As you begin your weight loss journey, one of the most effective things you can do is replace old habits with new ones. This includes everything from your activity level to the foods you eat. In fact, replacing unhealthy fattening foods with lower-fat, healthful substitutes will help you lose the weight and keep it off in the long run.
One healthy food that is getting a lot of buzz lately is quinoa. It’s actually a seed, but can be used as a substitute for the daily six ounces of grains and rice recommended by the USDA*.
But why substitute at all? What’s wrong with grains and rice?
Technically, nothing is wrong with grains and rice. But quinoa contains two to three times as much protein as rice and couscous. Since protein makes you feel full longer, helps to build muscle tissue, and keeps cravings at bay, adding quinoa to your diet could help you lose weight by increasing your protein intake without adding more calories.
Quinoa also has a low glycemic index, which means it is digested more slowly. Foods with a high glycemic index are dumped into your bloodstream quickly after you eat them, leading to sugar highs and crashes. Eating foods with a low glycemic index, such as quinoa, keeps your metabolism burning more evenly and prevents those between-meal cravings.
Speaking of preventing cravings, quinoa has a high fiber content, which will keep you feeling full and satisfied. Fiber is also linked with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and it promotes a healthy digestive tract.
As if all that isn’t enough, quinoa also contains iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B-12. Losing weight can be a tricky business because cutting calories can translate into cutting essential nutrients from your diet. When you fill up on healthy foods like quinoa, you can lose weight without putting your health at risk.
You can always have too much of a good thing! While quinoa is a nutritious food, it contains calories just like anything else. In particular, it contains carbs, and some people need a low-carb diet in order to lose weight. Use it sparingly, and remember that it is a substitute for other foods in your regular diet.
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet.