Quinoa is a food grain that is actually the seed of the quinoa plant. It resembles millet and has been dubbed as ‘gold of the Incas’ for it has been eaten by South Americans for thousands of years. Before it made its entrance into North America and Europe, quinoa was cultivated mostly in the mountainous Andes regions of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. The quinoa seed has a hard protective covering made of saponin which is a bitter chemical. This acts as a protection against the grain being eaten by insects and birds.
Quinoa has many health benefits. It is gluten-free, high in fiber and is considered a complete protein since it has all essential amino acids. Quinoa contains high quantities of lysine, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorous, zinc and iron. It is low in sodium. Quinoa is an excellent food choice for everyone, but especially gluten-free vegan diet. Quinoa can be eaten cold or hot. Hence, it can be used in a wide variety of recipes like soups, salads, casseroles, breakfast cereals, snacks and baked foods.
Our digestive system is very intricate and we can develop several digestive disorders due to diet, emotional stress or disease. It is at work all day long to nourish both our mind and body. Sometimes, our digestion can get affected and cause mild or serious health problems. Here are some of the common digestive disorders that affect our gastrointestinal tract.
- GERD is a reflux disease of the lower esophagus. It happens when the sphincter muscles of the esophagus relax at wrong times and causes stomach acids to enter the esophagus.
- Gastric Ulcers are open sores that form on the stomach lining and gastritis is an inflammation of this lining. Both are caused due to reaction to medications or infections.
- Duodenal ulcers form in the duodenum when stones in the gallbladder block out bile.
- Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the small intestine and can damage this, the large intestine or other parts of the digestive tract
- Ulcerative colitis is caused in the large intestine
- Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches (diverticula) bulge into the large intestine due to inflammation or infection.
- Hemorrhoids are bunches of swollen veins that form on the anus or rectum due to increase pressure.
Other common digestive disorders are diarrhea, constipation and gallstones.
Quinoa for digestion
Quinoa can help with digestion for it is a source of insoluble and soluble fiber. It can act as ‘roughage’ which means it helps with digestion by retaining water in the large intestine. This helps with regular bowel movements and soft and bulky stools. Insoluble fiber content in quinoa can also help reduce the risk of diseases that affect the digestive system like diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. Soluble fiber content in quinoa also helps with digestion by getting rid of cholesterol from the intestines. Quinoa also helps with weigh control. We feel full for longer periods of time when we consume quinoa. This prevents us from over eating and therefore helps prevent digestive problems that occur due to eating too much.
Those who have gluten intolerance can suffer from severe digestive problems when they eat gluten-rich foods. The gluten proteins found in grains like wheat damage the small intestine in patients with celiac disease. Quinoa is a gluten-free alternative to wheat which is widely used in many foods. This helps alleviate many of the problems with digestion that people with gluten intolerance suffer from.
There is one important precaution to follow when using quinoa. The outer saponin covering needs to be removed since it is mildly toxic and bitter to taste. Many companies sell saponin-free quinoa by pre-soaking them. However, before using it, it is advisable to wash the grains thoroughly. Quinoa is definitely gluten-free. However, those who suffer from gluten intolerance must be careful when they purchase products like quinoa flour. Make sure the label mentions that it is gluten-free. Otherwise, if it has been processed on the same machines that ground wheat or other gluten-rich grains, the quinoa flour can also contain traces of gluten.
Quinoa contains oxalic acid and this can result in digestive problems in very young children.
Eating too much quinoa can cause the opposite reaction and cause problems with digestion. Excess of fiber can cause bloating, gas and stomach pain. Quinoa does not contain any allergens. Yet, if your body does react adversely to any of its nutrients, you can get digestive problems. Some people could find it difficult to digest quinoa in which case they could suffer from diarrhea, gas, cramping, vomiting and such. Hence, in such cases, stop quinoa for a few days and once the symptoms disappear, you can consume small quantities as long as you can tolerate it.
Source: Nyu.edu, webmd, internet research