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Quinoa Nutritional Facts

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Updated March 22, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Check out these quinoa nutritional facts to see why I name it as one of the healthiest foods:

One cup of cooked quinoa has 155 calories, 30 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 3 g dietary fiber and 5.5 g protein. While cooked pasta has around the same amount of carbohydrate and protein, quinoa has double the fiber of pasta. The protein profile of quinoa is notable because it is a "complete" protein, which means it contains all of the nine essential amino acids. Most other complete protein foods are meat or dairy-based, not grains. Since quinoa is a whole-grain seed, it is also naturally a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E and potassium.

Quinoa is an excellent option for diabetic meal plans -- I often recommend using it in place of white rice or pasta. The extra fiber allows the digestion of carbohydrates to be slowed, assisting with blood sugar control. The risk of type 2 diabetes has also been found to be 31% lower when whole grains are eaten frequently. Part of this benefit is likely due to the magnesium content of grain seeds as well as the fiber content. Magnesium is a part of many metabolic processes in the body, including some that help to regulate blood sugar.

You can find quinoa now in regular grocery stores. Look for it on a shelf located above the white rice near the couscous and specialty rices.

The cooking method for quinoa is similar to that of rice -- the only difference is that it is generally recommended to soak and/or rinse quinoa prior to use in order to remove naturally occurring sappoins, which are soapy-tasting substances that are thought to act as a deterrent to birds in nature. Place a cup of the raw dried quinoa seed into a fine strainer, and a run it under warm tap water while swishing it around with your hand. The combination of running warm water, abrasion from the strainer, and swirling action seem to be enough to remove the soapy residue.

After soaking and rinsing your dried quinoa, cook it according to the package -- generally by using 1 1/2 cup of water to every 1 cup of quinoa. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the grain has absorbed all of the water. A simple way to season quinoa would be to use a chicken or vegetable stock instead of water to cook it - or to stir in fresh herbs, cheese, nuts or dried fruit after cooking -- like in this Italian Quinoa Recipe.

Sources:

Anderson JW. Whole grains and coronary heart disease: the whole kernel of truth. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80(6):1459-60. 2004.

Erkkila AT, Herrington DM, Mozaffarian D, Lichtenstein AH. Cereal fiber and whole-grain intake are associated with reduced progression of coronary-artery atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease. Am Heart J. 2005 Jul;150(1):94-101. 2005.

van Dam RM, Hu FB, Rosenberg L, Krishnan S, Palmer JR. Dietary calcium and magnesium, major food sources, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. Black women. Diabetes Care. 2006 Oct;29(10):2238-43. 2006.

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