Quinoa is a seed that shows many of the same properties as grains. It can be ground into flour, cooked like a cereal, and even served as a side dish. As a seed, however, it is higher than many true grains in protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals. As such, many dietary benefits of quinoa could be achieved by using it to replace other, less nutritional, grains in the diet.
One of the biggest benefits of quinoa is its balance of calories. One cup (185 grams) of the cooked grain has 222 calories, only 32 of which come from fat. Eight grams of protein, almost twice that of corn or rice, are also provided by each serving. In addition, one cup (185 grams) of quinoa contains five grams of fiber.
The quality of protein is another of the benefits of quinoa. Each cup (185 grams) of the grain has 442 milligrams of the amino acid lysine, more than double that contained in the same amount of wheat grain. In fact, in a gram-by-gram analysis of protein, the University of Minnesota found that quinoa provided higher amounts of 11 different amino acids than wheat. Many of the amino acid levels in quinoa were more comparable to skim milk than other grains.
Quinoa is also high in many minerals and vitamins. One serving contains 58% of the daily percent value (DV) of manganese. Thirty percent DV of magnesium and 28% DV of phosphorus are provided by each cup (185 grams) of the cereal. In addition, it also provides significant amounts of copper, potassium, and selenium. For those individuals suffering from anemia, the health benefits of quinoa include high iron levels; 15% DV of the mineral is contained in each serving of the grain.
Many important vitamins are also present in quinoa. The grain provides 19% DV of folate, the natural form of folic acid, per serving. Quinoa also contains significant amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Finally, while the 6% DV of vitamin E provided per serving may seem low, it is considerably higher than the amount of the vitamin provided by many other grains.
There are many health benefits of quinoa for those on heart-healthy diets. When prepared without additional additives, quinoa provides only 1% DV of sodium and is a naturally cholesterol-free food. In addition, nearly one fourth of the recommended daily allowance of fiber is provided in every cup (185 grams) of quinoa. Finally, many physicians believe that the folate found in the grain may help to reduce hardening of large arteries and lower certain types of high blood pressure.