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Quinoa: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

Food habits are changing regularly, in that people are more concerned about their health and opting for highly nutritious food. Quinoa is such food with high nutrient value and the year 2013 concluded as the international year of quinoa, as the production along with consumption gradually increased. From 500BC to 3000 BC, quinoa is grown in the South American Andes region and is sacred food to them. Gradually the use and the production decreased and were restricted to local communal lands which led to the development of different types of quinoas. The scientific name of the quinoa is Chenopodium quinoa willd and belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family. Quinoa is a rich source of fibre, protein, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. This quinoa is majorly gluten-free and lets us discuss its more beneficial properties.1  

Nutritional Value of Quinoa: 

Quinoa might contain 340 kcal energy in 100g.2 It might possess the following nutrients in it: 

Nutrient  Percentage content  
Carbohydrates  68g 
Protein  12g 
Fats  3g 
Fibre  6g 
Sugars  6g 
Sodium  1100mg 
Iron  2.88mg  
Calcium  40mg 

Quinoa is not only delicious and versatile but also a complete protein source. What does that mean? It means that quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein that our bodies cannot produce on their own.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Table 1: Depicting the nutrients present in 100g of quinoa2 

Vitamins present in quinoa:  

  • Vitamin A (retinol) 
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)2 

Properties of Quinoa: 

The following properties might be exhibited by quinoa: 

  • It might lower blood sugar 
  • It might reduce oxidative stress 
  • It might have a cholesterol-lowering effect 
  • It might help against malnutrition 
  • It might be a good alternative for gluten-free meals 
  • It might help in weight management  
  • It might be anti-inflammatory 3 

Also Read: Jowar: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

Quinoa is a remarkable option for individuals with gluten intolerance. This mighty grain not only offers a plethora of nutritional benefits but also stands as a safe and naturally gluten-free alternative. You can safely include quinoa in your diet without worrying about triggering adverse reactions or compromising your well-being.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Potential Uses of Quinoa for Overall Health: 

Quinoa contains various nutrients and might be good for health. Some of the potential uses of quinoa are:  

1. Potential uses of quinoa for malnutrition 

In a study, it was seen that quinoa might have the potential to increase the production of a hormone that may help in growth (insulin-like growth factor) in children. It was also seen that quinoa might provide essential nutrients like proteins and might be helpful against malnutrition in children. However, ensure to consult a doctor before using quinoa for health benefits.3 

2. Potential uses of quinoa for celiac disease 

A study conducted on people with celiac diseases (who cannot digest gluten present in wheat and flour) observed that quinoa might prove to be a good alternative for those with celiac diseases. It was observed that quinoa may be well tolerated by people with celiac disease and can be made a part of their gluten-free diet for them. In addition, it was observed that the total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels may also decrease. Based on the above, quinoa is the best alternative for celiac disease patients. However, more research is required to render it completely safe for consumption by those with celiac disease.3 

3. Potential uses of quinoa for cholesterol 

Quinoa contains phytosterols which are structurally similar to cholesterol. These phytosterols might help in lowering blood cholesterol and might compete with cholesterol in the intestine for absorption, thereby reducing the absorption of cholesterol. It may also lower the production of certain lipoproteins in the liver and intestine which are known to form atherogenic plaques and block the blood vessels. Therefore, quinoa might be a good choice for the improvement of blood cholesterol. However, more research is needed to prove these claims.3 If your cholesterol level is high, consult the doctor and get proper medication.  

4. Potential uses of quinoa for diabetes 

Animal studies were conducted to study the antidiabetic potential of quinoa and showed that quinoa might lower blood glucose levels. This effect might be due to the presence of vitamins, minerals and fibre in quinoa. It was observed in rats that quinoa might help in lowering blood glucose and may improve insulin sensitivity. A combination of these two effects might be helpful and may fight against diabetes. However, more studies need to be conducted on humans to prove these effects. Moreover, you must consult a doctor for the proper treatment of diabetes and not self-medicate. 3  

5. Potential uses of quinoa for weight management 

In a study by Foucault and his team on animals, it was found that quinoa might have the potential to alter the expression of adipose-specific genes responsible for storing fats in tissues. It was also observed that quinoa might alter the development of fat tissue and might positively affect weight gain caused due to high-fat consumption. Thus, quinoa might be helpful for weight management. However, more research is required to prove these claims. Kindly consult a doctor for healthy weight management, do not self-medicate.3 

6. Potential uses of quinoa for oxidative stress 

Quinoa may have bioactive compounds like phytosterols, saponins and phytoecdysteroids which help in deactivating the free radicals. Eliminating or deactivating the free radicals with the help of bioactive compounds may lead to a decrease in oxidative stress. Quinoa may lower the malonialdehyde (which causes oxidative stress) and this may be due to the presence of bioactive compounds.3 However, all these studies are studied in animals and more research is to be explored claims on humans. 

