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A cereal crop primarily grown for its edible seeds, quinoa is a highly popular food source in America, Canada, China, and Europe. Quinoa is most commonly used as a rice substitute and is also ground up into powder or flower flour to create bread, cereal flakes, and chips. Quinoa is loaded with protein, fiber, folate, vital amino acids, vitamin B, thiamin, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. The health benefits of this nutritional wonder food include preventing gallstones, regulating digestion, protecting organ health, maintaining blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and managing weight.

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Quinoa Health Benefits

This seed is an excellent source of fibers and protein. People call it the superfood because of its health-boosting, glucose control, and cardiovascular benefits. There has been extensive research for both plain and cooked quinoa.

We’ve compiled all the practical information that can come in handy. Here are the benefits you can expect from this gluten-free food.

1. Contains All Amino Acids

One of the most impressive qualities of Quinoa is its protein make-up. It’s not animal source of protein but boasts some pretty good numbers. The protein alone would be enough to eat it, but it contains all 8 of the amino acids that your body needs to truly function at its best. There are supplements out there that you can buy to get all of those amino acids in one place, or you can start eating Quinoa daily to get them from a natural food source.

2. High in Fiber

The fiber content in Quinoa is what gets many people interested in eating it. If you have trouble thinking of ways to increase your fiber and have resorted to buying and eating fiber bars or fiber fortified cereals to get the job done, you might be better off getting a supply of Quinoa. It contains a fifth of how much fiber you need each day in every one cup serving. That’s pretty impressive considering that most Quinoa recipes are filled with other foods like black beans that have a good amount of fiber so you can get a substantial portion of your fiber needs met in one meal.

3. High in Iron

For those that have trouble keeping up with their iron needs, Quinoa can be a big help with that, and it also is a tastier option than taking an iron supplement. In just a one cup serving you’re getting 15% of how much iron you need each day. That’s a good boost to your system and can assist with any deficiencies. Getting enough iron is good for your brain and your muscles, and having the right amount will prevent anemia. Consider these other iron-rich veggies if you’re concerned about your iron levels.

4. High in Magnesium

Magnesium doesn’t get as much attention as some other vitamins and minerals do, but it’s still an important mineral that your body needs in order to help prevent things like osteoporosis and heart disease, while helping to balance blood pressure and helping with diabetes. You can get one third of your RDA of magnesium from just one full serving of Quinoa. That’s pretty impressive since many foods only contain a trace amount of it, or none at all. If you feel like your levels could use a boost, try these other foods that are high in magnesium.

5. High in Riboflavin

Riboflavin is also known as Vitamin B2, part of the family of B Vitamins and responsible for providing much needed antioxidants to assist the body with a number of functions. It also helps with enzyme performance and oxygen delivery throughout the entire body. It’s a pretty important vitamin. Six percent of your daily needs per 100 grams of Quinoa might not sound like a lot, but many foods contain a bit of riboflavin, so it adds up throughout the day, Quinoa just gives it a nice contributing boost.

6. Rich in Manganese

Manganese is something you definitely don’t want to go without for any stretch of time, and with Quinoa you won’t have to because it provides almost half of what you need in just one serving. The symptoms of being low on manganese include having high blood pressure levels, high cholesterol levels, neurological problems, hearing impairments, and more. The number one cause of running a manganese deficiency is not eating enough foods that are rich in it. That’s why making Quinoa a part of your lifestyle is a good idea.

7. Contains Lysine

One special amino acid that Quinoa contains is called Lysine. Lysine is usually found in sports supplements by those trying to add lean muscle to their body. It’s been said to also help strengthen the immune system, so Quinoa is great to eat during those months when everyone seems to be getting sick. It’s also been proven to help raise serotonin levels, which is a way to help you feel more relaxed and get into a calm state. Instead of using a supplement to get it, you can simply start eating more Quinoa.

8. Has Antiseptic Properties

During the processing of Quinoa there are saponins which are removed from it and then reused as an antiseptic, as well as a detergent. This shows just one more aspect of this superseed. There is some misperception as to what Quinoa is exactly, whether it’s a grain or a seed. The part that is edible is the seed, which makes it great for grain-free diets and diet plans. But the plant that it grows on is grain-like which causes the confusion. There are many benefits to the plant, and it shows just how versatile it can be, much the same way aloe can be eaten, and used to treat the skin.

