Although quinoa may be unfamiliar to North Americans, it was a staple food for the Incas and has been grown in the Andes for more than 5,000 years. Technically a “pseudocereal,” quinoa is often considered a grain, even though it is not a grass. It is more closely related to beets and spinach. Unlike wheat and other grains, it is gluten- free, but it can be substituted for grain in most recipes. Although primarily a carbohydrate, quinoa is relatively high in protein—one cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein—and it contains all of the essential amino acids. A good source of magnesium, manganese, and calcium, quinoa also provides vitamin B2, vitamin E, iron, phosphorus, copper, and zinc. It is higher in fat than many true grains.
Quinoa is a source of oxalates, which may cause problems for those with a history of kidney stones or other conditions that require a low-oxalate diet.
The outside of raw quinoa is covered with saponins, which were traditionally used as a diuretic and laxative. If you don’t want these effects, be sure to rinse your quinoa before cooking it.Nutritional Facts
One cup of cooked quinoa provides 222 calories, 39.4 g carbohydrate, 8.1 g protein, 3.6 g fat, 5.2 g dietary fiber, 1 mg sodium, 281 mg phosphorus, 2.76 mg iron, and 0.2 mg riboflavin.