Quinoa and Diabetes: Benefits To Eating

Quinoa and Diabetes: Benefits To Eating

Quinoa has become increasingly popular in recent years as a result of its many nutritional and health benefits. For people with diabetes, high-protein and fiber-rich foods like quinoa are especially valuable. 

Quinoa is a source of carbohydrates and energy that will also have little effect on blood sugar levels, allowing for better management of diabetes

This article will detail the many advantages of eating quinoa, as well as the importance of having a healthy, well-balanced diet when you are living with diabetes. 

Diabetes and Food

Diabetes is a common disease, where your blood glucose levels are well beyond or below the normal limit due to ineffective use of insulin. Since glucose (which the cells use for fuel) is converted from the food you eat, your diet is extremely important when it comes to managing diabetes. Certain foods (carbs and sugar) have the power to quickly destabilize your blood sugar and trigger an unwanted spike.

Carbohydrates, protein, and fat can all be converted into glucose once in the body, though only a small portion of proteins and fats actually are. Since glucose that comes from protein is mainly stored in the liver, and glucose from fat is absorbed slowly, neither generally have a significant impact on your blood sugar. One hundred percent of carbohydrates, on the other hand, are converted into glucose, making glucose control much more tricky.

There are three main types of carbohydrates: fiber, starch, and sugar. Carbohydrates that are rich in fiber will be digested slowly and therefore will not affect your blood sugar rapidly and/or suddenly. Starchy and sugary carbohydrates have the potential to cause a massive jump in your blood sugar, which will be seen (and felt) as early as an hour after eating. As such, people with diabetes should primarily eat carbohydrates that contain high amounts of fiber. 

The American Diabetes Association recommends filling your plate with 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% carbohydrates, and 25% protein, as well as sticking to water and other zero-calorie drinks. In general, cutting out refined, processed, sugary, salty, and high-fat foods is a great place to start any diabetes meal planning. The following section details superfoods that you should eat more of. 

American Diabetes Association: Superfoods

The following list was compiled by the American Diabetes Association. Superfoods are nutrient-packed, uber-healthy foods that work to build and maintain a healthy body. This list is specific to people with diabetes, but would be beneficial to any person that is looking to live a healthier life. This list also includes the essential vitamins and minerals that these foods are especially rich in.

  • Beans (black beans, lentils, soybeans): folic acid; iron; potassium; magnesium; calcium  
  • Dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, etc.): vitamins A, C, E, and K; iron; calcium; potassium
  • Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, etc.): vitamin C; fiber; folate; potassium
  • Sweet potato: vitamins A and C; fiber; potassium
  • Berries: vitamins C and K; fiber; antioxidants; manganese; potassium
  • Tomatoes: vitamins C and E; potassium
  • Fatty fish (salmon, albacore tuna, etc.): healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Nuts/seeds (walnuts, flax seeds, etc): healthy fats; magnesium; fiber; omega-3 fatty acids
  • Whole grains: vitamin B; magnesium; chromium; iron; folate; fiber
  • Milk and yogurt: calcium; may be fortified with vitamin D

While all of these foods should be a central part of your diabetes-friendly diet, this article is about quinoa, so we are going to focus specifically on the whole grains section of the list. 

Keep reading to learn about the many benefits of quinoa, and why it has earned the “superfood” title. 

The Mother of All Grains: Quinoa

Quinoa earned its nickname “the mother of all grains” from the Inca people. Clearly, quinoa goes back many centuries, and is considered an ancient grain. It was first grown and harvested in the Andes mountain range of South America.

Though quinoa is often referred to as a grain, it is actually a seed, which explains the mildly nutty flavor. Quinoa’s seed background may also explain why it has so many more nutrients than other grains, in addition to being gluten-free. Quinoa is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. 

Quinoa’s high protein and fiber contents mean it makes you feel fuller for longer after eating it. Since maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to managing diabetes, this type of appetite control is highly beneficial, and will prevent overeating and cravings in a healthy way. In addition, fiber and protein help slow digestion and minimize the risk of any quick and destabilizing changes to your blood sugar. 

Quinoa has the special honor of being a complete protein. There are 20 different amino acids that are used by the body to make protein, but the body can only produce 11 of them on its own. The other 9 have to be received from diet alone. The term “complete protein” refers to foods like quinoa that contain all 9 of these amino acids.

Quinoa is rich in many other essential nutrients:

  • The B vitamin complex is composed of eight different vitamins, all of which have their own unique tasks. They are involved in the production of red blood cells and DNA, and help the body convert the foods you eat into usable nutrients and energy. Your body cannot store most B vitamins, so you need to get these vitamins almost entirely through diet. 
  • Vitamin E promotes better eye, reproductive, blood, brain, and skin health, and is rich in antioxidants. 
  • Iron helps eliminate carbon dioxide from the body and assists in transporting oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiencies are some of the most common vitamin/mineral deficiencies, especially in women. 
  • Calcium is well known for helping build strong bones, teeth, and nails. 
  • Manganese activates many enzyme processes, such as those that allow for bone development and wound healing. Manganese also aids the breakdown of carbohydrates, cholesterol, and amino acids, and contains many antioxidants.
  • Potassium is an electrolyte, meaning it promotes optimal hydration. It also supports muscle function and contraction, such as the muscles that operate your heartbeat and breath. 
  • Phosphorus is one of the most abundant nutrients in the body, supporting kidney, nerve, and muscle function. Your bones and teeth were formed with the help of phosphorus, and the mineral also helps in multiple ways the process of converting the food we eat into something the cells can use/cellular energy.
  • Magnesium is similar to manganese, in that it stimulates certain enzyme pathways. Magnesium contributes to energy production, protein synthesis, and cell communication. 
  • Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress, which damages the body’s cells and lessens their capability. They may also decrease inflammation and overall calm the body for better wellness. 

This long list of benefits shows that quinoa has truly earned its place among superfoods. 

How To Eat Quinoa

Quinoa is prepared similarly to rice, meaning you should rinse it first and then boil it in water. You can even prepare it in a rice cooker. Quinoa is ready once the white ring separates from the grain itself. 

Since quinoa can be considered a grain and a seed, it is quite adaptable when it comes to adding it to meals. You can serve quinoa hot or as a side dish — perhaps mixed with some vegetables or used to stuff peppers. You can also chill quinoa and add it to a salad. Quinoa has the right texture for soup and is the perfect grain to build a food bowl around. Quinoa can even be prepared similarly to oatmeal and eaten for breakfast.

If you absolutely cannot stay away from chips and/or crackers, you can find both options made with quinoa as the base. Be mindful of the salt content and the oil as some chips’ and crackers’ oils are very high in saturated fats, but otherwise these quinoa stacks are generally healthy. 

Manage Your Diabetes

With a healthy lifestyle and proper medication, diabetes can be managed with minimal effort. We have already discussed how diabetes may affect your diet (and how your diet can affect your diabetes), but there are a couple other components to treat carefully.

The first step is medication. Your doctor may prescribe insulin, which is injected, or an oral medication, such as metformin. Diabetes medications have seen an exponential increase in price, turning necessary, life-saving treatment into something unaffordable and inaccessible. At Banting, we think this is unacceptable and immoral. Using Canadian prices and carefully-vetted pharmacies, we can help you save up to 80% on your diabetes medication, whether you have insurance or not. Fill your prescription with Banting and get your meds shipped safely to your home, and let us take one of the more stressful parts of diabetes care off your plate. 

In addition to medication, you will need to monitor your blood sugar closely. Depending on your treatment plan, you may need to do a blood glucose check multiple times a day using a glucometer or similar device. Pairing daily blood sugar testing with regular checkups at your doctor’s office, you can observe just how well your plan is working and if you need to make any adjustments. Pay special attention to anything that may trigger a spike in your blood sugar (such as certain foods, stress, levels of physical activity, etc.) and avoid it as much as possible in the future.

In Summary

With diabetes, you have to make certain lifestyle and dietary changes in order to be at your healthiest and avoid blood sugar spikes as much as you can. This is especially important when it comes to carbohydrates, as you need these foods for fuel, but they also have the highest potential to negatively affect your blood glucose levels.

Quinoa is a pseudo-grain that is rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and essential nutrients. It is also an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates that will not alter your blood sugar, so whether you’re looking for a bowl, a salad topper, a cracker, or a soup, keep some quinoa handy as not just a superfood, but a super-ingredient, too!

Sources

Quinoa and Diabetes: Benefits, Blood Sugar, and More (healthline.com)

Quinoa and Diabetes: 7 Ways to Eat It and 5 Reasons Why You Should – This versatile “super grain” can help you manage your blood sugar and blood pressure and is easy to incorporate into a diabetic meal plan. (ontrackdiabetes.com)

Quinoa > Defeat Diabetes Foundation

Diabetes | Type 1 Diabetes | Type 2 Diabetes | MedlinePlus

Nutrition Overview | ADA (diabetes.org)

All Recipes (diabetesfoodhub.org)

Diabetes – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Sources of Glucose | Kaiser Permanente Washington

10 Diabetes Diet Myths (healthline.com)

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