6 Surprising Health Benefits of Quinoa

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Ashley Festa on April 28, 2021
  • Quinoa grain
    The Upsides to Eating This Versatile ‘Grain’
    Many people turn to rice when they’re looking for a starchy side dish, but you might want to consider trading in your old staple for quinoa. It can be prepared much the same way as white rice with about the same cooking time, but quinoa is a more nutrient-dense food. You can sub it for rice in all kinds of dishes, and quinoa’s health benefits make it a great addition to any meal of the day. Wondering how to eat quinoa? Try it for breakfast mixed with nuts and fruit; add it to a salad for lunch; or serve it with stir-fry for dinner.
  • Quinoa fields in Chile
    1. Quinoa is gluten-free.
    Quinoa is classified as a pseudocereal because it’s used nutritionally like a cereal, but it’s not actually a grain at all. In fact, it’s more closely related to beets and spinach than it is to wheat. This super-healthy whole “grain” is a seed, and it’s naturally gluten-free. Anyone sensitive to gluten or who has a gluten intolerance like celiac disease can enjoy quinoa worry-free.
  • avocado halves stuffed with quinoa, black bean, corn and tomato
    2. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t make.
    Our bodies make most of the essential amino acids we need for good health, but there are nine that we must get from food sources. There are many sources of protein in plants, but quinoa is considered a complete protein, with all nine of those amino acids. This powerhouse contains 8 grams of protein in just one cup of cooked quinoa.
  • boiled quinoa in a bowl on a table with napkin and spoon
    3. Besides protein, quinoa also has lots of vitamins and minerals.
    Quinoa’s nutritional value can’t be beat: It’s low in fat, and it’s a great source of manganese as well as phosphorus, magnesium, folate, vitamin B1, iron and zinc. There’s also a whopping 5.2 grams of fiber per cup of cooked quinoa, compared with 3.2 grams in a cup of cooked corn, 3.1 grams per cup of cooked brown rice, and a miniscule 0.7 grams in a cup of cooked white rice.
  • Fresh made Quinoa Bars
    4. Quinoa can be popped like popcorn for a healthy, whole-grain snack.
    While you probably won’t find it in a microwavable bag on grocery store shelves, you can actually pop quinoa seeds just like popcorn kernels on the stove. Choose a deep pot and heat it over medium-high heat (dry, with no oil). When the pot is hot, add quinoa in a single layer and cover the pot. Turn the heat down a bit because they’ll start popping right away. Shake the pot continuously so the quinoa doesn’t burn, and lift the lid (barely) to let the steam escape a couple of times. When the popping starts to slow down, it’s ready—even though it won’t look as fluffy as popcorn. Immediately pour the popped quinoa on a baking sheet to cool, and add your favorite seasonings.
  • Quinoa salad with red and yellow bell peppers tomatoes, celery and grapes
    5. Quinoa offers strong antioxidant properties.
    In a study of several Peruvian Andean grains, researchers were searching for a potential type 2 diabetes nutritional management strategy. In their research, the scientists found high antioxidant activity in quinoa and concluded that more studies should be conducted to find out whether quinoa’s antioxidant, antihyperglycemic and antihypertensive activities would help manage type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • raw dry white quinoa flour and quinoa seeds close up
    6. Quinoa can be made into flour and noodles for gluten-free cooking options.
    Add quinoa to the list of non-wheat flour options, like almond flour and coconut flour. You can use quinoa flour to bake cookies or cake, or you can trade in your regular pasta for gluten-free quinoa noodles. If you decide to try these options, be prepared: Quinoa flour and noodles may taste a little different than what you’re used to.
6 Surprising Health Benefits of Quinoa | Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?

About The Author

Ashley Festa is a Greenville, S.C.-based freelance writer and editor who has been writing professionally for nearly two decades. In addition to Healthgrades, she also has written for Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the University of Texas at Arlington School of Nursing and Health Innovation, and Fit Pregnancy magazine.
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  3. Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM, Shetty K. Evaluation of indigenous grains from the Peruvian Andean region for antidiabetes and antihypertension potential using in vitro methods. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):704-13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19735168/
  4. Amino acids. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm
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  6. R. Schoenlechner, K. Jurackova, E. Berghofer. Pasta Production From The Pseudocereals Amaranth, Quinoa And Buckwheat. Editor(s): Stanley P. Cauvain, Susan S. Salmon, Linda S. Young. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition, Using Cereal Science and Technology for the Benefit of Consumers. Woodhead Publishing. 2005, Pages 74-81. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781845694791500158
  7. Corn, cooked. Nutritionvalue.com. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Corn%2C_cooked_nutritional_value.html?size=1+cup+%3D+170+g
  8. Rice, cooked, white. Nutritionvalue.com. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Rice%2C_cooked%2C_white_nutritional_value.html?size=1+cup%2C+cooked+%3D+163+g
  9. Rice, cooked, brown. Nutritionvalue.com. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Rice%2C_cooked%2C_brown_nutritional_value.html?size=1+cup%2C+cooked+%3D+196+g
  10. Quinoa, cooked. Nutritionvalue.com. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Quinoa%2C_cooked_nutritional_value.html?size=1+cup+%3D+185+g
  11. Quinoa. George Mateljan Foundation. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice
  12. Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM, Shetty K. Evaluation of indigenous grains from the Peruvian Andean region for antidiabetes and antihypertension potential using in vitro methods. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):704-13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19735168/
  13. Five things everyone should know about… quinoa. University of Wisconsin Madison. https://news.cals.wisc.edu/2012/10/01/five-things-everyone-should-know-about-quinoa/

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Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 21
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