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Top 5 health benefits of couscous

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What is couscous made from, what's a healthy portion size and how can you buy the best? Discover this starchy food's nutritional profile with our expert guide.

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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.

Discover our full range of health benefit guides and check out some of our delicious couscous recipes, from our quick turkey couscous to grilled aubergine tabbouleh.

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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This article was reviewed on 24 November 2021 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens is a Registered nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

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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All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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