8 Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is a Powerfood Vegetable Seed!

Although referred to as a grain, it is actually a seed from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets. Quinoa is pronounced keen-wa not kwin-o-a.

Learn its benefits, its ancient history, and preparing tips and cautions.

8 Health Benefits of Quinoa:

1. High quality protein with the nine essential amino acids, the protein balance is similar to milk. At 16.2 to 20 percent protein, it has is more protein than rice (7.5 percent), millet (9.9 percent) or wheat (14 percent).

2. Great source of riboflavin. Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.

3. Inca warriors had more stamina and quicker recovery time by eating these quinoa seeds, making it a truly ancient powerfood.

4. Antiseptic. The saponins from quinoa are used to promote healing of skin injuries in South America.

5. Not fattening! Only 172 calories per 1/4 cup dry (24 of the calories from protein and only 12 from sugars, the rest are complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats).

6. Gluten-free. Since it is not not related to wheat, or even a grain, it is gluten-free.

7. Alkaline-forming. Although it is not strongly alkaline-forming, it is comparable to wild rice, amaranth, and sprouted grains.

8. Smart Carb: It is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar.

Next page: Triva and cooking tips

Quinoa close up

  • In South America they use the saponin removed from the quinoa as detergent for washing clothes.
  • The sticky, bitter, soapy film of saponins also keeps birds from eating the quinoa seeds off of the bushes. Scientists decided to create quinoa that didn’t have saponins and guess what? The birds ate it all.
  • Stalks of the plant are used in preparing bleach or dyes, and dried stalks are used as fuel.
  • “Eat quinoa, food of the 21st century.”  These are the words written on the cover of each issue of an Argentinean science magazine called Temas.

I love the light flavor of quinoa. It is easy to digest and is not sticky or heavy like grains, making it a wonderful summer grain-like food.

7 Tips for Eating or Cooking:

  • Always rinse quinoa. Place quinoa in a strainer, then run cold water over it until the entire soapy residue has been washed away. You can taste test a few seeds; if they still have a bitter taste, run more cold water over them. Extra removal can be made by rubbing the seeds while rinsing with water. (Read why under: Use and Safety on page 4)
  • There are three main varieties: light yellow, red, and black.
  • Make quinoa porridge for breakfast, add it to your salad at lunch, substitute if for brown rice with your vegetables and make a yummy quinoa pudding.
  • Use quinoa flour in your gluten-free baking.
  • Even the leaves of the quinoa plant are edible; they taste similar to spinach, chard and beets.
  • Sprout quinoa; simply soak the quinoa in water for 12 hours, then keep it moist in a jar.
  • Quinoa can even be popped like popcorn and is very popular with Peruvian children.

Next page: History and nutritional breakdown

quinoa in bag

  • Quinoa was considered sacred by the Incas; they called it the “mother seed.” The Inca civilization in South America grew it in the high altitude of the Andes.  It was their staple food for 5,000 years.
  • The Spanish conquistadors almost wiped quinoa out by making it illegal for the Indians to grow.  They did not see how useful it is.
  • Finally in the 1980s two Americans discovered this nutrient-rich food and began growing quinoa in Colorado.

Quinoa Nutrition:
Nutritional Value of Quinoa (100 grams)

372 calories
Proteins 11.49 grams
Fat  4.86 grams
Carbohydrates  71.2 grams
Calcium  66 milligrams
Iron   8.5 milligrams
Vitamin  1 gram
Vitamin C  1 gram
Thiamin  0.24 grams
Riboflavin 0.23 grams
Niacin 1.40 grams

Source: Bethzabe Iiguez de Barrios. Mil Delicias de la Quinua. Oruro, Bolivia: (Editora Quelco, 1977), p. 29.

Next page: More interesting facts and safety tips

quinoa plants
Interesting facts:

  • More than 200,000 pounds are gown each year in the US Rocky Mountains.
  • Quinoa is the whitest and the sweetest tasting when grown above 12,500 feet. When it is grown at lower elevations, it is more bittersweet in taste.
  • Quinoa thrives at altitudes of 9,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level and survives on as little as two inches of rainfall.

Use and Safety:

Quinoa, though highly nutritious, is actually coated with the toxic chemical saponin; you must rinse the quinoa thoroughly. Saponins can be challenging to the immune system and stomach. Commercial processing methods remove much of the bitter soapy saponins coating quinoa seeds, but it is best to rinse again to remove any of the powdery saponins that may remain on the seeds. Like any good foods, we need variety so do not eat it every day. A few times a week is good enough.

Although quinoa is not a commonly allergenic food and does not contain lots of purines, it does contain oxalates. This puts quinoa on the caution list for an oxalate-restricted diet.

Next page: Read how to store and delicious quinoa recipes

quinoa pudding 2
How to Store:
It is best to store quinoa in an airtight container. If stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for three to six months.

Cooking Quinoa: How to cook quinoa the fast and easy way.
Deluxe Quinoa Pudding is easy to make and delicious.

Learn More about other: Vegetable Powerfoods

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Julia R.
Julia R.6 months ago

If everyone on our planet ate this powerhouse of nutrition that has as much protein as meat and yet much better for you, think of all the benefits this would have to our environment as a result of reducing animal agriculture and all the energy and resources that it entails plus all the degradation to our environment as a result of large scale factory farms! How much better off would we be?! We can all start to reduce our carbon print by eating this wonderful plant based protein and consuming most of our calories from plants.

Surya T.
Surya T.1 years ago

Loved to this many facts regarding quinoa which is of the most outstanding food to be taken for a healthy life style...... :). Hope all of them who have read this will make sure to add quinoa in their diet... :)

Lanai Moliterno
Lanai Moliterno1 years ago

I love quinoa! I jsut started eating it for lunch everyday with a little salt pepper and olive oil! Soo yummy!


Dale O.

Love red quinoa as it is hearty and very delicious, quite nutritious.

Don't care for the endless spam.

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Carol Cowbrough
Carol Cowbrough2 years ago

I add it to salads all the time. Love Quinoa!