Why is quinoa healthy

Quinoa. What is it, why is quinoa healthy and more importantly….

….how the hell do you pronounce it? This is what I’ll be covering in today’s article as well as some recipe ideas.

For years I pronounced quinoa quee-noah but when it became more common I heard it being pronounced as keen-wah, so that’s what I’ve gone with ever since. So, what is keen-wah?

What is quinoa

Healthy quinoa-a mix of red, white and black quinoaA mix of white, red and black quinoa pictured above

Quinoa has been around for years but has only become really popular in the last 10 years or so, at least in the UK it has. I only started eating quinoa once I’d gone vegan and started weight lifting, I wanted a high protein low fat food. But what actually is it?

Origins of quinoa

Quinoa originated in Peru and Bolivia and is a plant with edible seeds. It’s the seeds that we eat. Nowadays quinoa is grown in other parts of the world as well, the USA and Europe have both successfully cultivated quinoa. Because quinoa has become so popular it’s price tripled between 2006 and 2013.

Often referred to as a whole grain because it’s a whole grain carbohydrate and a whole protein, meaning it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. We cannot produce these ourselves so we must get them from our foods. It’s because of this quinoa often gets referred to as a whole grain when in fact it isn’t. Whole grains are the seeds of grasses, like oats and barley for example. Because quinoa is the seed of a plant not a grass it’s actually a pseudo-cereal, meaning it’s prepared and eaten the same way as a whole grain but doesn’t come from a grass.

If you’re interested in eating healthy and losing weight check out some of my other articles:

Can I lose weight on a plant based diet? (The answer is yes by the way!)

The best vegan foods packed full of protein

The best walking workouts to lose weight

Why is quinoa healthy?

Quinoa is a better source of fibre and protein than refined grains like white rice and white bread. Refined grains have a lot of their nutrients removed as they’re being processed so you’re pretty much left with calories and carbs. Eating refined grains causes your insulin levels to spike up then crash back down soon after. This is why you feel hungry again after eating white pasta or why you can eat so much pizza, your insulin level has crashed making you hungry again so you eat more.

No sugar spike

Quinoa has a lower glycemic level than refined grains meaning your blood sugar levels don’t spike then crash. Your insulin level will still rise because you’ve eaten, but not as much so you avoid the crash.

Because quinoa has fewer carbs than foods like white rice (22.7g per 100g cooked compared to 32.3 in white rice) it’s a great food to eat if you’re looking to lose weight. And because it doesn’t cause the insulin spike you’re more likely to eat less.

Quinoa v white rice

Bowl of white rice. Not as healthy as quinoa

If you eat a lot of rice and want to swap it for something healthier quinoa is a great substitute. Even if you don’t eat a lot of rice quinoa is a really healthy food to add to your meals. Here are some reasons why:

  • Quinoa contains more of the good fats we need (found in avocado and olive oil)
  • Quinoa contains 5 times more omega 3 fat (another good fat) than white rice
  • White rice only contains 9 vitamins and minerals. Quinoa contains double that at 18!
  • The minerals in quinoa are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. White rice contains absolutely none of these minerals. Zero, not even one!
  • Quinoa contains enough of all 9 essential amino acids to be considered a complete protein. White rice contains them all but nowhere near as much, so it can’t be considered a whole protein. To give you an idea there’s more than double the amount of lysine and histidine in quinoa compared to white rice and 50% more of methionine and tryptophan. You may not recognise the names (I know I didn’t) but these are all essential amino acids our bodies need to perform vital processes.
  • Quinoa is higher in both protein and fibre compared to white rice and lower in carbs

How to eat healthy quinoa

The great thing about quinoa is it’s so versatile. You could have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eat it hot or cold and make it sweet or savoury. I actually had quinoa for breakfast this morning, with apple and cinnamon. Here it is:

Healthy quinoa with apple and cinnamon

It was the first time I’d made anything sweet with quinoa but I fancied a change from my usual oats. It was absolutely delicious and I would definitely do it again.

Add quinoa to….

….well anything!

Quinoa can be found in salads, stir-fry’s, accompanying curry’s, chilli’s, in chilli’s and in soups and stews. You can put it with pretty much anything. Thinking back to the dinners I’ve eaten this week I think I could have either added quinoa to the dish itself or served it on the side of every one. Let’s have a look, these are all vegan dinners by the way –

Monday – Pie, bubble & squeak and baked beans. Quinoa could have been added to the bubble & squeak or the beans or served as a replacement for either.

Tuesday – Chickpeas, bubble & squeak, kale and sprouts. The bubble & squeak could have been replaced by quinoa or it could have been added to the chickpeas for a high protein combo.

Wednesday – Meat less balls in tomato sauce with spinach and buckwheat. Quinoa could have replaced the buckwheat.

Thursday – Tempeh stir-fry with veg and noodles. The noodles could have been replaced by quinoa.

Friday – The same dinner as Wednesday. I like to make double and have the rest later on in the week.

More swaps

I eat porridge or cold oats most mornings for breakfast so quinoa could have replaced that. When I’m at work I usually have soup with one slice of bread, I could easily take the bread out and add quinoa to my soup instead to make it more filling. Of course it isn’t white bread I’m eating (remember those refined grains?), but quinoa is healthier than bread. In fact I’m going to do that next week at work and see how I get on. Let’s see if I’m full for as long swapping my bread for quinoa.

Anyway, you get the point, quinoa can be used in lots of different ways. And I haven’t even mentioned quinoa flour or quinoa crisps. I haven’t tried either although I have tried lentil crisps and chickpea crisps, both of which were delicious so I’m sure quinoa crisps would be the same. If you’ve tried them let me know by commenting at the end.

Will you be adding quinoa to your healthy food list?

Dog dressed as superman


As you can see, quinoa really does go with anything. There are so many ways to prepare and eat it you have no reason not to start adding it to your diet. Unless you’re allergic! With its vitamin and mineral content and its good fats it really is a super food. I’m already thinking what I can add it to next week.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, as always I’d love to hear what you think of the article and of quinoa. Let me know by commenting below.

All the best


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