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What Is Quinoa? 7 Important Health Benefits of Quinoa and Nutrition Facts

Spencer Cailas

what is quinoa

There’s been increasing worldwide popularity among the health community wondering about the benefits of quinoa as they’re are higher than most “grains”.

Quinoa is referred to as a super-food because of its high nutrition profile.

Often confused as a grain, but it is a pseudo-cereal, a term that is used to describe food grounded into flour or used same way as grains, which is non-grasses even though they are consumed much like true cereal.

What Is Quinoa? Origin and History

what is quinoa

Quinoa originated in the South America region around Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and Ecuador. 

It’s been domesticated by the Andean Civilization for human consumption around 3 to 4 thousand years ago, although archaeological research has shown a non-domesticated crop Association from 5 to 7 thousand years ago. *

The Incas referred to quinoa as the mother of all grains (chaya mama). During the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, during the era of the Spanish colonization in South America, colonists called it food for Indians and forbade its cultivation forcing the Incas to grow wheat instead of their sacred, and favorite crop.

Despite being consumed for thousands of years in the last few decades, it’s popularity has grown immensely due to the many health benefits.

It was first introduced in the United States in 1982, where it has been cultivated primarily in high elevation cities such as Colorado. Although it has become increasingly demanding in countries such as Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, and China as it is unable to grow in most of these areas.

Its cultivation has spread to more than 50 countries in small and specific places such as Holland, Italy, France, England, India, and Kenya, although it’s cultivation is minuscule compared to its original root source.

Popularity continues to increase, more variations of quinoa comes to light from the adventurous consumers creating unique gourmet products for each type of food.

It is a viable substitute for your common carbohydrate food; it is a great option for those seeking to be and eat healthier. 

Thousands of products nowadays are made with quinoa such as beverages like beer, cereals, bread, granola bars, pasta, soups, and even crackers.

Famous for having a slight learning curve, cooking quinoa is quick and easy. 

It takes less cooking time compared to most whole grains. It tastes good on its own, especially if mixed with olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice or your own favorite sauces and spices.


It’s a famous seed that originated in South America and has been grown by locals for thousands of years.

Quinoa Nutrition Facts

Whether you include it in your daily meals or snacks because of your diet or simply to spice things up in your kitchen, this super-seed is nutritious and easy to prepare, it is one of the healthiest pseudo-cereals out there.

Quinoa isn’t just for vegans and vegetarians; it’s a great option for those looking to include more protein and fiber in their diet.
The following quinoa nutrition information is for white, red or black types.

We know that protein usually comes last as far as nutritional facts go, but with it being one of the main reasons a lot of people usually include quinoa in their meals, it’s best to go first.

How much Protein is in Quinoa?

Quinoa is very high in protein, thus it is quite popular among vegans, vegetarians. It’s one of the most attractive traits of this super-seed, the protein amount is abnormally higher than it’s siblings or even most grains.

185 grams (1 cup, cooked) contains 8.1 grams of protein.

Protein is made up of amino acids, quinoa contains all 9 indispensable amino acids that the human body cannot naturally produce and are only obtained from food sources (which make quinoa a perfect option) which are required for healthy living and they are:

  • Isoleucine. It has a variety of functions, examples of its diversity in aiding to our health include assisting in detoxification, promotes hormones secretion and even helps to heal wounds.
  • Leucine. Assists in many metabolic functions, such as synthesizing protein. It also helps to repair and grow boneand muscle tissue along with hormone production, but most importantly and one of the reasons why fitness enthusiasts supplement with leucine is because it helps to prevent muscle protein breakdown.
  • Histidine. It helps to protect nerve cells maintenance of myelin sheaths, aside from countless other roles from immunity, to tissue protection by heavy metals, and even radiation.
  • Lysine. Found in lots of foods, but most dominant in food sources such as dairy, seafood like fish and red meat.
  • Methionine. It helps to improve skin and hair tone, pliability along with strengthening a person’s nail and helps in selenium and zinc absorption.
  • Tryptophan. Known as a precursor of serotonin, and found in most protein sources available. It’s initially converted to 5-hydroxy-tryptophan which is then converted to serotonin helping to regulate pain, mood, sleep, and even your appetite.
  • Phenylalanine. The essential aromatic amino acid that’s part of an important role in synthesizing other amino acids, and the structuring functions of enzymes and other plenty of other proteins.
  • Threonine. A compound that plays an important role in humans, deficiency can cause neurological dysfunction (primarily in animal testings). It promotes cell defense and growth of the thymus gland.
  • Valine. A glycogenic amino acid that’s found in soy, vegetables, animal meat, and seafood it helps to maintain muscle coordination, emotional calmness and generally helps in mental health.
1 cup
Isoleucine 290 mg
Leucine 483 mg
Histidine 235 mg
442 mg
Methionine 178 mg
Tryptophan 96.2 mg
Phenylalanine 342 mg
Threonine 242 mg
Valine 342 mg


