Quinoa also called ‘Inca Rice’ or ‘Vegetable Caviar’ has been consumed by natives of the Andes Mountains – Peru, Bolivia and Chile – for at least 5000 years and more. This staple food has now found its way to the kitchens of North America, Europe and other countries in the world. It is a highly nutritious food that can be easily incorporated in various recipes similar to white rice and other grains. It has higher protein content than other grains, almost comparable to meats. It contains all essential amino acids, it has a high content of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, copper, manganese and zinc and it is low sodium. Quinoa also contains complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Cholesterol and its effects
Meats are high in cholesterol – a waxy substance – that the body produces. The body uses cholesterol to make skin oils, hormones, vitamin D and digestive juices. The body requires optimal amounts of cholesterol for good health. However, excess cholesterol – especially LDL – is dangerous. LDL cholesterol causes thickening of arteries by depositing fats on them. This can reduce oxygen and blood flow to the heart and cause a range of heart diseases and other ailments.
Cholesterol levels are measured in mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). After the age of 20, it is recommended that people keep checking their cholesterol levels at least every 5 years to maintain normality. Those who have health problems like heart diseases, diabetes etc., must have it checked at least once every year. Doctors monitor both good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. The LDL levels must be low and if it goes out of range, people need to get treated for it. Some preventive measures to maintain optimal cholesterol levels are to lose weight, eat a healthy diet and exercise.
A healthy diet includes eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, limit eating of processed foods, fried foods, foods high in trans fats and baked items. Find healthy ways to cook food and eat foods with high soluble fiber content like beans, oats, quinoa and lentils.
Quinoa for cholesterol
The fiber content in quinoa is essential to maintain good health. As foods like quinoa with fiber in them pass through the digestive system, they bind with bile acids and help with waste elimination. Cholesterol is used by the liver to make bile acids. Thus, there is a reduction in absorption of cholesterol and lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Hence, consuming foods with fiber content like quinoa promotes heart health.
Quinoa is free of cholesterol. The soluble fiber content in this helps the liver use cholesterol stored in the body and this lowers levels of LDL cholesterol. The lean protein content in quinoa is similar to high protein meats. Hence, it is an excellent heart healthy food for everyone – especially vegetarians. Eating quinoa is a better alternate than eating meats like beef that is high in saturated fats. Eating foods like quinoa that lowers cholesterol levels helps prevent accumulation of plaque in the arteries, reduces risk of developing atherosclerosis, heart attacks, congestive heart failure and coronary heart disease.
Carbohydrates are central to any heart-healthy diet. When choosing foods that contain carbohydrates, it is important to go with those that contain complex carbohydrates like whole grains which include quinoa, brown rice, barley and couscous, buckwheat, oats and oat-based products, beans, lentils vegetables, fruits etc. Avoid foods like refined flour and white rice. Dietary soluble fiber decreases cholesterol, so eat at least 10g of foods that contain this daily.
Precautions and Conclusion
When cooking quinoa, it is important to buy pre-soaked seeds. Yet, you must wash them well before use. Quinoa seed coats are covered with saponin, a bitter chemical compound and this can be toxic to humans and fish. Deresination which involves removing the saponins and seed coats using chemical or mechanical methods preserves the nutrient content. Hence, buy quinoa seeds like these to avoid saponin.
Quinoa does not produce any major side effects as long as you limit yourself to your daily required quantities. Use it to make a breakfast cereal, casserole, soup, salad, and snack, pasta dishes using quinoa pasta or even baked items like cookies using quinoa flour.