Couscous is a delicacy of North Africa, but it is now easily found in numerous restaurants around the world. In fact, it is readily available as produce in grocery stores and markets. Some people have already used this as an alternative to brown and white rice. So, what is couscous? If this is your first time to hear about it, then here is what you need to know about this product of processed grain. Plus, learn about its numerous benefits to one’s health and how it differs from regular rice.
What Is Couscous?
This processed grain is made from semolina flour or durum wheat. It can be categorized into three, namely Lebanese, Israeli, and Moroccan. The type commonly available in groceries is Moroccan. It is also the tiniest.
On the other hand, the Lebanese version is the largest of the three. It also takes longer to cook compared to the Moroccan and Israeli version. As for the Israeli version, the size is similar to that of peppercorns. This version is also called pearl couscous.
For one-third cup of the Moroccan version, uncooked and dry, it contains the following nutrients.
- Calories: 220
- Calcium: 2 percent of the required daily value
- Carbohydrates: 45 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Potassium: 2 percent of the required daily value
- Protein: 7 grams
- Saturated Fat: 0 grams
- Sodium: 5 milligrams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Unsaturated Fat: 0 grams
This product is packed with selenium. In fact, one cup that is approximately 157 grams contains over 60 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of selenium. This nutrient is vital in reducing inflammation and repairing damaged cells. Moreover, selenium is essential in keeping one’s thyroid healthy by contributing to the production of hormones and protecting it from further damage. The antioxidant effect of selenium also reduces bad cholesterol and the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Lowers Risk for Cancer
With regards to its selenium content, this nutrient is linked to lowering the risk of getting certain cancers. An adequate amount of this nutrient combined with vitamins E and C aid in lowering the risk for lung cancer, especially in smokers.
Lowers Risk for Heart Disease
A plant-based protein contains vital amino acids necessary for the body’s metabolic processes. It is connected to a lower risk of getting heart disease and certain cancers. This product provides at least 6 grams of the plant-based protein per cup.
The selenium in this product helps to boost the strength of one’s immune system. Moreover, the antioxidant effect of the nutrient strengthens the immune system by decreasing the levels of oxidative stress in the body.
Precautions or Risks
Even if it is considered healthy, there are some precautions to take note of. These include the following.
High in Gluten
Semolina flour is considered a product that is high in gluten. For those who have an intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy to gluten, then couscous should be avoided at all costs. If you have a gluten allergy, then consuming this product may lead to gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, vomiting, unintentional weight loss, and anemia. Immediately discontinue use and head to the hospital for treatment of the symptoms.
Increases Blood Glucose Levels
Individuals who are diabetic or have blood sugar problems should avoid this product. It is extremely high in carbohydrates which may lead to a spike in one’s blood glucose. Opt for an alternative that is low in carbohydrates or lessens the intake of this product.
Couscous vs Rice
This product is quite similar in preparation and consumption with rice. However, there is a massive difference in the carbohydrate, fiber, and nutrient content of each. Here are what makes regular couscous, whole-grain couscous, white rice, and brown rice different from one another in the following terms.
In Terms of Calories and Protein
Couscous is not always available as whole grain as it depends on the brand that sells it. On the other hand, while white rice is not considered whole grain, brown rice is. The regular version offers 176 calories, whereas the whole-grain version carries 227. White and brown rice offer 210 calories. The regular version contains 6 grams’ protein, whereas the whole-grain version contains 9 grams. Cooked white rice contained 4 grams and cooked brown rice contains 5 grams of protein.
In Terms of Carbohydrates
Brown and white rice offer 45 grams of carbohydrates for each cup served. One cup of the regular version carries 37 grams, while the whole-grain version carries 49 grams. As for the glycemic index (GI) score, the whole-grain version and brown rice rank low on the GI. As for white rice, it ranks high on the GI score.
In Terms of Fiber
Brown rice contains six times more fiber compared to white rice. It contains 3.5 grams in each cup served. As for the whole-grain version, it contains 8 grams of dietary fiber. This is more compared to the regular version that only offers 2 grams of fiber.
In Terms of Extra Nutrients
The whole-wheat version and brown rice offer magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. As for the regular version and white rice, the number of nutrients contained vary on the brand.
Is It Healthy?
Based on its nutrition facts, this product is indeed healthy. Moreover, it is packed with the recommended daily intake (RDI) of selenium, a nutrient vital for body processes. However, opt for the whole wheat version as this is healthier than the regular version. Furthermore, the whole wheat is made from whole wheat durum flour that has 6 grams of fiber in each serving.
The bottom line is that couscous is excellent for one’s health as long as it is consumed in the right amount. Take note that it is rich in selenium and an excess of this nutrient may lead to adverse reactions. Some of the symptoms associated with excessive selenium include nausea, irritability, diarrhea, brittle nails, and a metallic taste in the mouth. Problems in the nervous system may also manifest. Immediately stop the consumption of this product and seek medical attention.