Quinoa has a high protein nutritional value and contains all 9 essential amino acids in humans.

How many Calories in Quinoa?

In 185 grams (1 cup, cooked) there are 222 calories. As far as uncooked quinoa, there are 625 calories in 1 cup.


185 grams (1 cup, cooked) contains 3.6 grams total amount of fat (very low in fat). Just like other grains (although quinoa isn’t a grain), the fat content is composed of:

  • Oleic acid. An omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid that’s generally found in most foods with higher amounts of fat such as animal sources, or vegetables like olive oil. It helps to support cellular and heart health, brain function, type 2 diabetes.
  • Palmitic acid. A saturated fat normally found in dairy, meat, and oils like coconut or palm oil. Known to cause negative health effects due to how it’s used in processed foods.
  • Linoleic acid. Prominently found in meat and dairy products, making it one of the most highly consumed in a human diet, to be mostly used as an energy source, but it may also be esterified (a chemical reaction which forms an ester as a byproduct of two reactants like alcohol and acid.) and in turn forming polar and neutral lipids like cholesterol esters, phospholipids, and triacylglycerols.

How many Carbs in Quinoa?

185 grams (one cup, cooked) contains 39.4 total grams of carbohydrates, accounting 69.8% total carbs, similar to other grains like barley, but especially rice.

People are often looking for an alternative to rice, our quinoa vs rice comparison lists a couple of reasons why you should include this super-seed in your meals.

It is relatively high in carbohydrates, so depending on your particular meal or diet plans it might not be suitable for consumption on multiple times during the day, or even once.

How much Fiber in Quinoa?

In 185 grams (one cup, cooked), it contains 12 grams of fiber, accounting for 48% of your daily needed value of fiber.

The daily value refers to the daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet although all humans’ daily values will be different depending on each individual’s macro needs.

It has two to three times the amount of fiber when compared to most grains, which is also one of the reasons as to why many switch from other grains.

In the United States, most people consume about 16 grams of fiber per day, which is only half of the recommended amount. It is suggested that a woman should eat 25 grams of fiber per day while a man should be getting 38 grams.

Once ingested, the body begins to break it down but since fiber does not digest; it passes through the body practically intact.

Eating a diet that is usually high in dietary fiber can help one to regulate digestion, blood glucose, lower cholesterol and even help with weight loss.

The reason for it is that it helps you to make you feel full and satisfied much quicker, not including how much protein quinoa contains which helps with losing weight.

A high-fiber diet has countless health benefits such as:

  • Regulates bowel movements: Dietary fiber helps to increase the size and weight of your stool and also assists in softening it. Normally, a sizable stool is easier to pass through reliving and decreasing any chance of constipation. If your stools are watery, fiber can help to bulk it up as it absorbs water. Also, a diet that is high in fiber has a much lower rate of developing hemorrhoids.
  • Lowers cholesterol: Soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol by aiding with reducing the density of lipoprotein levels. Some studies have also shown that fiber contributes to reducing blood pressure.
  • Stabilizes blood glucose levels: Fiber can help to slow the absorption of sugar and in doing so contribute to improving blood glucose levels.
  • Cancer: Some researches support the evidence that eating a high fiber diet helps to prevent bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer. foods that are high in fiber are linked to lowering the risk of digestive system diseases or cancers.
  • Skin: Eating fiber helps to flush toxins out of the body which contributes to improves one’s health and even the appearance of the skin.

