Quinoa originated in the Andes Mountain regions of Peru, Bolivia and Chile more than 5000 years ago. This staple food of Inca warriors has found its way into modern civilization due to its high nutritional value. The most common types of quinoa found around the world are the traditional white quinoa and the Inca red quinoa, although select farmers markets and online catalogues have black quinoa.
This versatile grain can be used as part of your diet by replacing white rice or other grains like wheat or barley. The protein content in quinoa is very high and this is what makes it so nutritious. It contains all 12 essential amino acids required by the body and can match even the best meat with the highest protein content. Hence, it makes a great substitute food for vegetarians.
It is also rich in iron, magnesium, vitamins B2 and E and low in fat. The good news is that it does not contain saturated fat but only healthy unsaturated fats that can help maintain low cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. Quinoa is also completely gluten-free unlike some grains and hence it is on the list of recommended foods for those with celiac disease.
The thyroid is a gland found at the base of the larynx in the neck region. This tiny gland contains 2 lobes on either side of the windpipe. They are joined by connective tissues called isthmus. The main function of the thyroid gland is to produce thyroxine and triiodothyronine – 2 hormones which contain iodine – and calcitonin. These hormones are essential to maintain calcium balance and metabolism of the body.
Thyroid disorders are many ranging from goiter which is a relatively harmless condition that results in an enlarged thyroid gland to thyroid cancer. Common thyroid problems are caused when there is irregular production of thyroid hormones like hyperthyroidism (excess) and hypothyroidism (insufficient). Other conditions which affect the thyroid gland are Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Plummer’s disease, postpartum thyroid disease, thyroid cancer and so on.
Quinoa for thyroid disorders
While there is no proof that a thyroid diet can help treat various disorders of the thyroid gland, some practitioners of alternative medicine do suggest that such a diet can improve its functioning. It is important to take hormone replacement treatment to counter hypothyroidism.
Those with celiac disease suffer from gluten intolerance. This hereditary disease affects the immune system and anyone with this disease must strictly avoid all foods rich in gluten like wheat and barley. If not, they can suffer serious damage to the small intestine linings. When such damage occurs, food and nutrients will not get absorbed, the immune system weakens and people can suffer from various diseases. This autoimmune response to gluten-rich foods can affect other parts of the body like the thyroid gland. Hence, it has been suggested that quinoa which is gluten-free can benefit those with thyroid problems too.
Extensive studies which were published in 2008 have compared records of those with and without celiac disease. Those with celiac disease were more prone to thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism than those without celiac disease. Hence, in the light of these studies, quinoa may be included in the diet of those with thyroid disorders, for apart from being gluten-free it also contains many other vitamins, nutrients and proteins.
Precautions and conclusion
Overall quinoa does not produce any kind of side effects and is well tolerated by everyone. It does have traces of oxalate and hence anyone who needs to follow a diet without oxalate should to be cautious. Quinoa contains high quantities of saponin, coating the outside of the kernel. This chemical compound is very bitter to taste and toxic. So, it is important to wash the grains thoroughly before usage even if you do buy pre-washed and pre-soaked grains. If the grains are not pre-soaked, make sure you soak them for a day at least or overnight to get rid of all anti-nutrients in it. Taste a few grains before using them and check for any bitter taste.
So, include quinoa in your diet and enjoy highly nutritious and gluten-free dishes that may help control thyroid problems.