Quinoa: Nutritional Facts And Health Benefits

Chenopodium Quinoa (pronounced as ‘keen wah’) belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family, the same family as beets, chards, and spinach. (1) It is technically a pseudo-cereal grain (a seed with similar nutrients to a cereal grain). (2) 

Quinoa is considered an ancient grain native to South America, providing health benefits from 5000-7000 years. (3) 

Quinoa is a rich source of nutrients that contain many vitamins and minerals. It is a complete protein (contains all nine essential amino acids), unlike rice and wheat. (1) 

Quinoa’s protein is high quality and rich in histidine and lysine. This cereal grain is gluten-free, with a low glycemic index, and is highly suitable for people with celiac disease. (4) 

Quinoa is a tiny, bead-shaped seed. Three types of quinoa are available: black, red, and white. (4) Quinoa contains a soft and chewy texture. It has a nutty aroma and an earthy aftertaste, similar to brown rice. 

It tastes bitter due to the saponins (toxic chemicals that protect plants from bacterial, insect, and fungal pathogens) present in the outer layer. (5) So, it needs to be washed properly before consumption. 

Quinoa is preferred to consume cooked, as other grains like rice or barley. It can also be consumed uncooked if it is first soaked and sprouted, but it is considered less safe. It can be consumed as salads and blended in smoothies. 

It can replace oats in our meals as oats take longer to be cooked. It is also used to make flour, soups, and beer. Quinoa flour can replace wheat flour better for making gluten-free cookies and other bakery products. (2)

Nutritional Facts 

Quinoa is packed with numerous vitamins and minerals, so considered healthy food. It is rich in potassium and calcium. It is high in nutrition and calories and a good energy source for our body. 

Quinoa is rich in water (71.6 g/100 g) and dietary fiber (2.8 g/100 g). It is a good source of energy.

The calorie content of uncooked quinoa (368 kcal/100 g) is higher than that of cooked quinoa (120 kcal/100 g). The nutritional value of cooked quinoa, along with daily adult requirements, are (6,7)

NutrientsAmounts (Per 100 grams)Daily Adult Requirements
Water71.6 g
Calories120 kcal2000-2,500 Kcal
Protein4.4 g50-70 grams*
Carbohydrates21.3 g300-375 g
Dietary fiber2.8 g25-30 g
Sugar0.87 g

* National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. 

Vitamins: Quinoa is a rich source of vitamins B (niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin) and A, but it doesn’t contain vitamin C.

It also has a good amount of folate (42 mcg/100 g). The presence of lutein and zeaxanthin makes it more valuable for eye health. (8)

NutrientsAmounts (Per 100 grams)Daily Adult Requirements
Thiamin0.107 mg1.1 mg – 1.2 mg
Riboflavin0.11 mg1.1 mg – 1.3 mg
Niacin0.412 mg14 mg – 16 mg
Vitamin A1.50 mcg700 mcg – 900 mcg
Folate42 mcg400 mcg
Carotene3 mcg
Lutein+ zeaxanthin53 mcg

* Adequate intake (AI) level determined by National Academy of Medicine. 

Minerals: Quinoa is a mineral-dense cereal with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. It contains potassium (172 mg/100 g) and phosphorus (152 mg/100 g).

The sodium content in quinoa (7 mg/100 g) is greater than that of oats (1 mg/100 g).

NutrientsAmounts (Per 100 grams)Daily Adult Requirements
Calcium, Ca17 mg1,000 – 1,200 mg
Iron, Fe1.49 mg8 mg-18 mg
Magnesium, Mg64 mg310-420 mg
Phosphorus, P152 mg700 mg
Potassium, K172 mg2,600 – 3,400 mg*
Sodium, Na7 mg<2,300 mg*

* Adequate intake (AI) level determined by National Academy of Medicine. 

g-gram, mg-milligram, mcg-microgram, kcal-kilocalorie

Health Benefits

Health benefits of quinoa

Quinoa is known as a “superfood” because of its nutritional components and health benefits. Incorporating quinoa into the diet is beneficial as it can prevent risk factors related to celiac disease, cardiovascular diseases, and gastrointestinal problems. (2) The significant health benefits of quinoa are:

  1. Can improve digestive health: Quinoa is a rich source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber keeps us full for a long time and reduces high-calorie consumption. It can improve digestive health by regulating bowel movement and increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut. A fiber-rich diet can treat constipation and reduce colon cancer risk. (9)
  1. Can function as an anti-inflammatory agent: Quinoa supplies flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These components are antioxidants that possess anti-inflammatory effects. Flavoniod-rich quinoa increases the intake of antioxidants, which protects the body from cell damage caused by free radicals. (10)
  1. Can be beneficial for people with gluten intolerance:  People with celiac disease and gluten intolerance should avoid foods high in gluten. As quinoa is naturally gluten-free, it helps one to cut gluten intake and consume healthy food. (10)
  1. Can protect heart health: Quinoa is a good source of fiber and antioxidants. The fiber in quinoa binds with cholesterol in the intestine and prevents it from being absorbed. It also slows the absorption of carbohydrates and helps to maintain blood sugar. (9) Control of cholesterol and blood sugar lowers the risk of heart diseases. (10)
  1. Can help to prevent diseases: The presence of vitamins, fiber, and iron makes quinoa a whole grain. Consumption of whole grains can build disease-fighting ability and lower the risk of heart diseases and cancers. (11)

As mentioned above, there are all the benefits of Quinoa to human health if consumed regularly. Even so, a few side effects are experience allergic reactions along with bloating, increased heart rate, pale skin, and low blood pressure. These allergic reactions can be seen due to the presence of saponins. (1)

  1. nutritionist JL– R. Top 5 health benefits of quinoa [Internet]. BBC Good Food. BBC Good Food; 2022 [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-quinoa 
  2. Bhathal, Simranpreet & Grover, Kiran & Kaur, Navjot. (2015). Quinoa-a treasure trove of nutrients.. Journal of Nutrition Research. 3. 45-49. 10.55289/jnutres/v3i1.2. 
  3. E, Gordillo-Bastidas & Diaz Rizzolo, Diana. (2016). Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd), from Nutritional Value to Potential Health Benefits: An Integrative Review. Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences. 06. 10.4172/2155-9600.1000497. 
  4. Saeed, Muhammad & Saeed, Ayesha & Adnan, Muhammad. (2020). Nutritional Benefits of Quinoa-A Review. 
  5. El Hazzam K, Hafsa J, Sobeh M, Mhada M, Taourirte M, EL Kacimi K, et al. An insight into saponins from quinoa (chenopodium quinoa willd): A Review. Molecules. 2020;25(5):1059.  
  6. Fooddata Central Search Results [Internet]. FoodData Central. [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168917/nutrients 
  7. Institute of Medicine 2006. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11537
  8. MS SOB. Lutein and zeaxanthin: Benefits, dosage and food sources [Internet]. Healthline. Healthline Media; 2018 [cited 2023Jan4]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lutein-and-zeaxanthin 
  9. Fiber for heart, cholesterol, and Digestive Health [Internet]. WebMD. WebMD; [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/supplement-guide-fiber 
  10. Kubala J. Quinoa: Nutrition facts and health benefits [Internet]. Healthline. Healthline Media; 2022 [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-quinoa 
  11. Quinoa: Health benefits, nutrients per serving, preparation information, and more [Internet]. WebMD. WebMD; [cited 2023Jan8]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-quinoa 

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