Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Carbohydrates and Nutrition in Quinoa

For over 5000 years, people of the Andes have eaten quinoa as their main staple, calling it “mother grain.” Quinoa seeds may be small but they add a nutritional wallop to your diet. Known as a pseudograin, quinoa is actually a fruit and its dried seeds provide the nutritional value. Quinoa seeds are available in red, white and black but all the seeds provide the same amount of nutrition. Quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids, along with vitamins, minerals antioxidants, making it a complete protein food. Quinoa also contains complex carbohydrates that  give you energy.

Complex Carbohydrates

When it comes to finding foods that provide your brain with the glucose it needs for energy, look no further than complex carbohydrates. About 100 to 200 grams of complex carbohydrates per day is recommended for optimum brain function. A one-cup serving of quinoa provides almost 110 grams of carbohydrates (35 percent DV for women and 25 percent DV for men) and about 12 grams of fiber (40 percent DV for men and women). Your body digests high fiber, complex carbohydrates slowly, helping your blood sugar to remain stable. Most foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as desserts, candy and sodas, cause a rise in blood sugar. Dr. Walter Willet of Harvard University School of Public Health recommends eating whole grain carbohydrates in foods like quinoa.


Quinoa is gluten free food that provides 24 grams of protein in one cup (45 percent DV for women and 35 percent DV for men). This pseudograin contains the nine essential amino acids required by your metabolism to manufacture new proteins, making quinoa a complete protein. The amino acids in quinoa help your body grow healthy cells, tissue and bones, as well as producing hormones and enzymes.

Vitamins and Minerals

The growing popularity of quinoa today is due to its natural balance of essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Quinoa provides almost 8 grams of ironin a cup. Some of the minerals in quinoa include zinc (47 percent DV for women and 37 percent DV for men) and magnesium (128 percent DV for women and 102 percent DV for men). Vitamins such as, riboflavin (52 percent DV for women and 49 percent DV for men) and vitamin B-6 (24 percent DV for women and 19 percent DV for men) also add to quinoa nutrition. Quinoa also has 10 grams of fat per one-cup serving but only 1 gram of saturated fat.

Preparation Tips and Serving Suggestions

Before preparing quinoa, rinse it thoroughly to remove the natural, bitter-tasting coating on the seeds. Add cooked quinoa to salads, hot breakfast cereals, soups, and bread or muffin recipes. You can also use quinoa flour for baking.

For more quinoa recipes, visit Ohio State University: Live Healthy, Live Well Team Whole Grains, --Quinoa Recipes  

USDA Nutrient Database: Quinoa

Quinoa Image By Michael Hermann (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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