9. Supports a Gluten-Free Diet

When you’ve gone gluten free either for medical reasons or for dietary ones, you’ll quickly find out that while there may be more GF options than there were a decade ago, there is still a lot of room for more products. In the meantime you can stay gluten-free by using Quinoa. It’s not a grain, it’s a seed, and it doesn’t contain any wheat or gluten in it, so you can feel free to enjoy it in loads of different Quinoa recipes without worrying if it’s going to upset your system.

10. Low on the Glycemic Index

Quinoa clocks in at 53 on the Glycemic Index, which limbos under the 55 required to be considered a food that helps to stabilize your blood sugar. This makes it a good food if you’re trying to prevent getting diabetes, and you can combine it with any other foods that are also low on the GI scale so that you can nourish yourself without having to worry about spiking your blood glucose levels. Some diets, like the Paleo diet, consider a ranking of 53 high, so it’s all a matter of perspective and what your end goal is.

11. Contains Flavonoids

There are flavonoids in Quinoa that are typically only found in other foods like berries, and the levels that it contains are pretty substantial. These flavonoids can help with things like cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions. This means that if you are at risk for heart disease or just want to do your best to prevent it, you can start eating more Quinoa and be doing a great service in this regard. And if you have arthritis or other inflammatory conditions you should start adding more of it to your diet right away for potential relief.

12. Helps You Avoid Getting Fat

The fiber in Quinoa helps the body get rid of unneeded fat, while also helping you to eat less by making you feel fuller longer. This will help you eat less overall, as well as help your digestive system process. The overall result is that if you have a problem with overeating, or a sluggish digestion, Quinoa can help on both counts. The results of adding Quinoa to your diet can typically be felt right away, as you start to feel lighter both by not eating as much, and having more regularity than you currently do.

13. Good Source of B Vitamins

When compared to other grains, Quinoa has a better B Vitamin profile than most. Technically it’s a seed, not a grain, but it most often gets compared to grains because of the way it is cooked and the texture it has when eaten. The B Vitamin family helps with plenty of processes that the body goes through each day, and it’s important to stay topped up on them. Vitamin B12 alone has a host of benefits that can’t be overlooked, so you definitely don’t want to run a shortage on it.

14. Potentially Anti-Inflammatory

Recent research is showing that Quinoa may be an anti-inflammatory food. But you don’t have to wait for the research to confirm what many are already saying to be true. So many people report getting relief from their inflammatory conditions after they start eating Quinoa. There are several vitamins and minerals that it contains, but it is the phytonutrients, those that help battle back free radical damage with their antioxidant effect, that are the prime suspect for what’s causing the help in this area. It’s not very often that a food has this amount of healing properties, which makes it a bona fide superfood and one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

15. Helps Lower Cholesterol

It’s the fiber once again that provides the benefits here, this time helping to lower your cholesterol. Many people resort to cholesterol-lowering drugs, and it’s always important to listen to your doctor’s advice. But with dietary changes and you doctor’s guidance you can avoid or reduce the amount of medication you have to take to keep your cholesterol in check. Quinoa makes it easy since it’s can be used in a myriad of ways, and you won’t feel like you’re eating a special diet of any sort, or missing out on the foods you love.

16. Helps Lower Blood Pressure

The fiber levels in Quinoa have a direct effect on your blood pressure, in addition to the other benefits listed. The thing that prevents most people from getting enough fiber each day is that many of the sources are not considered very appetizing. But quinoa has a very delicate flavor, so you can mix it with just about any food you enjoy and you’ll get the flavor from that without the Quinoa getting in the way. It’s a very easy way to keep your blood pressure levels in check, without turning your world upside down.

17. Helps Balance Blood Sugar Levels

It’s not always eating foods that are sugar-free, or eating portion sizes that are considered small by American standards. Adding Quinoa to a meal will help you keep your blood sugar levels in a happy place while at the same time getting your taste buds to agree. If you have a specific food or recipe that you normally can’t have, see if adding Quinoa to it brings it down to the point where you can enjoy it without any trouble. If you find that you respond well to it you can start using it in more and more of your classic recipes.

18. Supports Weight Loss Efforts

If you’re on a diet you’ll probably be allowed to eat Quinoa on it. Some diets might say that you can’t have bread, or that you should avoid all wheat and grains. But that’s where Quinoa comes in handy, as it’s not a grain, contains no wheat, and bread made with Quinoa is likely not the bread they’re talking about. Because of its high protein content and great fiber levels, it gives a one-two punch to your weight loss goals, and has a host of other vitamins and minerals to keep you topped up and feeling good. The protein and amino acids will help with any weight training you’re doing, and the fiber keeps things moving internally.

Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa Upma

Quinoa upma is a hearty, healthy vegan dish that’s delicious to enjoy for breakfast or brunch. It features fluffy quinoa, veggies, and vibrant seasonings all cooked together in one pot. Here you’ll find my easy recipe with step-by-step instructions and photos to make a tasty quinoa upma recipe in about thirty minutes!

closeup shot of quinoa upma in a ceramic bowl with text layovers

How to Make Quinoa Upma

Rinse Quinoa

1. First, add ½ cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse very well in running water. Drain all of the water and set aside.

While rinsing, rub or agitate the seeds and give them a nice swirl with your fingers. Rinse quinoa seeds two to three times.

Rinsing quinoa seeds removes the bitterness from them. This bitterness comes from the naturally occurring saponin present in the outer coating of the seeds.

rinsing quinoa seeds under running water

Fry Spices and Sauté Aromatics

2. Heat 1.5 tablespoons oil in a pan. Keep the heat to low or medium-low. When the oil is hot, add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds.

Use any neutral flavored oil or for a vegetarian option, add ghee.

crackling mustard seeds in a hot skillet

3. Once the mustard seeds begin to crackle, then add the following ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon urad dal (hulled and split black gram)
  • ½ teaspoon moong dal (yellow mung lentils)
frying lentils and spices in a skillet

4. Stirring often fry on low heat.

making quinoa upma recipe

5. Fry until the urad dal and moong dal turn golden.

frying dal and spices in a skillet

6. Then add the below listed spices, herbs and fry for about half a minute.

  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies
  • 1 dry red chili (halved or broken with seeds removed) – you can omit adding dry red chilli
  • 1 pinch of asafoetida (optional)
adding chiles and ginger to the hot skillet

7. Next add ⅓ cup finely chopped onions and 7 to 8 curry leaves.

chopped onions and curry leaves added to the skillet

8. Stir and sauté on low to medium heat.

onions getting sautéed in pan

9. Saute until the onions become translucent.

sautéed onions in skillet

Sauté Veggies

10. Then add ⅓ cup finely chopped carrots, ¼ cup finely chopped french beans and ⅓ cup frozen peas, or your choice of veggies.

Make sure that you chop everything finely and evenly so the veggies get cooked thoroughly while the quinoa cooks.

Note: If using fresh green peas in your quinoa upma, then steam or cook them separately. Add them once the upma is done.

carrot, green peas, french beans for in skillet to make quinoa upma recipe

11. Mix well.

mixing veggies in pan

12. Saute on low heat for two minutes.

sautéing veggies in pan

Sauté Quinoa

13. Then add the quinoa to the pan.

quinoa in pan on top of mix vegetable mixture

14. Mix very well again.

quinoa mixed with veggie mixture

15. Saute for a minute or two on low heat.

sautéing quinoa mixture

16. Then add water. For ½ cup of quinoa, add 1 cup of water or a bit more if needed.

water in pan

17. Stir well.

quinoa upma mixture mixed in pan

18. Add salt as per taste.

salt being added with a measuring spoon

Cook Quinoa Upma

19. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer on low heat until the quinoa seeds are cooked.

pan covered with lid

20. Stir the quinoa upma once or twice as it simmers to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

stirring quinoa upma mixture while cooking

21. When all the water has been absorbed and the grains appear translucent and cooked well, remove the lid and turn off the heat.

It will take about 20 to 22 minutes for the quinoa to cook and fluff up. If there is any water or liquids in the pan, then continue to cook without lid until all the water dries up.

quinoa cooked in pan and quinoa upma ready to be served

22. Now add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves.

coriander leaves on top of quinoa upma

23. Give a quick stir and serve the vegetable quinoa upma hot or warm.

closeup shot of quinoa upma in a ceramic bowl

Expert Tips

  • Quinoa and water ratio: For one measure of quinoa, I add double the measure of water. I always cook quinoa seeds covered in a pan and this 1:2 proportion of quinoa seeds and water, works very well for me every time.
  • Rinsing quinoa: I recommend to rinse quinoa seeds always. Even if you are using pre-rinsed quinoa, do rinse them a couple of times. Rinsing with water removes the bitterness that comes from the saponin present on the seeds. When rinsing rub or agitate the seeds using a fine mesh strainer.
  • Veggie variations: Feel free to add vegetables like chopped broccoli, shredded cabbage, finely chopped or shredded carrots, green peas, chopped capsicum (bell pepper), frozen corn or grated beets.
  • Nuts: Add some nuts like fried cashews or roasted or fried peanuts to the dish for more flavor and some crunch.

 

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