Quinoa: A Miracle Grain Of The Future

Sonika Pandey, Research Scholar, Centre of Food Science & Technology, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

2017-07-26 08:33:21

Credit:  pixabay.com

Credit: pixabay.com

Ancient grains should be of use to all because they have remained largely unmoved for hundreds or even thousands of years. Quinoa was known to the Incas and called as "the mother of all grains" and was first introduced and cultivated over 5,000 years ago. It is actually a native of South America. Quinoa is one of the oldest crops of the American continent. Quinoa is found in extreme environments such as high mountain plains and alkaline salt flats, to quite moderate, fertile valley areas and moist coastal forests. Quinoa belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family, genus Chenopodium. Its botanical name is Chenopodium quinoa.

They are mainly of two types: red and creamy white. It is pronounced as “keen-wah,” this protein-packed grain contains good amino acid, and is particularly rich in lysine, which provides healthy tissue growth throughout the body. Quinoa is a pseudocereal and a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. It looks like semolina (suji) and is as adaptable as rice, but quinoa has a richer, nuttier flavor than either of them.

Nutritional Aspects:

The United Nations called 2013 as the ‘International Quinoa Year’ in appreciation of the crops high nutrient content. Quinoa is eaten in a manner similar to a grain. It is mainly either cooked and incorporated to soups, or made into flour to be used in bread, drinks or porridges. Quinoa’s nutrition is as good as in energy to similarly eaten foods such as beans, maize, rice or wheat. Also quinoa is distinguished as a good source of quality protein, dietary fibre, polyunsaturated fats and minerals. Since quinoa is a good source of so many nutrients, it is important to use it as a part of a balanced diet with many other foods to obtain a good overall nutrition. The macro-nutrient content of quinoa is as follows:

Energy (Kcal/100g) - 399

Protein (g/100g) – 16.5

Fat (g/100g) - 6.3

Total Carbohydrate (g/100g) - 69.0


With double the protein content of rice or barley, the grain is also unique in amino acids and quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids – including lysine and isoleucine acids, which are lacking in other grains. Depending on the variety, protein in Quinoa ranges from 10.4 to 17.0 percent of its edible portion. The following table 1 shows the essential amino acid content in Quinoa.

Table 1: Essential amino acid profile (g/16g nitrogen) of field-grown Quinoa


Amino Acid















Phenylalaninc Plus Tyrosine












Cystine Plus Methionine












Quinoa is also a good source of B vitamins riboflavin and folic acid in comparison to other grains, same to the amount of thiamine, but lower in niacin. It also contains considerable amounts of vitamin E, though the quantity may be affected after processing and cooking. Amount of vitamin in quinoa is shown in table 2.

Table 2: Vitamin Content of Quinoa in mg/100g dry weight








Folic Acid









Quinoa is an excellent source of iron, magnesium and zinc according to the daily mineral recommendations.

Dietary Fibre

Dietary fibre is the indigestible portion of plant foods, and it is vital for good digestion and also prevents against constipation. Therefore, quinoa is a slowly digested carbohydrate, making it a good low- GI (Glycemic Index) option. The dietary fibre in raw quinoa ranges from about 13.6 to 16.0 grams per 100 grams dry weight. Mainly the dietary fibre was insoluble, with a range of 12.0 to 14.4 grams in comparison to 1.4 to 1.6 grams of soluble fibre per 100 grams dry weight.

Quinoa contains fat around (6.3 g) per 100 grams dry weight. Fat is a good source of calories, and also helps in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. About 50 percent fat is essential polyunsaturated fatty acids linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) acid.  Linoleic and linolenic acid are known as essential fatty acids because they cannot be produced by the body.

Antinutritional Factor

Quinoa, like all plant foods, does contains certain non-nutritive components that can reduce its mineral content and absorption. Most common are saponins. The saponins are present in many plant species, including spinach, asparagus, alfalfa, and soybeans. The content of saponins varies in quinoa between 0.1 and 5%. Saponins are the principle antinutritional factors present in the seed coat of quinoa and give it a very bitter flavour. They are removed either by the wet method, i.e. washing and rubbing in cold water, or by dry method, i.e. toasting and later rubbing of the grains to remove the outer layers. Quinoa is also high in the compound oxalate, which can bind to minerals such as calcium and magnesium, reducing their absorption in the body.


Quinoa is mainly eaten worldwide as bread, upma, boiled, flakes/cereal breakfast, chips, sweets like chocolate bar, fusili, and also as a side dish in a dinner meal, or put in soups, salads, pilafs, and desserts. As the availability of quinoa is increasing, many exceptional cooking methods are being developed, multiplying the ways this food can be prepared. Due to these benefits, quinoa  allows greater flexibility in meeting the nutritional needs of humans on long-term space missions. 


Health Benefits:

1.Help to lose weight: Quinoa is high in protein, which increases metabolism and reduces appetite significantly. The high amount of fiber also helps in increasing the feeling of fullness, making you eat less calories. Low glycemic index of quinoa is another important feature and choosing such foods has been associated with less calorie intake. 

2. High in antioxidants: avoids many diseases due to free radicals.

3. Has low Glycemic Index, lowers blood sugar level: The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Eating foods that are high on the glycemic index can fuel hunger and contribute to obesity. Such foods can cause many of the persistent, Western diseases that are so common today i.e. type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, which is measured low.

4. Complete Balanced diet : It fulfill the needs of balanced diet due to its nutritional quality.

5. Gluten free: A gluten-free diet is more  healthy, when it is based on foods that are gluten free naturally. Gluten-free diets are recommended for people with Celiac disease, severe gluten intolerance. Since Quinoa is naturally free of gluten therefore using it as an alternative of typical gluten-free ingredients can raise the antioxidant and nutrient value of a gluten-free diet.

6. Anti-inflammatory Activity: There are thousands of trace nutrients found in them, some of which are very healthy. This includes interesting molecules called flavonoids, which are plant antioxidants that have been shown to have all types of positive effects on health. It mainly contains the plant compounds quercetin and kaempferol that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects in animal studies.

7. Lowers Cholesterol: Quinoa’s fiber content can help in lowering cholesterol levels. Fiber improves digestion, which requires bile acids, which are made moderately with cholesterol. As digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid, thereby reducing the amount of  bad cholesterol LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein). 

8. Improves Heart Health: Quinoa provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fat via its oleic acid content, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acids. They decrease LDL and keeps the heart in a good state thus preventing heart diseases.