Saturday, April 7, 2012

Quinoa: the mother grain

Quinoa is a pretty hot topic these days, and as one of the only complete protein sources in the plant world, it's no wonder. However, today I want to talk about quinoa and it's benefits to women in all stages of life. Here we go..

First, let's take a look at what quinoa has to offer. Quinoa is high in Protein, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron and B Vitamins.

Protein- As a vegetarian, protein has always been a big topic for me. Is it just me, or does it seem like "protein" is the only word in the mainstream nutrition vocabulary? "Vegetarians can't get enough protein..." "Your gonna die of a protein deficiency if you don't start eating meat!" Sound familiar? These were the first comments that sparked my interest in nutrition and the importance of a healty diet. Personally, instead of following charts that lump all women, or worse, all adults together to recommend a single amount of protein for every human above age 18, I prefer to use calculations. Specifically the USDA recommends eating 0.4 grams of protein for each pould of your IDEAL body weight. If you are pregnant you can find out about how much weight you should gain in each trimester and adjust your intake accordingly. However, the standard recommendations for pregnant women vary between 75-90 grams per day depending on where you are in your your pregnancy. One cup of cooked quinoa has about 8 grams of Complete Protein. Complete Proteins contain a significant amount of all 9 essential amino acids necessary to sustain a healthy human body.

Magnesium- Magnesium works to relax muscles. Proper magnesium intake can help prevent preclampsia and premature uterine contractions. It also helps to regulate blood sugar, an important factor in controlling morning sickness. Daily recommended intake varies for women by age, as well as for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Daily needs for pregnant women aged 19-30 need 350 mg per day, breastfeeding mothers of the same age need 310 mg. 1/2 cup of quinoa boasts about 90 mg of magnesium.

Manganese- Manganese is a mineral that helps to form bone and cartilage. This mineral is especially important for pregnant women, but even more so to breastfeeding mothers. One cup of cooked quinoa offers 1.2 mg of manganese. A significant amount since pregnant women are recommended to consume 2 mg, breastfeeding women 2.6, and non-pregnant women 1.8 mg on a daily basis. However ladies, remember that too much of a good thing can be bad. Some babies born with clubfoot and stillbirth have been linked to excessive intake of manganese during pregnancy.

Iron- Wow, this is a big one. No, quinoa isn't going to provide 110% of your DRV, but it is a significant source of Iron. For non-meat-eaters this is an especially big issue. Even bigger if you are a non-meat-eater than happens to be female. See, there are two types of Iron found in food: Heme and Non-Heme. Heme Iron counts for about 40 percent of the iron found in meat and animal products. Non-Heme Iron accounts for about 60 percent of the Iron found in animal products, and 100 percent of the iron found in plant based sources. Did I mention that Non-Heme Iron isn't as easily absorbed as it's meaty friend? For this reason vegetarians are suggested to consume about 14 mg per day for men and post-menopausal women. However, as we all know during our monthly menstruation, us ladies lose a significant amount of fluid and tissue. For this reason vegetarian women prior to menopause are recommended to consume 33 mg of Iron each day. For pregnant women, who are having to produce enough red blood cells to make an entire human being, it is recommended to increase your daily intake by 10-20 mg. One cup of cooked quinoa has about 3 mg of Iron.

Copper- This essential trace mineral is vital for the development of your new baby's heart, blood vessels, skeletal and nervous systems. Pregnant women need about 1 mg per day, and breastfeedingwomen 1.3 mg. One cup of cooked quinoa has .4 mg of Copper. Interrestingly, excess Copper interferes with Zinc, which is responsible for making digestive enzymes. It can also impair thyroid activity and functions of the liver, consequently leaving the sufferer unable to properly digest meats. Hello, vegetarian lifestyle!

Folate (B9)- Folate is the natural B9 vitamin found in foodstuffs. Folic Acid is the synthetic version of Folate. Most women are encouraged to take a Folic Acid supplement when looking to get pregnant. This is because Folate is necessary to cell production and very important to brain function. Not only is this vitamin important to pregnant women , but is essential for elderly people to help combat memory loss, dementia, and depression. Women of childbearing should regularly consume at least 400 mcg (micrograms), and pregnant women 600 mcg.  One cup of Cooked quinoa has 78 mcg of Folate.

Pyridoxine (B6)- Sufficient B6 intake has been shown to alleviate symptoms of morning sickness, especially when paired with sufficient magnesium. However too much B6 can cause a B6 dependency in newborns, so use with caution and never take more than 1000mg a day. Pregnant women need about 1.9 mg of B6 daily, breastfeeding women need 2 mg.  One cup of cooked quinoa contains .228 mg of B6.

As an added bonus, it is easily digested which is good for pregnant women who suffer from indigestion and great for those with celiac disease, as it is completely gluten free!
Lately I eat quinoa at least once a day. As I look more and more into a raw food diet I can't help but feel a little heartache at the thought of letting it go. Quinoa can be sprouted and used in raw foods which actually help to activate enzymes and boost Vitamin A and mineral content making it significantly healthier than its cooked counterpart! But that's a topic for another day..

1 comment:

  1. I am 22 weeks pregnant and had quinoa grinded and added to my shake then I was like I hope this is fine then I searched about it, most people are saying better to consume cooked but you are the first person I found saying its actually better to eat it raw. I feel better now thank you :D