Food Fact: Quinoa

Suddenly Supergrain

Four years ago, a one-pound bag of royal quinoa cost $1.99 at Trader Joe’s. Today that same bag fetches $3.99. What happened?  Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wha”) grows in rough conditions, mostly in Bolivia and Peru at 12,000 feet or above.  Locally, it is considered food for the poor, but the grain is rich in antioxidants and all nine essential amino acids.  Plus it’s on trend – quinoa is gluten-free.  Nearly 10% of products registered with the Whole Grains Council in 2012 will contain quinoa, up from about 1% three years ago.  Edward Rollet, co-founder of quinoa buyer Alter Eco, says that Andean farmers growing it still view quinoa as poor food. 

                                                             Quinoa Grain

Quinoa reminds me of pasta, it is so easy and versatile to work with. It can be eaten cold or hot. My favorite way of having quinoa is cold mixed with fresh vegetables like a salad. Compared to other cereals such as rice and wheat, quinoa has less fat and much more protein.

In fact is is considered a “complete protein”as it contains all essential amino acids necessary for our bodies growth and repair, including lysine. Most grains do not contain any lysine, a protein normally only found in meat, fish and eggs, making quinoa an ideal food for gluten free vegans and vegetarians.  Click here for my favorite quinoa recipe.

About 25% of quinoa’s fatty acids come in the form of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and about 8% come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA – the omega-3 fatty acid most commonly found in plants and associated with decreased risk of inflammation-related disease.

Yet another key mineral—calcium—is especially concentrated in quinoa in comparison to grains. On an ounce-for-ounce basis, quinoa provides over twice the amount of calcium as is found in whole wheat. 

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa also make it a likely candidate for cancer risk reduction in humans. Given the preliminary animal results involving the digestive tract, risk reduction for colon cancer may turn out to be a special area of interest.

Here are some wonderful ways you can prepare quinoa: 

  • Combine cooked chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander. Season to taste and enjoy this south-of-the-border inspired salad.
  • Add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa and serve as breakfast porridge.
  • For a twist on your favorite pasta recipe, use noodles made from quinoa.
  • Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts.
  • Add quinoa to your favorite vegetable soups.
  • Ground quinoa flour can be added to cookie or muffin recipes.


What are some of your favorite recipes with quinoa?  I would love to hear them. 





  • Okarter N. Phenolic Compounds from the Insoluble-Bound Fraction of Whole Grains Do Not Have Any Cellular Antioxidant Activity. Life Sciences and Medicine Research Year: 2012 Vol: 2012 Issue: Pages/record No.: LSMR-37. 2012.
  • Pasko P, Zagrodzki P, Barton H et al. Effect of quinoa seeds (Chenopodium quinoa) in diet on some biochemical parameters and essential elements in blood of high fructose-fed rats. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition65. 4 (2010): 333-338. 2010.

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