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Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has garnered a great deal of attention from diet and nutrition experts in recent years due to its nutrition profile. Quinoa is actually a seed, although it’s commonly referred to as a grain for obvious reasons (quinoa seeds are grain-like in size, texture, and consistency when cooked). Although the seeds are small, quinoa nutrition facts are impressive.
One cup of quinoa provides about 8 grams of protein—equal to the protein found in about an ounce of meat or cheese—but quinoa contains no saturated fat, which is found in many animal-sourced foods. In addition, quinoa is atypical of plant foods in that the protein in quinoa is “complete”; this means it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs in the correct proportions. There are only a few plant-based foods that are sources of complete proteins.
That same cup of quinoa also contains five grams of fiber. Fiber adds bulk to your meals and helps you feel fuller faster and longer, which may be helpful when you’re trying to control your weight. In addition, fiber plays a role in digestive health and can help prevent constipation. It also may be beneficial in preventing heart disease and certain cancers.
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Noteworthy Quinoa Nutrition Facts
So exactly what’s in this mineral goldmine? Besides the health benefits noted above, quinoa nutrition facts include an array of minerals that are valuable to our bodies.
One cup of quinoa contains almost 3 milligrams of iron, which is about 50 percent more than what you’ll get from 3 ounces of red meat. Iron helps transport oxygen from your lungs throughout your body and also helps your muscles store and use oxygen. To help boost the iron that your body is able to absorb, eat your quinoa with vitamin C-rich foods such as red or orange peppers or citrus fruits.
Magnesium and phosphorus, which help maintain strong bones, also are found in quinoa. Magnesium supports the immune system, is involved in the functioning of muscles and nerves, and helps regulate blood glucose levels. Phosphorus works with calcium in muscle contractions and with the B vitamins to help regulate kidney function.
Other nutrients found in quinoa include potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and folate.
Quinoa: Versatility in Your Meals
Besides all those quinoa nutrition facts, the seed is versatile within any menu. Incorporate it into your diet in a variety of ways.
- For breakfast, try quinoa as a hot cereal, much like oatmeal, and top with blueberries or strawberries. Or, you can stir in dried fruit, such as pineapple, apricots, cranberries, or raisins, nuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or other favorite spices.
- For a healthy, delicious lunch, combine cooked quinoa with diced cucumbers, bell peppers, and tomatoes, chickpeas, crumbled feta cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar. You also can add high-protein foods, such as grilled chicken or shrimp, to your quinoa salad.
- Quinoa can easily be included in a healthy dinner; just serve quinoa instead of pasta, rice, or potatoes. If you don’t care for plain quinoa, stir in cooked onions, peas, and/or carrots and season with a dash of garlic powder and some basil or oregano. For a Mexican-style side dish, add green chilies, cumin, chili powder, and a dash of cayenne or flaked red peppers.
This article was originally published in 2018. It is regularly updated.