5 Quinoa Nutrition Facts that Account for the Health Benefits of Quinoa

If you haven’t heard of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) you haven’t been paying attention. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations dubbed 2013 “The Year of Quinoa,” and declared this long-underrated plant to be a superfood, with a protein value equal to that of milk.

Why? Though quinoa is native to Peru, Bolivia, Chili, Ecuador and Columbia, its ability to grow in arid conditions and high altitudes means that this little seed could be the key to feeding the planet - and feeding it well

Currently there are over 70 countries producing this little seed but don't think we're the first generation to stumble upon the benefits of this superfood.

Way back in the day, quinoa was a staple in the Incan diet so nutritionally crucial, it was called the “mother grain” and thought to be sacred.

The Incas used quinoa to treat everything from common upsets like altitude and motion sickness to severe illnesses like tuberculosis and appendicitis.

But the true benefits of quinoa lie squarely in its unique nutritional composition - you see, quinoa nutrition is crazy good, even for a superfood.

5 Quinoa Nutrition Facts responsible for the Health Benefits of Quinoa

Is the United Nations right? Is quinoa a superfood? Get the facts on the nutritional benefits of quinoa and what they mean for you!

1. Quinoa is Deliciously Rich in Protein

Quinoa is the edible seed of a grain and it comes in a rainbow of varieties that are all deliciously high in protein! 

So, how much protein is in quinoa, you ask?

Well, for every cup of prepared quinoa you get 8 grams of protein! The same amount of white rice only has 4.2 grams of protein, and the same amount of potato only has 3!

Quinoa also has 9 essential amino acids (aka the essential building blocks that your body can’t create on its own) making it one of the only non-animal complete proteins. So not only is quinoa a rich source of protein, it is also a rare source of vegan complete protein. 

This makes quinoa a great source for vegetarians and vegans who have a hard time finding quick and easy ways to incorporate protein into their diet.​

2. Quinoa is a High Fiber Food 

It’s pretty common knowledge these days that a diet high in fiber helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Once again, quinoa earns top marks among grains for being a great source of dietary fiber.

If you want to get down to specifics, quinoa has a greater percentage of insoluble fiber than soluble fiber.

Don’t be fooled: both soluble and insoluble fibers are important to your health.

While soluble fiber slows down digestion and makes you feel full, insoluble fiber promotes emptying your stomach, giving a natural laxative effect. So no more prune juice or bran for you! From now on you can make some delicious quinoa to help get things moving.

And like lots of foods high in fiber, quinoa has a low glycemic index, meaning that it gives you sustained food energy instead of a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a quick crash. Because of this, it’s said to be good for your overall metabolic health.

3. Quinoa nutrition is bursting with vitamins and minerals

Quinoa isn’t a cereal or grass, it’s a pseudocereal (it’s a real word, I promise.) So what is quinoa, you ask? Technically it’s a grain that’s more closely related to beetroot or spinach.

Maybe that’s why, like its cousins, quinoa is so high in vitamins and minerals –compared to other cereals and pseudocereals. So what’s this little seed packing?

A cup of cooked quinoa contains...

  • 58% of your daily recommended dose (RDA) of manganese
  • 30% of your RDA of magnesium
  • 28% of your phosphorus
  • 19% of your folate
  • 18% of your copper
  • 15% of your daily iron requirements
  • and over 10% your daily recommended intake of Vitamins B1, B2, and B6

It’s even got a little something for the lactose intolerant crowd: 3% of your daily calcium needs are met in that same cup of cooked quinoa.

4. Does Quinoa Have Gluten?

Some sources say yes, some say no. Which has led many to wonder...is quinoa gluten free?

Well, 'though technically not completely gluten-free (it has a similar protein that activates the immune system of people with celiac disease) - quinoa is so low in gluten, it’s a great substitute for those who are gluten-intolerant. 

Plus, people with celiac frequently have low iron, so quinoa’s higher-than-average iron content is a great nutritional boost for many sufferers.

In fact, because quinoa can be turned into low-gluten flour, quinoa flour a nutrient rich alternative to other gluten-free flours like rice, potato, corn and tapioca.

Fun fact: because of it’s almost gluten-free and is easy to digest, it’s being considered a possible crop for NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life-Support System, which would support astronauts on long-duration flights.

5. Many quinoa benefits come from its Flavonoid content

Quinoa has some pretty powerful tricks up its sleeve. Along with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, it also a tiny powerhouse that contains traces of flavanoids, plant antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer effects!

Kaempferol, one of the flavanoids found in quinoa, is actually being studied as a treatment for several types of cancer.

Pretty impressive set of nutritional benefits, right? Not bad for a little seed, huh?

Well thankfully quinoa is easy to cook, delicious, and can be incorporated into all kinds of recipes. From muffins, to salads, casseroles and side dishes, quinoa has got you covered.

Try one of the thousands of quinoa recipes available and get in on the goodness of quinoa.​

About the Author Jessica

After growing up a perpetually pudgy kid, Jessica discovered real food - and her waistline shortly afterward. When she's not crafting concoctions in the kitchen, she spends her free time writing about food, making her own deodorant, watching sci-fi, doing headstands, and looking for gluten free food that doesn't suck.

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