Could Quinoa Lower Your Risk of Diabetes?
Whether you’re looking to up your salad game or looking for a new side dish, quinoa is a must-have grain to add to your shopping cart. Both tasty and nutritious, quinoa has grown in popularity in recent years and people are coming up with new recipes and creative ways to incorporate quinoa into their diet.
According to a new study, eating quinoa on a regular basis may also help prevent type 2 diabetes. Since age is one of the main risk factors for developing this health condition, researchers examined prediabetic patients over the age of 65. For a month they watched participants wearing a glucose monitor that measured their blood sugar levels and how they fluctuated after each meal.
At the end of 30 days, the researchers replaced carbohydrate-rich foods, such as cereals and pasta, with quinoa. After measuring their blood sugar levels after eating quinoa, they noticed that their blood sugar spikes had subsided (blood sugar spikes are a warning sign of type 2 diabetes).
What this study can tell us
The results of this study are not surprising, as quinoa is a whole plant-based protein. Because it is a whole grain, it has a high fiber content, kristen carly, MS, RD, explains. Fiber and protein can help mitigate the spike in blood sugar normally seen when eating carbohydrate-rich foods. This is why it’s smart to combine carbohydrate foods with protein or fiber when eating balanced meals, like a bagel with hard-boiled eggs and raspberries instead of just a bagel.
“I think the study is a long shot, because honestly changing your diet and incorporating complex carbohydrates and protein can lower your overall chances of developing diabetes,” he says. Nicole M. Avena, PhD, scientist and nutrition consultant. “Quinoa itself is both, so I guess it can give you a good bang for the buck, but that’s about it. Anything other than a standard American diet can lower your chances of developing lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes.”
Related: 8 Awesome Quinoa Salads for Easy Lunches
The health benefits of quinoa
Quinoa is a whole grain and one of the few that is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine essential amino acids. This means that it is beneficial to our bodies in restoring muscle tissue and building strength, explains Dr. Avena. Like all whole grains, including them in your diet slows down digestion, leading to more nutrient breakdown and a slower release of sugar into your blood.
As for the connection between quinoa and diabetes risk reduction, it can help by stopping the extreme highs and lows caused by processed carbohydrates and can also reduce the amount of “bad” cholesterol in our bloodstream, adds the Dr. Oatmeal.
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Additionally, quinoa contains high amounts of fiber and protein, which help increase the satiety effect of a meal. Quinoa is also a good source of other important vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, folate, and vitamin E. Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, states.
Burgess recommends Bob’s Red Mill quinoa because it comes pre-rinsed and contains 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Quinoa has a great balance of protein and fiber, two nutrients that help keep blood sugar levels stable. Additionally, quinoa is rich in polyphenols, which some research suggests may help lower blood sugar levels, adds Burgess.
How much quinoa do you need per week?
Fiber-rich carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet. You can try varying your carbohydrate intake with nutritious sources like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and fruit.
If it fits into your meal plan, a good starting point might be consuming 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cooked quinoa several times a week, Burgess explains. You can whip up a big batch to eat during the week and even try adding quinoa to delicious recipes like stuffed bell peppers, savory breakfast bowls, or crunchy granola.
You need about 1.5 cups (3 servings) of whole grains a day, for about 8 cups weekly, says Dr. Avena.
Next up: 16 Healthy Quinoa Recipes to Fill You Up
- nutrients: “Improvement of glycemic fluctuations in prediabetic elderly subjects consuming a quinoa-based diet: a pilot study”
- Kristen Carli, MS, RD
- Nicole M. Avena, Ph.D., nutrition scientist and consultant
- Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Recipe Developer at Cheerful Choices
- nutrients: “Bound polyphenols from red quinoa prevailed over free polyphenols in reducing postprandial increases in blood glucose by inhibiting α-glucosidase activity and starch digestion”