What is the hype around quinoa, amaranth and lentils?

Everywhere I go I see quinoa all around and hear  how good it is. What is it the hype about? First of all, when you search quinoa there is a proliferation of bloggers discussing it and not a lot of what I would call “research” on it.  I wanted to understand how this could be good for you?!

According to  scientists in Nature magazine, quinoa is a seed and it is  “gluten-free, has a low glycemic index,  and contains an excellent balance of essential amino acids, fibre, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals”.  1 cup of cooked quinoa has a whopping 32.6g of starch and 8.1g of protein  per Self Nutrition Data.  That is a lot of starch! But, not all starches are the same.  We can think of them as good and bad starches.  Resistant starch is the good starch.

The starch found in quinoa is considered to be a resistant starch, this is digested further down in your digestive track  via fermentation in the colon. It acts more like a fiber in the digestive tract. Fiber acts as a cleanser and is also  very filling.  There are 4 types of resistant starches(RS).

  • RS1 is from  legumes, grains and seeds (quinoa, amaranth, lentils, beans, and  foods like whole grains pasta with durums).
  • RS2 are starches found in uncooked food like  potato or unripe banana.
  • RS3 starches are found in foods that are eaten cold, like cooked potatoes or pasta served at cold temperature.
  • RS4 are synthetically  made via chemicals to resist digestion.  (Note: I am inclined to avoid RS4 because of cancers and other diseases caused by non-natural sources, why add chemicals?)

Resistant starches have been found to provide many benefits for our bodies.  RS2 was found to reduce inflammation,triglycerides and increases HDL (Gargari, Namazi, Khalili, Sarmadi, Jafarabadi and Dehghan, 2015), healthier gut (which either stores or expels, reduces glycemia/insulieumia (store less fat), and improve lean body mass.

Scholars found improvement in weight loss when  eating resistant starch with whey protein  based on a  2015 study  by Gentile, Ward, Holst, Astrup, Ormsbee, Connelly and Arciero  published in Nutrition Journal.  Additionally, incorporating resistant starches into your diet during the weight maintenance phase is theorized to be more beneficial because it decreases insulin secretion and maintains lean body mass per scholar, per scholar  JA Higgins in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition Journal in 2014.  The 2014 study found that  when eating resistant starches,  rodents had about 8-45% lower fat mass and/or higher lean body mass (as proven by 9 researchers).  Furthermore,  in other studies, resistance starch is found to promote fat burn, decreases carbohydrate oxidation and prevents fat accumulation (Higgins, 2015).

 I think this is compelling evidence to support all the raves and rage over incorporating quinoa into your healthy lifestyle plan!   We have not found  a difference between brands of quinoa, Trader Joes or Bob’s Red Mill  are our mainstay.

There is a minor taste difference between white, tri color and red. We recommend trying them all.  The white is alittle bit blander for us, while the red more nuttier and visually appealing especially when you add in other bright colored veggies. There are a few tricks when cooking quinoa.  Wash the grains in cold water, rubbing the grain for a minute or so before cooking  removes the saponin.  This will make it taste less bitter.   Cooking it with sautéed onion, garlic, parsley and olive oil adds some flavor to the grain.  You can spice it up and toss in cooked ground meats  like chicken or turkey.  I’ve used ricotta and spaghetti sauce to satisfy a baked ziti craving.    Mix in zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoe to make a tastier side dish.  The possibilities are endless!!!!

For those scared of jumping into  quinoa,  Near East makes a quinoa blend with brown rice.  We tasted the roasted red pepper & basil blend.  I rinsed the rice and quinoa just in case and followed the cooking instructions on the box.  It smells delicious, with a warm sweet pepper and seasoning scent.  It fluffs up and isn’t sticky.   It didn’t have a lot of salt, so you can always season it with a bit more if you desire it.  This mix  is a  good way to introduce quinoa. The brown rice mixed  helps to make eating quinoa not feel so foreign on an american palette.  The crunch of the quinoa gave it a nice texture. The colors are bright and I was excited to taste it and continue eating it.   I ate this with the Mediterranean  white bean soup with sausage in it and enjoyed my meal, I didn’t feel like I was giving up the rice and bean combo that I find satisfying.   Further, I feel warm and full – a must have for a cold winter day! I don’t think you could go wrong in trying this mix next time as a side dish in lieu of rice or pasta or mixed into your salad.

Near East Quinoa Blend