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17 Nov 2013

Quinoa: protein and vitamins that come from high Andes

Are you struggling with losing weight? Are you bored eating the same low-calorie products every day? Do you train or exercise a lot? Do you want to have a new source of protein other than meat? Are you vegetarian or vegan? Do you know if you have enough of protein in your diet? If you have not heard about the quinoa, it is a right time to discover this super-food! In this article, you can read about interesting facts about quinoa plant and you can find out how nutritious quinoa is.

International Year of Quinoa

The year 2013 has been recognized as „The International Year of the Quinoa”. It has been officially declared by the United Nations (UN), as well as by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The idea comes from Bolivia and it was supported by Central and South American countries. High nutritional value of quinoa, along with impressive biodiversity has been recognized and it was pointed that quinoa can play crucial role in food security.

Quinoa naturally grows in the high Andes in South America. Incas have been first who appreciated value of quinoa. They called it “chisaya mama” that can be translated as “mother of all grains”. In fact, quinoa is not a grain, it is a seed. Quinoa is a small seed that in size, shape, and color looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet. It is disk shaped with a flattened or depressed equatorial band around its periphery. It is usually a pale yellow color but some species may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to purple and black.

Quinoa is perfect for:

  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • People with gluten intolerance
  • Athletes
  • People who want to lose weight

A great source of protein

One of the main advantages of quinoa is the amount of protein hidden in this plant. It is a perfect food for vegetarian and vegans, as it is low-fat source of protein and it is completely free of cholesterol. What needs to be underlined is that quinoa contains all exogenous amino acids [1]. Vegetarians often struggle with fulfilling recommendations for all essential amino acids. A simple solution of this problem is to incorporate quinoa into daily diet. While quinoa is considered as a carbohydrate part of a dish, quinoa provides much more protein in comparison with any other grain, cereal or rice. What is distinguishing for quinoa is the fact that it contains lysine and leucine.

This protein-rich plant is appreciated by athletes as well, due to the fact that they have very high requirements for proteins. Quinoa is an ideal product for them to ensure appropriate muscle growth.

What is more, people with gluten intolerance can freely enjoy quinoa, as it is gluten-free food.

Fiber abundance for people on diet

Quinoa is a great food for people, who want to lose a few kilograms. These seeds contain plenty of dietary fiber, which increases satiety and helps to reduce portion size [2]. In the gut, water binds to the fiber. As a result, chyme becomes enlarged. Moreover, fiber slows down stomach emptying, therefore satiety feeling appears much earlier. Dietary fiber brings a lot of health benefits through modifying digestion and absorption. For example, the rate of glucose absorption is reduced. Therefore, the level of glucose in blood increases slowly and for a longer period of time. This means the hunger will appear much later. Furthermore, fiber enhances detoxification by increasing stool output and its frequency. One cup of quinoa provides 21% of daily recommendation for fiber and it has only 222kcal.

Goodness of unsaturated fatty acids

Quinoa is very nutritious in terms of fatty acids. In comparison with grains, quinoa has high fat content. However, they are mainly unsaturated fatty acids. Quinoa is particularly rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have numerous health benefits, including their role in brain development and thinking, as well as they reduce risk of having cardiovascular disease [3]. Furthermore, polyunsaturated fatty acids positively influence gene expression. As a result, they reduce adipose tissue accumulation and they enhance glucose utilization.

High fat content is associated with some concerns. At the beginning, scientists thought quinoa is very potent for oxidation processes that would result in loss of vitamins and minerals. Fortunately, research demonstrated, that quinoa’s tendency for oxidation is much lower [4]. It is important nutritional information, because it means that cooking processes do not cause loss of nutritional value of quinoa. As it can be seen, quinoa can be eaten in is the most tasteful form, while its value remains the same.

Vitamin and mineral boost

Quinoa is a product extremely rich in various vitamins and minerals. The most important are manganese, phosphorous, folic acid and copper. Many minerals in quinoa are found at concentrations greater than that reported for most grain crops. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are in bioavailable forms and their quantities are sufficient for a balanced human diet. Quinoa’s high content of vitamin E needs to be underlined as well. Most of the grains have little amount of vitamin E, however, quinoa has 1.17mg in just one cup. Furthermore, quinoa is rich in antioxidants, particularly in flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol. The amount of these flavonoids is much higher, than in berries like cranberry or lingoberry that are known as flavonoid-rich products. These antioxidants have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Variety of quinoa benefits

Quinoa is reach in antioxidants. It assists in damaged cells and tissues repair. Moreover, immune system is greatly enhanced. Quinoa appears very advantageous for diabetics [5]. High content of protein helps to maintain sugar level. Fiber and magnesium additionally improve insulin secretion. Whereas, the abundance of riboflavin positively influence blood vessels, as blood vessels relax more easily. High quantities of magnesium and potassium ensure blood vessels health. Cholesterol that accumulates in blood vessel wall is fight off by quinoa’s antioxidants. As a result, quinoa has a significant role in arthrosclerosis and heart attack prevention. Furthermore, quinoa is recommended for people who suffer from hypertension and migraine. Last but not least, these seeds contain lot of isoflavones that improve bone density.


  1. González Martín MI, Wells Moncada G, Fischer S, Escuredo O (2013) Chemical characteristics and mineral composition of quinoa by near-infrared spectroscopy. J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Jul 31.
  2. Cordeiro LMC, Reinhardt V, Baggio C et al. (2012) Arabinan and arabinan - rich pectic polysaccharides from quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) seeds: structure and gastroprotective activity. Chemistry 130(4): 937-944.
  3. Abugoch James LE. (2009) Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): composition, chemistry, nutritional, and functional properties. Adv Food Nutr Res.: 58:1-31.
  4. Brady K, Ho CT, Rosen RT et al. (2007) Effects of processing on the nutraceutical profile of quinoa. Chemistry 100(3): 1209-1216.
  5. Dixit AA, Azar KM, Gardner CD, Palaniappan LP (2011) Incorporation of whole, ancient grains into a modern Asian Indian diet to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Nutr Rev.; 69(8): n479-88.