, there are other reasons why quinoa can be a healthy addition to a person’s diet. In this post, we look at how quinoa could help with weight loss. We also explore other benefits that cooked quinoa offers.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a seed that has been used in cuisine dating back as long as 5000 years. The seed is edible and comes packed with a lot of important nutrients. These seeds are available in a variety of colors, such as white, yellow, red, and black.
When quinoa is harvested, it is not immediately packaged. There are a few processes that need to be done before the seed is edible. This includes the removal of an outer layer that grows on the seeds.
The layer consists of saponins, which develop in order to provide a natural pesticide effect for the seed. Saponins give the outer coating of quinoa a very bitter flavor (1). Once removed, however, quinoa can be cooked and consumed.
One thing that people generally notice is that quinoa tends to be more expensive compared to other types of grains. This is generally due to the fact that the seeds are hand-harvested.
When mechanical harvesting systems are used, the maturity level of the seeds may differ (2). This can impact the overall quality of the product. Quality is often a priority when looking at quinoa that is sold at health food stores.
The nutrient and antioxidant value of quinoa are both points of interest. Additionally, the seed is also gluten-free, which makes it an ideal option for those people who have celiac disease.
There are several nutrients found in quinoa, including folate, vitamin B1, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium (3).
Quinoa And Weight Loss
Quinoa has become a trending topic among people who are aiming for weight loss.
Many people are turning to quinoa as a way of consuming fewer calories, while still obtaining a sufficient concentration of nutrients.
A single cup of cooked quinoa provides more than 10% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin B1, B2, and vitamin B6. The same serving provides over 50% of the daily recommended intake for manganese (4).
One cup of cooked quinoa does come with about 222 calories. To determine whether quinoa is a good substitute for rice in a weight loss diet, we need to consider the calorie count of the alternative too. One cup of cooked rice contains about 205 calories.
Now, this means that rice may contain a bit fewer calories when compared to quinoa, but the calorie count is not the only factor to keep in mind.
It is the nutrients in quinoa that should be taken into consideration here. While rice does contain some protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, the concentration of these nutrients does not match up to what a cup of quinoa is able to offer a person.
In terms of weight loss, it is also important to understand that eating quinoa can add a more significant amount of fiber to a person’s diet.
Fiber is an important compound for any person who is looking to lose weight. In one paper, it was found that the fiber content does differ between different types of quinoa. The study did, however, find that all variants do contain a high concentration of fiber. In every 100 grams of quinoa, the fiber content varies between 10 and 16 grams.
Several studies have shown that fiber plays an important role in allowing a person to lose weight effectively. In one study (5), researchers looked at the influence that dietary fiber has on the ability to regulate weight. In particular, fiber is helpful for reducing calorie intake.
This is due to the function that fiber plays in satiety. According to this study, there are certain cases where calorie intake can be reduced by as much as 18% when fiber intake is increased.
It is well-known that weight loss relies on the ability to adopt an energy deficit. One study states that an energy deficit may be the only factor that applies when it comes to reducing a person’s body weight (6).
Many people struggle to reduce their daily intake of calories – which makes it harder to achieve a calorie deficit.
When fiber contributes to improving satiety after a meal, then achieving a calorie deficit becomes easier.
The fiber content in quinoa contributes to a feeling of fullness. This is primarily how quinoa essentially helps a person eat less – and that creates an opportunity for more effective weight reduction.
Apart from fiber, it is also important to note that quinoa is relatively high in protein. In fact, quinoa is considered a source of complete protein. This means the food contains all of the essential amino acids that are needed to produce protein compounds.
Protein has several advantages to offer the body. In terms of weight loss, the protein content may help to provide a boost in the person’s metabolism. Furthermore, it has also been found that protein contributes to appetite regulation.
By increasing protein consumption, the individual is likely to experience a reduction in their appetite. This works hand-in-hand with the fact that fiber contributes to satiety.
Other Health Benefits Of Quinoa
The weight-loss benefits of quinoa have become quite a popular topic in the modern-day. While the food is relatively high in calories, it can still be useful in a healthy, balanced diet.
The nutrients in quinoa even help to make a person feel full faster and for a longer duration of time.
This, however, is not the only benefit presented by quinoa. It is important to note that quinoa contains more than just nutrients. In this section, we will take a closer look at the additional benefits that quinoa grain is able to provide.
Improved Metabolic Health
The fiber found in quinoa does not only contribute to its ability to assist with weight loss through calorie reduction.
Fiber is also important for the metabolism and the gastrointestinal tract. By obtaining enough fiber, a person is able to improve metabolic health.
Fiber is known for cleansing the digestive system and can help to regulate bowel movements. In turn, this helps with digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation.
Apart from fiber, other nutrients that quinoa contains can also further contribute to its range of positive effects on the metabolic system.
