PhotoThe undeniable trend in food is toward healthy, which is right up there with “fresh” and “locally sourced.” If that's your hot button, a team of international food researchers recommends adding quinoa (keen'-wah) to your diet.

Quinoa is an ancient grain, domesticated some 4,000 years ago in what is now Latin America. It's closely related to more familiar plants like beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds.

Sound appetizing? Researchers from Rutgers University, Universidad Arturo Prat and Universidad de Las Américas say its health benefits far outweigh the taste. In a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists, the scientists list 10 major health benefits.

Protein

Lately nutritionists have stressed adding protein to our diets. Quinoa has a higher protein content than barley, oat, rice and maize. And it's gluten-free, another reason for its growing popularity, no doubt.

Carbohydrate and Fiber

Quinoa is loaded with dietary fiber, essential for digestive health. It can also promote satiety, reduce cholesterol absorption, and reduce risk and severity of gastrointestinal infection and inflammation, the researchers say.

Lipids

Quinoa seed oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than other plant oils. Other fatty acids promote brain development, insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and immunity.

Vitamins

Quinoa just about covers the alphabet, rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E. These vitamins play a major role in metabolism, regulating cell growth and development and improving vision.

Minerals

Quinoa helps the body replenish and maintain its mineral content. It contains generous amounts of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc – higher than that of rice, wheat and other cereals.

Saponins

Saponins are present in the outer seed coat of quinoa. They're helpful in producing organic crops.

Phytoecdysteroids

Phytoecdysteroids can help build muscle and reduce stress. They also serve as an antioxidant and antidepressive.

Phenolics

Phenolics are another source of antioxidants and the researchers says they have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-obesity and cardioprotective effects. They're present in abundance in quinoa.

Betalains

Betalains have several health properties but are valued primarily because they give quinoa their yellow, red and black colors. They also serve as a natural dye for food.

Glycine betaine

Glycine betaine is an amino acid found in quinoa. It has be used in the treatment and prevention of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Something that healthy couldn't possibly taste good, right? It all depends on what you cook with it. Recently Cooking Light  featured 27 recipes for quinoa.

They include quinoa and roasted pepper chili, quinoa with dried cherries and pistachios and curried quinoa salad with cucumber-mint raita.


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