We suggest that you see a dietitian if you have specific daily requirements on your fiber intake before you make any changes to your diet or meal plan. While most people who switch to quinoa are looking to live a healthier life, most end up loving this super-seed and make the switch permanent.

Other quinoa nutrition facts, and benefits: It has about 31.5mg of calcium.

It has 118mg of magnesium (30%) of the standard daily required intake, 318mg of potassium (9%), 281mg phosphorus (28%), 2.8mg of iron (15%), and 58% of the required manganese recommendation per day.

Last but not least, it is digested slower than most refined grains even though it isn’t a grain, meaning you feel full and satisfied longer.

A lot of people wonder about it’s proven health benefits, below you’ll find reasons why you should start eating quinoa.

7 Quinoa Health Benefits

Many studies have shown extensive proof of quinoa health benefits. Here are the top quinoa health benefits you should know.

1. Highly Nutritious

It has a full dose of protein, containing all nine indispensable amino acids, and even includes lysine which is also used to create medicine and even promotes a high percentage of tissue growth.

In addition to having the 9 essential amino acids, quinoa has a full source of zinc, copper, vitamins B and E, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and dietary fiber – let’s dig deeper.

Because quinoa is rich in magnesium, which is a mineral that contributes as a substance for more than three hundred enzymes, also includes those helps to regulate the production of insulin and glucose in the body, so regular ingestion of quinoa or even other grains can help to reduce risks for type 2 diabetes.

It’s nutritional profile was extensively explained in the quinoa nutritional facts section.

2. Migraines

You probably know that it’s caused by the constriction of blood vessels.

Quinoa having a high source of magnesium will help with subsiding the migraines as it contributes to relaxing the body’s blood vessels, and it is also rich in riboflavin which in turn reduces the frequency of each migraine by regulating the energy within the muscle cells and brain.

Quinoa also helps to increase one’s cardiovascular health, since the deficiencies from magnesium are connected to hypertension, heart arrhythmia, and heart disease.

3. Quinoa Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a number that is related to a particular type of food that specifies the effects of the food that it has on a person’s blood sugar level or blood glucose.

The GI is the measurement of the blood sugar level in a human after food consumption, and it correlates to how fast a person ‘s blood sugar rises.

All in all, the GI is used to understand and track how the human body breaks down carbohydrates, but keep in mind that the GI only analyzes the total carbohydrate that enters the bloodstream.
The quinoa glycemic index is around 53-55.

Foods that have a low glycemic index, don’t cause spikes in the blood sugar level which makes quinoa a perfect option for people with diabetes and any central issues related to the increase of glucose on one’s body, anything above below a 55 glycemic index is considered low.

As the human body digests these carbohydrates your blood glucose or in other words your blood sugar level rises, and as mentioned above the glycemic index estimates the rate of how fast your blood sugar will rise which is entirely dependent on the food that you ate.
The scale goes as followed, and it ranges from 0 to 100 while 100 represents that it is pure glucose, although some foods are much higher than 100 and that means it raises your blood sugar much faster than pure glucose.


Quinoa’s glycemic index is low, in the lower 50 range. Foods with a high GI can be problematic for people with diabetes as a high glycemic index causes sugar levels in the blood to spike.

4. Weight loss benefits

Most people that are interested in the calories are normally looking to lose weight, and you may ask yourself why that is. The reason is that calories are the most important aspect when it comes to weight loss, or even weight gain if that’s the goal.

In order to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than your body would burn, and some food properties go as far as helping to boost metabolism, and even reducing one’s appetite.

Quinoa contains a few of those properties, the first is the high amount of protein which helps in increasing metabolism, which in turn reduces one’s apatite.

Foods that are high in fiber require more chewing which allows your body to pick up when you are not hungry which makes you feel fuller and more satisfied. Fiber does make you feel full for a significant amount of time, in turn making you eat fewer calories.

5. Antioxidants

Quinoa is a great source of antioxidants, including anti-inflammatory properties.