Poor metabolic health has been linked to a number of adverse effects, including a higher risk of developing chronic diseases like insulin resistance. One study shows that quinoa may hold potential in improving insulin utilization in the body, while also reducing the level of triglycerides in the blood circulatory system (7).
Increases Antioxidant Capacity
Quinoa is also known for being rich in antioxidants. These are substances that can help to reduce the effects that free radicals can have on the body. Free radicals result in oxidative stress, which can cause damage to the internal components of the human body (8). In fact, free radicals have been linked to serious chronic diseases too.
The antioxidants in these plant foods help to reduce the damage that free radicals deal. Antioxidants help to provide an improvement in wellbeing, while also potentially reducing the risk of developing certain diseases.
This is also where skin health quinoa comes into play. Free radicals do not only affect the internal components of the body. These compounds can cause damaging effects to the skin as well. In turn, this can result in premature aging – causing problems like fine lines, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation to appear at a younger age.
By neutralizing the effects of free radicals, the antioxidants can help to preserve a healthier glow on a person’s skin.
Two of the most important antioxidant compounds to consider when looking at quinoa include kaempferol and quercetin. These are both plant-based compounds that are known for their high antioxidant activity. They are also classified as flavonoids. Quinoa is relatively high in both of these antioxidant compounds.
There are numerous studies that look at the effects that these two antioxidants have on the human body. It has been found that kaempferol and quercetin do more than just increase the antioxidant capacity.
Some studies show that these two compounds also yield an anti-inflammatory effect. This can be helpful in individuals who experience inflammation – especially in cases where the person is affected by chronic inflammatory conditions.
Aids With Blood Glucose Regulation
Another important benefit that quinoa may provide is its ability to assist with the regulation of blood sugar levels in the circulatory system.
Diabetes and insulin resistance are both diseases that have become exceptionally prevalent in the modern-day.
According to one report, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of diabetes between 1990 to the year 2017. By 2017, it was estimated that over 476 million people are affected by the disease (9).
Failure to effectively regulate blood sugar levels can result in damaging effects. Type 2 diabetes has been linked to several diseases and complications.
This includes retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy, cardiovascular disease, and even higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease (10).
This is where the glycemic index of quinoa comes into play. A high glycemic index in food means glucose is released quickly, which causes a spike in blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, when food has a low glycemic index, it releases sugars into the bloodstream at a slower rate. Studies show that high glycemic foods contribute to a higher risk of obesity (11).
The glycemic index rating of quinoa is around 53. This sets it in the lower index class, which means it won’t cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
Celiac disease might not be one of the more common health conditions, but still affects an estimated 1.4% of the worldwide population (12). This disease causes the body to experience adverse effects when exposed to a type of protein called gluten.
When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, then they may experience diarrhea, bloating, gas, nausea, constipation, and fatigue (13). Fortunately, most health food stores are increasing their supply of gluten free foods – but there are still limitations when looking to obtain grains.
Fortunately, quinoa does not contain any gluten. This makes it a great addition to a gluten free diet. While low in gluten, the food comes with a large variety of nutrients that contributes to improved digestive function and overall well being.
Protein Source For Vegans And Vegetarians
Many people following a vegetarian or vegan diet have concerns related to their protein intake. A sufficient amount of protein is needed to provide support for various bodily functions.
A deficiency in protein can also result in a number of adverse effects.
In cases where a person has a very low amount of protein in their body, they may develop skin degeneration, fatty liver disease, and experience inflammation. Protein also plays a role in fighting against infections. This means a low protein level may increase the severity of certain infectious diseases (14).
Low protein levels have also been linked to muscle degeneration.
This is where quinoa also becomes a beneficial addition to a person’s diet. By providing the body with nine essential amino acids, the individual gains the ability to obtain a “complete protein”.
In fact, it has been found that the nine essential amino acids found in quinoa makes it a superior source of protein when compared to other types of grains.
Since quinoa is a plant-based food, it can be part of a vegan or vegetarian diet. This allows individuals following these diets to provide their bodies with a high-quality protein; thus reducing the risk of adverse effects associated with a protein deficiency.
One cup of quinoa contains about eight grams of protein. Both the quantity and the quality of the protein make it a possible option for active people who are looking to increase their protein intake as well.
This particular nutrient is known to play an important role in workout routines, as it helps with the synthesis of muscle tissue.
Protein also serves a role in the recovery process after a strenuous workout. The dose of protein provided in a single serving of quinoa is similar to some of the protein shakes and supplements that are available on the market.
Quinoa is a superfood that is often considered to be among the healthiest foods in the world. There are several health benefits that quinoa offers.
The complete protein source is gluten free and may even contribute to weight loss. We looked at some of the most important benefits and factors of quinoa. The food is a great substitute for grains, such as rice, and there is a large variety of ways to incorporate quinoa in recipes.