Couscous (pronounced "koose koose") is a type of granular pasta made from a protein-rich variety of wheat known as semolina. It is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, and is often used as a substitute for quinoa or rice in various culinary preparations. Since couscous has such a mild flavor, it can work well with both sweet and savory foods, which is one of the reasons why this classic side dish is so popular. But versatility isn't the only thing that couscous has going for it – this intriguing ingredient is also packed with important nutrients as well. Below are 6 reasons why you should consider adding couscous to your diet.
1. Couscous is an excellent source of protein, the macronutrient responsible for helping to build and repair tissues in the body. One cup of couscous contains approximately 6 grams of protein.
2. Couscous contains generous amounts of selenium, an essential trace mineral that is often difficult to obtain through nutritional sources. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that plays a vital role in promoting heart health by reducing the buildup of plaque in blood vessels, which can protect the body from heart attacks and/or strokes. One single serving of couscous contains more than 60% of the recommended daily intake of selenium.
3. Potassium is another important mineral found in couscous. This key nutrient is responsible for facilitating smooth muscle contraction, which is critical for maintaining healthy heart function. Potassium also plays an important role in maintaining proper water balance in the body.
4. Couscous is loaded with fiber, which helps the body maintain proper digestive function. Also referred to as "roughage", fiber performs the important job of scraping and cleaning the interior of the digestive tract, encouraging greater gastrointestinal health and reducing the chances of constipation. Fiber also promotes the retention of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (a.k.a. the "good cholesterol"), which acts as a "friendly scavenger" by removing bad LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. In addition, the fiber content in couscous helps to reduce the secretion of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger in the body. A single serving of couscous provides almost 10% of the recommended daily fiber intake for adults.
5. Couscous offers fewer calories per serving (175 to be exact) than rice or quinoa, which contain 206 and 222 calories respectively. This makes couscous a highly viable option in terms of weight management, as it provides a low-calorie alternative to other more calorie-rich side dishes. 6. Couscous is remarkably low in sodium, making it a very heart-friendly food. Research shows that a high-sodium diet can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, and it can also boost your risk factors for kidney disease as well. One cup of cooked couscous contains only 8 mg of sodium.
As you can see, there are several reasons why adding couscous to your diet is a good idea. For all of its nutritional benefits, it is important to note that couscous should be considered as a supplemental grain, and should not take the place of whole grains in your diet. The best approach would be to integrate couscous into a diet that is balanced with a variety of whole grains.