Protein? Low Glycemic Index? Fiber? Check, check and check. Quinoa, pronounced “KEEN-wah,” is a wonderful super-grain that hosts major nutritional value. Not yet a household name, over the last few years this grain has become increasingly more popular. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization recognized 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”
- Amino Acids: Quinoa is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all essential amino acids. The body uses amino acids to produce neurotransmitters and hormones. Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine, and serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. A lack of these amino acids leads to a deficit in the two mood enhancing neurotransmitters, resulting in depression. Quinoa is an excellent protein option, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
- Complex Carbohydrate: A complex carbohydrate, quinoa is low on the glycemic index, meaning it provides a longer-lasting affect on positive mood than simple carbohydrates do. Complex carbohydrates enter the blood steadily and balanced, helping to regulate blood sugar levels. A stable blood sugar level prevents fluctuations that contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Anti-inflammatory: Recent studies published in the Journal of American Medical Associates Psychiatry shows that mood disorders including depression are strongly influenced by inflammation. Quinoa contains a significant amount of gamma-tocopherols, an anti-inflammatory agent, and omega 3 fatty acids, reducing symptoms of depression, bipolar and other mood disorders.
- Vitamin and Minerals: Manganese and zinc are found abundantly in quinoa. These minerals aid the production of energy in the brain. Without them, depression and anxiety may increase. Quinoa is high in Vitamin B1, which is helpful for bipolar sufferers because it has been shown to decrease anxiety, night terrors and irritability.
Whether it’s for dinner, a snack or even breakfast, it is easy to incorporate this super food into your diet. You can supplement or completely replace rice and pasta dishes with quinoa, or use it as a substitute for oatmeal in the morning. Give it a try - your mood will thank you!