Quinoa is grain free and gluten free. It is easier to digest than many other grains. It is low in sodium and cholesterol and high in fibre and protein. It is one of the few plant sources to be called a complete protein. This means that it contains all 8 of the essential amino acids required by the human body. In fact, quinoa has been rated by the World Health Organization as possessing protein of a quality similar to milk.
Quinoa is impressively high in a number of vitamins and minerals, outscoring most other grains for many of them. However, the actual amounts can vary depending upon the variety of the quinoa (there are over one hundred varieties) and how much the quinoa has been processed.
Like many foods, sometimes the raw ingredient is processed, or has had parts of it removed, to make the product more appealing or economically viable. The result can often mean a less nutritious or chemically changed food. This will depend on the brand of quinoa you buy. The values in the quinoa nutrition chart can also vary from cooked to uncooked quinoa. Check the label for exact amounts.
In particular, quinoa contains sufficient quantities of the amino acid lysine. This contributes to quinoa being labeled a ‘complete protein’. In comparison, other grains, such as wheat and rice have very low or absent levels of lysine. In fact, most other plant sources of protein are also low in this amino acid.
Lysine assists in the building of muscle protein in humans. It is important in the production of antibodies, hormones, enzymes, collagen formation and tissue repair. It assists in the absorption and storage of calcium. It also has a role in the conversion of fatty acids to energy and in lowering cholesterol.
Because so many plant proteins do not contain sufficient quantities of lysine, quinoa can be a valuable source of protein for people who do not eat animal protein.
Quinoa is a good source of iron, which is essential in the production of red blood cells, and therefore the supply of oxygen to the body. Again, for people who do not eat meat, quinoa can be a useful source of iron.
However, it should be noted that the iron in quinoa, much like the iron in all non animal sources, is a “non heme iron”. The upshot of this is that this type of iron is not as easily absorbed by your body as heme iron is.
To increase absorption, eat your quinoa with a food containing heme iron, such as meat.
Yes, I hear the scoffs and moans. For many, you are eating quinoa as an alternative to meat. So that last suggestion might be counterproductive one for you.
An alternative is to have your quinoa with a good source of vitamin C, such as orange juice. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. It’s not as effective as the meat option, but it’ll definitely help.
Quinoa contains calcium, however the amount can vary quite widely from one variety of quinoa to another and from one brand to another, depending upon the amount of processing it has undergone. Calcium is integral to healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also plays a role in proper nerve functioning and muscle contraction.
It is a good source of of phosphorus. Phosphorus is an essential ingredient in RNA and DNA, the genetic building blocks of the human body. Alongside calcium, it helps maintain healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is needed for the growth, maintenance and repair of all tissues and cells in the human body. It also has a number of roles to play in the healthy functioning of cells.
One cup of cooked quinoa contains more than half the average daily requirement of manganese. This mineral is important helping metabolise many of the vitamins and minerals needed by the human body, as well as the assisting in the metabolism of fatty acids, carbohydrates and proteins.
A number of the B vitamins feature in adequate quantities in quinoa. In particular, folate, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B6.
These vitamins have a large and diverse role to play in the healthy functioning of the human body. Thiamine assists in the conversion of glucose to energy and in proper nerve functioning. Riboflavin is also involved in energy metabolism as well as healthy eyes and skin. Vitamin B6 supports the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. It plays a part in healthy brain functioning and development, immune functioning and the activity of certain hormones. Folate is needed to form red blood cells. It is a vital ingredient to the formation of the fetal nervous system, the production of DNA and cell growth.
Quinoa contains some zinc. Zinc has and involvement in so many processes in the human body. In particular, it is important in maintaining a healthy immune system and healthy skin, hair and eyesight.
Zinc is a necessary component in the functioning of enzymes. It assists in wound healing and tissue growth. It regulates hormones, aids in the absorption of other minerals, protein, fat, alcohol and carbohydrates and also helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.
It plays an important role in the development and functioning of the reproductive system. It allows you to maintain a good sense of smell and taste.
Quinoa contains potassium. At around 9% of the average daily requirement contained in one cup of cooked quinoa, quinoa is higher in this mineral than most other grains.
Potassium is required by the heart, brain kidneys, digestive system, muscles and nerves for proper functioning. It controls the fluid levels in the cells and assists in the release of energy from protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Potassium can protect you against high blood pressure, kidney stones, stroke, anxiety and stress and bone loss.
One cup of cooked quinoa can provide you with around 30% of your daily requirement of magnesium. There are few systems in the body that do not rely on magnesium in one way or another.
Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps the heart’s rhythm steady, is required for a healthy immune system, and works with calcium to keep bones strong.
Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels and the level of other minerals in the body. It promotes normal blood pressure, and is involved in protein synthesis and in the production of energy from fats and carbohydrates.
The fat content of quinoa higher than most grains, but still low at around 5-7%. And remember, it’s an unsaturated fat – a good fat.
Quinoa has more than twice the amount of soluble dietary fibre than wheat, rice or rye. The amount of fibre varies from variety to variety depending on how much of the outer layer of the grain has been removed during processing.
Quinoa is an excellent source of complex carbohydrate.
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