Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has recently become popular in the United States as a nutritional powerhouse. When compared to many other grains, quinoa has more:
It’s also gluten-free. This makes it a healthy alternative for people who are sensitive to glutens found in wheat.
Evidence also suggests that eating more quinoa can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels, and possibly prevent other conditions. In addition to eating it by itself, you can substitute quinoa in recipes that call for other grains.
What makes quinoa special?
While it may be relatively new to supermarkets, quinoa has been a large part of the South American diet for many years. It dates back to the Incas, who called quinoa “the mother of all grains.” It grows in the Andes Mountains and is capable of surviving harsh conditions. While it’s eaten like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed.
There are more than 120 varieties. The most popular and widely sold are white, red, and black quinoa.
Only in the past three decades have researchers begun to discover its health benefits. Because of its high fiber and protein content, quinoa makes you feel full for longer. There is also reason to believe that it can help lower your risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, although more research is needed.
Can quinoa help you manage your blood sugar?
Part of living with diabetes is managing your diet to help control your blood sugar. Foods that are high on the glycemic index are associated with raising your blood sugar. Healthy meal plans for people with diabetes often focus on choosing foods rated at medium to low on the glycemic index. Quinoa is on the low end, meaning it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar.
Most grains don’t have all the amino acids needed to make a protein, but quinoa has enough to be considered a complete protein. The dietary fiber content in quinoa is also higher than many other grains. This means that quinoa can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, because both nutrients are considered important for keeping blood sugar under control.
One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that a diet of Peruvian Andean grains including quinoa can help manage type 2 diabetes and the high blood pressure associated with it.
How to prepare quinoa
The American Diabetes Association recommends picking grains with the highest nutritional value for your carbohydrate servings. Quinoa is a good option. Your daily or weekly serving may depend on whether you’re using the plate method, glycemic index, or the exchange or gram counting system to keep track of meals. Generally, 1/3 cup of cooked quinoa counts as one carbohydrate serving, or about 15 grams of carbohydrate. If you’re not sure how quinoa will fit into your meal plan, a dietitian can help.
Like many other grains, quinoa can be bought in packaged containers or from bulk bins. It naturally grows with a bitter coating to discourage pests. Most varieties sold in grocery stores have been prewashed to get rid of the bitter taste. A quick rinse at home with cold water and a strainer can remove any leftover residue.
If you can make rice, you can prepare quinoa. Just combine it with water, boil, and stir. Wait 10-15 minutes for it to become fluffy. You can tell it’s done when the small white ring separates from the grain. You can also make it in a rice cooker, which is a quick and easy way to prepare the grain.
Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor. This can be made stronger by dry roasting it before cooking. Once you’ve cooked it, try adding:
There are many healthy quinoa recipes that range from morning meals to main courses. These include:
- snack mixes
Quinoa is an ancient grain that is gaining popularity in the modern diet. It’s high in both protein and fiber, making it a healthful addition to your diet. Research shows that it may also help you control your blood sugar and cholesterol. Many helpful recipes using quinoa are available. It’s good any time of day, so enjoy when you want!