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What’s so good about quinoa?

nutrition | June 30, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


What’s so good about quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced ‘KEEN-wah’) comes to us from the Incas in the Andes where it has been a staple food for over 7000 years. The Incas referred to quinoa as ‘mother of all grains’.

Quinoa has been called a pseudo-grain because its nutritional profile, preparation, and uses are similar to grains; however it is technically a seed rather than a “true” grain, and botanically closely related to Swiss chard and beets.

quinoaThe International Year of Quinoa

Quinoa crops have excellent nutritional value and capability of withstanding extreme environmental conditions. In recognition of the potential of quinoa to provide nutrition and food security to millions of malnourished people worldwide, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.

Nutritional and Health Benefits

Optimal source of protein. Quinoa is considered a “superfood”, as unlike most plant foods, it is a “complete protein”, meaning it contains all nine dietary essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that our body cannot make on its own. Protein is a major functional and structural component of every cell in the body, necessary for the body’s growth, maintenance, and repair. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 g of protein. 

Good source of dietary fibre, B vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fatty acids. The level of nutrients in quinoa is superior to all other grains. Intake of dietary fibre lowers cholesterol, improved blood sugar control, and helps you feel fuller for longer. Thus quinoa may help with weight loss, and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Antioxidants. Quinoa also contains a high amount of health-beneficial substances called phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants. These substances protect our cells against free radical damage and may help prevent cancer.​

quinoa wholegrainWholegrain. Even though quinoa is not a true grain, it falls into the definition of a whole grain, meaning it is unprocessed and contains the nutrient-rich embryo and endosperm of the seed. 

These two outer parts contain most of the dietary fibre and other nutrients. Studies show that increased intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Gluten-free. Coeliac patients, as well as people who are sensitive to gluten, can enjoy quinoa as a safe, gluten-free alternative to gluten-containing grains.

High digestibility. Animal studies show that quinoa is highly digested and absorbed.

Quick and east to cook. Quinoa cooks in just 10-12 minutes to create a fluffy dish with a mild flavour.

Versatile. Quinoa seeds can be flaked to make porridge, similar to oats, puffed to make breakfast cereal, cooked and incorporated into soups or salads, as a side or a main dish. They can also be ground to flour to be used in baking. Quinoa comes in white, black, yellow, and red-violet varieties, making it an attractive addition to the meal. Its mild flavour makes it easier to incorporate in a variety of recipes.

Quinoa must be rinsed before cooking

Quinoa contains saponins. These are bitter-tasting, natural plant defense molecules found in the outer seed coat layer of quinoa that ward off microbial infection and insects. Rinsing the quinoa before cooking releases the saponins and eliminates the bitter taste. Some varieties of quinoa contain lower saponin content and may require less or no rinsing.

Quinoa Tabouli Salad

Serves 6

quinoa tabouliQuinoa replaces the bulgur wheat, traditionally used in this salad

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, chilled
  • 3 red tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup continental parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped   
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 Kalamata seedless olives, halved
  • Salt and pepper

In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients; add salt and pepper to taste.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Bazile, D., Pulvento, C., Verniau, A., et al. (2016). Worldwide Evaluations of Quinoa: Preliminary Results from Post International Year of Quinoa FAO Projects in Nine Countries. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 850.

Cooper, R. (2015). Re-discovering ancient wheat varieties as functional foods. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 5(3), 138–43.

Graf, B. L., Rojas-Silva, P., Rojo, L. E., et al. (2015). Innovations in Health Value and Functional Food Development of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.). Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 14(4), 431–445.

United States Department of Agriculture 2016, Food Composition Databases - Quinoa, cooked, USDA, retrieved June 16, 2017,

Van der Kamp, J. W., Poutanen, K., Seal, C. J., & Richardson, D. P. (2014). The HEALTHGRAIN definition of “whole grain”. Food & Nutrition Research, 58.

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