Questions About Quinoa – An Ancient SuperFood

Lately, I’ve been getting questions from people about a mysterious “superfood” known as quinoa. To be honest, as a dietitian and diabetes educator, I have heard of this particular food but until recently was not fully aware of its entire nutrient profile. As a result, this had me wanting to learn more about all of the nutritional benefits that quinoa has to offer.

The year 2013 has been declared “The International Year of the Quinoa” by The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This is in hopes to increase attention globally on its biodiversity and nutritional role in attempts to increase food security and improve nutrition around the world.

The FAO has labeled quinoa as a food with “high nutritive value”. Until recently, it has been a relatively unfamiliar grain to many people, including myself. Over the past few years, it has gained a lot more attention and I am seeing more recipes and hearing more about its nutritional content than ever before.

The Skinny on Quinoa: While it has become popular more recently, quinoa actually originated about 3,000 years ago in the Andes Mountains of South America. Its recent popularity stems from its exceptional nutrition content and serves as an alternative to other grains. Technically, quinoa is considered a seed however we treat it as a grain because it is typically consumed in many of the same ways as wheat, oats, barley, and rye.

7 Reasons Quinoa is a Superfood:

  1. One of the nutritional benefits includes its high protein content and is considered a complete protein, something that most grains lack. Its high quality protein content even has an essential amino acid balance similar to milk
  2. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber and one that is easily digested.
  3. It is full of phytonutrients and antioxidants important for inflammation, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
  4. Quinoa also provides a significant source of calcium, over twice the amount found in whole wheat. This is extremely useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.
  5. It is also gluten-free therefore considered safe for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance
  6. Quinoa contains 222 calories, 4 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked (185 grams)
  7. Quinoa provides a good source of riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin (all B vitamins) and is higher in iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc that wheat, barley, or corn

Quinoa can be used in substitute for almost any grain in any recipe. It is a food that is versatile and easy to prepare. It can be used in place of whole wheat pasta, oats, or even rice. This may be extremely helpful for someone with type 2 diabetes trying to control their blood sugars. Quinoa in comparison to rice has a lower glycemic index.

Since rice is a staple in many cuisines, using quinoa in its place can help someone who is having a difficult time reducing the amount of rice they are eating and possible get better control of their blood sugars. Quinoa can be used in pilafs, stir fry, salads, soups, and even as a hot cereal. So next time you plan on cooking, try something new and different like quinoa and discover its health benefits for yourself!

Click here for an easy quinoa recipe in the crock pot!

By Alyssa Werner MS, RD, LD, CDE


Easy Quinoa Recipes, Cooking Light. (n.d.).Retrieved July 13, 2012, from

Quinoa, In-depth Nutrient Analysis, (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2012, from

Quinoa, What’s New and Beneficial About Quinoa, (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2012 , from


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