Top 5 health benefits of couscous
What is couscous made from, what's a healthy portion size and how can you buy the best? Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook explains its nutritional profile
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Easy to store, quick to prepare and super-versatile, couscous is a great addition to any midweek menu. But, is it a healthy ingredient? Read on to discover which nutrients it contains and how to choose the healthiest variety.
What is couscous?
Although couscous looks like a grain, it's technically a pasta – it's made with semolina flour from durum wheat, mixed with water. There are three different types of couscous: Moroccan, which is the smallest; Israeli or pearl couscous, about the size of peppercorns; and Lebanese, the largest of the three.
It’s easy to make by simply pouring boiling water over the dried couscous and leaving to stand for 5-15 minutes.
Nutritional profile of couscous
An 80g portion (cooked weight) of couscous provides:
- 142Kcal / 607KJ
- 5.8g Protein
- 0.8g Fat
- 30.0g Carbohydrate
- 1.8g Fibre
- 123mg Potassium
- 2.4mcg Selenium
- 103mg Phosphorus
Top 5 health benefits of couscous
1. Useful source of selenium
Couscous is a useful source of a number of vitamins and minerals, including immune-supportive selenium. This essential mineral acts as an antioxidant and plays an important role in thyroid function and thyroid hormone production.
2. Source of plant-based protein
Although not a complete protein, couscous is a good source, providing approximately 7g per 100g (cooked weight). It’s a useful inclusion in a plant-focused diet, a way of eating that may be linked to lower risks of conditions like stroke, heart disease and cancer.
3. Source of fibre
Couscous is a source of fibre, but to optimise levels, it's worth looking for wholemeal couscous, which is made from the whole grain. Fibre supports digestive health and alleviates constipation, and research suggests it may help improve levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Wholemeal couscous is also more filling, as the fibre slows down the breakdown of sugar into the bloodstream, providing a more stable source of energy.
4. A healthier alternative to white rice
Couscous provides more protein and a greater contribution of vitamins and minerals than the equivalent portion of white rice.
5. A healthy fast food
Couscous is fast and easy to prepare. The couscous available in most supermarkets has already been steamed before being dried, so it just needs the addition of boiling water or stock to rehydrate it. Couscous may then be added to salads or served as a side dish with meat, fish or vegetables.
Is couscous safe for everyone?
Generally recognised as safe for most people, couscous is a wheat product and as such contains gluten. This means it is not suitable for those with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease.
Healthy couscous recipes
Try the tasty recipes in our healthy couscous collection.
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Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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