7. Potential uses of quinoa for inflammation 

Studies show that individuals with high dietary fibre intake tend to experience lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and better blood sugar control. Quinoa, with its high soluble fibre content, might play a significant role in reducing the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

It was seen that quinoa seeds are rich in saponins and these molecules may reduce inflammation. It was also seen that quinoa might have the potential to alter the inflammatory processes by affecting the activity of TNF-alpha and IL-6 which are inflammatory markers. Therefore, quinoa might help in alleviating inflammation and more studies are required to further explore the potential use of quinoa for inflammation.3 

Though there are studies that show the potential uses of quinoa in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of quinoa on human health.  

Also Read: Cod Liver Oil: Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

How to Use Quinoa? 

Quinoa can be used in the following ways: 

  • Breakfast cereal 
  • Infant cereal food 
  • Popped like a popcorn  
  • Seeds can be used as a flour 
  • Added to salads 
  • Used in making bread, noodles, and pasta. 
  • The seeds can be sprouted and eaten.4 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking a large amount of quinoa or any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Quinoa might just be your gut’s best friend for intestinal health! Just like whole grains, quinoa offers a remarkable source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fibres, which play a vital role in maintaining optimal intestinal health.

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, MD

Side Effects of Quinoa: 

A few cases of quinoa allergy have been reported. It was reported to cause allergic reactions with rashes on arms and chest, itching on palms and soles of feet and swelling (angioedema).  It was also seen that some people who are highly sensitive to flour might also be sensitive to quinoa. In such a case, you should consult your doctor and ensure that it is safe for you to consume quinoa before eating it.3 

Also Read: Maple Syrup: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

Precautions to Take with Quinoa:  

The following precautions need to be taken before eating quinoa: 

  • You should ensure that you are not allergic to quinoa before consuming it.  
  • People sensitive to flour might also be intolerant to quinoa. So, kindly ensure that you can tolerate quinoa well before eating it.3 

There was no data regarding the use of quinoa by pregnant women, children, and elderly individuals. Kindly consult a doctor before eating quinoa.  

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

Quinoa might react with certain drugs and alter their action or may react adversely with them. However, there is insufficient data regarding such effects. Therefore, you should consult your doctor and discuss with them whether it is safe for you to consume quinoa before doing so. Ensure that you take special care if you are undergoing any treatment and are on medication. 

Also Read: Is Orzo Healthy? Your Guide to Understanding Its Nutritional Value

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What are the health benefits of quinoa? 

Quinoa might be helpful against celiac disease, diabetes, malnutrition, inflammation, and oxidative stress. However, more research is required to prove these potential effects. Therefore, kindly consult a doctor before using it for any health conditions.3 

What are the nutrients of quinoa? 

Quinoa is rich in fibre, proteins and carbohydrates. It also contains certain minerals, vitamins (A and C) and many bioactive components.2 

Can quinoa be eaten by gluten intolerant people? 

Yes, quinoa might be good for people who are gluten intolerant as seen in studies. However, more studies are required to prove such positive effects.3 

Can quinoa cause allergy? 

Yes, there have been reports of allergic reactions caused by quinoa. Therefore, one has to make sure that they are not allergic to quinoa before consuming it.3 

Is quinoa good for muscle building? 

There are no reports regarding the use of quinoa for muscle building. There is a requirement for more studies on this subject. 

References: 

1. Silva PM, Massuela DC, Khan MW, Hamar A, Khajehei F, Grae S, et al. Quinoa (chenopodium quinoa willd.): an overview of the Potentials of the “ Golden Grain ” and Cultivation and Marketization. 2020; Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7074363/ 

2. FoodData Central. Whole grain blend quinoa [Internet]. U.S. Department of Agriculture. [cited 2022 Sep 6]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/374447/nutrients 

3. Navruz-varli S, Sanlier N. Nutritional and health benefits of quinoa ( Chenopodium quinoa Willd .). J Cereal Sci [Internet]. 2016;69:371–6. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2016.05.004 

4. Jancurová M, Minarovičová L, Dandár A. Quinoa – a Review. 2009;27(2):71–9. Available from: https://www.agriculturejournals.cz/publicFiles/32_2008-CJFS.pdf 

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