Quinoa Nutritional Benefits – Protein Is Just The Start…

Quinoa Nutritional Benefits – Protein Is Just The Start…
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


Quinoa nutritional benefits go far beyond being a complete protein. There are just so many reasons to include quinoa in your healthy eating plan.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) cooks like a grain, but botanically it’s not actually a cereal grass like wheat or barley or oats. It’s technically a seed, and often called a pseudo-grain.

Since it’s not at all related to wheat, quinoa is totally gluten-free. It’s a perfect option for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.


A lot of the health benefits of quinoa stem from this pseudo-grain status. Since it grows as a seed, it has a lot of the nutritional qualities of seed.

But not being a fatty seed, it has a good macronutrient balance with lots of healthy complex carbohydrates to give you lasting energy.

Quinoa gets almost 15% of its calories from protein, just under 15% of its calories are healthy fats, and the other 70% is those complex carbs.

Complete Protein

Quinoa’s claim to fame (or at least the reason it’s all the rage right now) is that it has all the essential amino acids in the proper proportions, making it a complete protein.

Not that we need to get all the amino acids in one food, or even in one meal, but it never hurts.

I don’t usually pump this angle too hard, because everyone else in the world does such a good job of that. I don’t like to have other plant proteins seem inferior when they’re not ‘complete’.

And quinoa nutritional benefits go way beyond simply protein…
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B Vitamins

One of the similarities between whole grain and quinoa nutrition is the abundance of B vitamins, which are crucial to your body’s production of energy.

Quinoa is particularly rich in vitamins B6, folate, thiamine and riboflavin.

Vitamin E

Quinoa might not rank too high in total milligrams of vitamin E, but it has a good mix of different forms of vitamin E (alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherol).

Getting a mix of the different kinds of vitamin E is important – just like getting a mix of different kinds of vegetables.


One of the most underemphasized quinoa health benefits is that it’s a fantastic source of minerals.

In 1 cup of cooked quinoa, you’ll get 13% of the daily value of zinc, 15% of iron, 28% of phosphorus, 30% of magnesium, and 58% of manganese. (Based on 2000 calories.)


Quinoa is especially high in the flavonoid quercetin, which is a really powerful antioxidant that helps limit your body’s inflammatory response to triggers.


As with all whole plant foods, quinoa is a fantastic source of fiber. This helps it to be filling, keep your blood sugar stable and help make your digestion more efficient.

Quinoa nutritional information from NutritionData.com and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods On The Planet, by Tonia Reinhard.

How To Eat Quinoa

Cooking quinoa is so simple. Put 1 cup dry in a pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Put a lid on the pot and bring it to a boil. Turn down to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Quinoa cooks to be light and fluffy. It’s an excellent choice for someone who doesn’t like the heavier texture and longer cooking time of whole grain brown rice.

From there, here are some ideas on how to eat your quinoa:

  • Top it with some steamed or stir-fried veggies and a yummy dressing
  • Toss it into a salad (quinoa tabouli is fantastic)
  • Add it to a soup or stew
  • Use it as a base for some cookies
  • As porridge for breakfast

I could go on and on about all the ideas for recipes using quinoa…

Quinoa Protein Bars

As people are getting more tuned into the health benefits of quinoa, it’s starting to be made into protein powders and bars. I was recently introduced to Keen-Wah decadence bars which are made by YogaEarth.

I first saw them when they were a weekly deal on Vegan Cuts. Normally I’m not into bars and packaged foods, but these are ones that are made with good ingredients, and are a really special treat.

Not only are they full of nutritious ingredients (quinoa for protein and all the awesomeness above, chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids, almonds for more minerals and healthy fats), but they taste amazing because they’re made with so many yummy things.

They’re sweetened with coconut nectar, which is an unrefined and low glycemic sweetener.

Well, and I’m sure it helps that they’re dipped in pure dark chocolate – which, by the way, is full of antioxidants and minerals. YogaEarth’s tagline for them is ‘intelligent indulgence,’ which I think is a perfect way to describe them.

Keen-Wah decadence bars are hard to find in stores because they’re pretty new, but you can order them on YogaEarth‘s website, in a 3-pack sample to try the flavors or in 12-packs of each flavor. They had the cool idea that you can subscribe, and have a standing order with them at a discounted price.

Quinoa Nutritional Benefits In A Nutshell

So the health benefits of quinoa are pretty hard to ignore – complete protein, lots of B vitamins, good variety of forms of vitamin E, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

Quinoa is so awesome that the UN’s Food and Agriculture organization named 2013 the ‘International Year of the Quinoa’. How cool is that?

Hopefully it gets more people eating quinoa, and that it highlights the efforts of the Peruvian, Bolivian and other South American farmers who grow it for all of us to eat.

How do you like to eat your quinoa?


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