Couscous is eaten all across North Africa but is particularly popular in Morocco, served as a side dish to deep and spicy tagines. Couscous made from semolina and is essentially North Africa’s answer to pasta.
You can purchase varieties of couscous made with whole grains instead of wheat derivatives, including spelt and barley. Giant couscous is much larger than your standard beads of couscous, equally enjoyed across Northern Africa and the Levant.
What is couscous?
Couscous is made from semolina flour combined with water, like Italian egg-free pasta. There are three couscous varieties: standard couscous from Morocco, pearl couscous from Palestine, and giant couscous from Lebanon.
Health benefits of couscous
Couscous is connected with a few benefits for health and wellness, including:
Supports thyroid function
One portion of couscous provides more than 60% of your daily allowance of the mineral selenium.1 Scientific studies have proven that selenium helps protect the thyroid from oxidative stress and damage.2,3,4
Encourages heart health
Selenium is a potent mineral. Just one portion of couscous will help you meet over half of your recommended daily allowance. Scientific evidence suggests that selenium improves cholesterol levels and reduces oxidative stress throughout the body.5,6
Better immune health
The selenium in couscous is a potent antioxidant, which studies have shown effectively lowers oxidative stress throughout the body.7
Plant-based protein source
The human body is as much as 20% protein, and we need protein for cells in the body to grow and repair.8 An average portion of couscous contains 6g of plant-based protein. Plant-based proteins are associated with a decreased likelihood of developing age-related diseases.9,10,11
Couscous nutrition profile
A generous 165g portion of couscous contains12:
Couscous also contains minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin E.13
How to cook with couscous
To enjoy delicious couscous at home, you should:
- Pour your chosen amount into a saucepan or bowl
- Add the same amount of water, at a ratio of 1:1
- Cover the couscous until all the water is absorbed (this typically takes five to ten minutes
- Fluff couscous with a fork
Potential risks of couscous
Couscous is made of semolina flour, derived from wheat, which means that, unfortunately, couscous is not gluten-free. People who are coeliac or intolerant should skip gluten to avoid gas, bloating, diarrhoea, or other digestive troubles.14,15
Last updated: 1 March 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal
- Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019
- Qualifications: Masters Degree in Toxicology, BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
Bhupesh specialises in vitamins & minerals nutrition, health benefits & safety of botanicals and traditional herbal medicines.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.
Author: Bhupesh Panchal