When a food is proclaimed a "rich" source of certain nutrients, the term isn't random. Guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration state that foods may be described as a “rich” source when they contain 20 percent or more of the nutrient. By those standards, quinoa is a rich source of four minerals. It’s also one of the few grains that supplies complete protein.
Even though it’s called a whole grain, quinoa is actually an edible seed with a nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture. You’ll find quinoa that’s white, red or black, and as a whole seed or rolled into flakes similar to oatmeal. One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, 8 grams of complete protein and 4 grams of fat that’s mostly healthy unsaturated fats. It delivers energy in the form of 39 grams of complex carbohydrates, which includes 5 grams of fiber, or 21 percent of a woman’s recommended daily intake.
Magnesium may be especially beneficial for women who have premenstrual syndrome. Studies suggest that it improves premenstrual mood changes and reduces water retention. You also need magnesium for its role in hundreds of metabolic processes and, together with a few other minerals, it transmits the electrical signals that make your muscles and nerves work. In that role, it maintains your heartbeat and lowers blood pressure by relaxing muscles in blood vessel walls. One cup of cooked quinoa has 118 milligrams of magnesium. Women need 320 milligrams daily, so that fills 37 percent of your recommended intake.
You may know zinc as the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications advertised to prevent or treat colds. Taking zinc within 24 hours of your first symptoms may reduce the duration and severity of a cold, according to a review of studies published in February 2011 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. More importantly, zinc is essential for maintaining optimal health on a regular basis because it helps produce protein and DNA, regulates normal growth and supports your immune system. Since your body doesn’t store much zinc, you should consume 8 milligrams daily. You’ll get 2 milligrams from 1 cup of cooked quinoa.
Copper and Manganese
Copper and manganese both help keep your skin healthy because they're needed to make the connective tissue responsible for its strength and flexibility. They each activate enzymes that have a variety of jobs, from working as antioxidants to metabolizing carbohydrates. Quinoa is quite rich in both minerals, with 1 cup supplying 40 percent of a woman’s recommended daily copper and 65 percent of manganese.
Rinse quinoa under cold water before cooking it to remove its natural, but bitter-tasting coating. Some cooks toast it in a skillet to bring out its nutty flavor before cooking it, but that's optional. Whether toasted or plain, prepare quinoa by simmering it in water or broth. A variety of vegetables, meat, beans, cheese and seasonings can be mixed with quinoa. Like oatmeal, it also pairs well with raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and sliced apples or bananas.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Quinoa, Cooked
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Appendix B: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Premenstrual Syndrome
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- PubMed.gov: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Zinc for the Common Cold
- Linus Pauling Institute: Copper
- Linus Pauling Institute: Manganese
- Purdue University: Quinoa
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.