In recent years quinoa has become the “it” of health foods that everyone in the fitness industry is talking about.
In this post I’ll try to cover its health benefits and answer the question: “Is Quinoa a Protein?”
Sort of? You’re not far off my young grasshoppers.
It’s a small grain-like seed from the Chenopodiaceae plant family and there are various varieties of quinoa.
They have been grown and eaten in the Andean region of South Africa for many thousands of years by the native Incas.
They used quinoa as a staple protein source due to lack of meat sources and is still a principle protein source of the region.
The big fuss surrounding quinoa is the protein it has to offer.
Quinoa isn’t extremely high in protein content vs. other grains, but what is pretty cool is its quality, bioavailability and the lysine availability (Repo-Carrasco et al., 2003).
Quinoa is highest in the essential amino acids leucine and lysine (grains like rye and corn which are low in these amino acids). Lysine has been shown to have an effect on tissue growth and repair (Repo-Carrasco et al., 2003).
Quinoa protein has an equal composition of essential amino acids similar to that of the milk protein, casein. Also, it’s considered a complete protein source as it includes all of the essential amino acids.
45% of the total protein in quinoa is from the albumin and globulin fractions (Repo-Carrasco et al., 2003).
Other Cool Health Benefits.
- People with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance need to eliminate gluten containing foods from their diets. Pseudo-cereals like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth are gluten-free and can be used to replace the gluten foods (Saturni et al., 2010).
- Quinoa is high in minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc (Repo-Carrasco et al., 2003).
- It is rich in vitamins like folic acid (usually found in leafy vegetables).
- It is high in antioxidants.
- It is high in dietary fiber (we can all take in more fiber especially due to the increasing list of health benefits).
How do I use Quinoa?
You can try to replace your boring lunch sandwiches with a hearty quinoa salad. Also common carbohydrate sources like pasta can be swapped out for a side of quinoa.
Quinoa isn’t a magical ingredient but it’s pretty cool whether you’re a vegan or not. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but in my diet I try to eat as many whole foods as I can and try not worry about all the little details.References used (Click here to expand)
R. Repo-Carrasco, C. Espinoza and S.-E. Jacobsen (2003). Nutritional Value and Use of the Andean Crops Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) and Kan˜iwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule). FOOD REVIEWS INTERNATIONAL Vol. 19, Nos. 1&2, pp. 179–189
L. Saturni, G. Ferretti and T. Bacchetti (2010). The Gluten-Free Diet: Safety and Nutritional Quality. Nutrients, 2, 16-34; doi:10.3390/nu2010016
Photo © Jennifer “Quinoa Nut Burger Platter at Radha in Vancouver“
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