Health Benefits of Quinoa – the Mother Food

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Health Benefits of Quinoa – the Mother Food

Quinoa is not a grain so it is gluten free! It is a vegetable seed related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets. Quinoa is pronounced keen-wa not kwin-o-a.  It is full of health benefits and is filling like a grain but with much more protein. Learn about its ancient history, and preparing tips.

8 Health Benefits

  1. Gluten-free. Since it is not not related to wheat, or even a grain, it is gluten-free.
  2. High quality protein with the nine essential amino acids, the protein balance is similar to milk. At 16.2 to 20 percent protein, it has is more protein than rice (7.5 percent), millet (9.9 percent) or wheat (14 percent).
  3. Alkaline-forming. Although it is not strongly alkaline-forming, it is comparable to wild rice, amaranth, and sprouted grains.
  4. Not fattening! Only 172 calories per 1/4 cup dry (24 of the calories from protein and only 12 from sugars, the rest are complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats).
  5.  Smart Carb: It is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar.
  6. Great source of riboflavin. Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.
  7. Antiseptic. The saponins from quinoa are used to promote healing of skin injuries in South America.
  8. Inca warriors had more stamina and quicker recovery time by eating these quinoa seeds, making it a truly ancient powerfood.
Red, black and white quinoa seeds

Red, black and white quinoa seeds

  • In South America they use the saponin removed from the quinoa as detergent for washing clothes.
  • The sticky, bitter, soapy film of saponins also keeps birds from eating the quinoa seeds off of the bushes. Scientists decided to create quinoa that didn’t have saponins and guess what? The birds ate it all.
  • Stalks of the plant are used in preparing bleach or dyes, and dried stalks are used as fuel.
  • “Eat quinoa, food of the 21st century.”  These are the words written on the cover of each issue of an Argentinean science magazine called Temas.

I love the light flavor of quinoa. It is easy to digest and is not sticky or heavy like grains, making it a wonderful summer grain-like food.

Tips for Eating or Cooking:

  • Always rinse quinoa; place it in a strainer, then run cold water over it until the entire soapy residue has been washed away. You can taste test a few seeds; if they still have a bitter taste, run more cold water over them. Extra removal can be made by rubbing the seeds while rinsing with water. (Read why under: Use and Safety)
  • There are three main varieties: light yellow, red, and black.
  • Make quinoa porridge for breakfast, add it to your salad at lunch, substitute if for brown rice with your vegetables and make a yummy pudding.
  • Use quinoa flour in your gluten-free baking.
  • Even the leaves of the quinoa plant are edible; they taste similar to spinach, chard and beets.
  • Sprout quinoa; simply soak it in water for 12 hours, then keep it moist in a jar.
  • It can even be popped like popcorn and is very popular with Peruvian children.

quinoa in bag

Please note: Quinoa, though highly nutritious, is actually coated with the toxic chemical saponin; you must rinse it thoroughly. Saponins can be challenging to the immune system and stomach. Commercial processing methods remove much of the bitter soapy saponins coating quinoa seeds, but it is best to rinse again to remove any of the powdery saponins that may remain on the seeds. Like any good foods, we need variety so do not eat it every day. A few times a week is good enough.

Although quinoa is not a commonly allergenic food and does not contain lots of purines, it does contain oxalates. This puts it on the caution list for an oxalate-restricted diet.


  • Quinoa was considered sacred by the Incas; they called it the “mother seed.” The Inca civilization in South America grew it in the high altitude of the Andes.  It was their staple food for 5,000 years.
  • Under Spanish rule, quinoa and other native crops were suppressed and replaced with Old World crops . They almost wiped it our as for a time they made it illegal for the Indians to grow.  They did not see how useful it is.
  • Finally in the 1980’s two Americans discovered this nutrient-rich food and began growing quinoa in Colorado.

Nutritional Value of 100 grams
372 calories
Proteins 11.49 grams
Fat  4.86 grams
Carbohydrates  71.2 grams
Calcium  66 milligrams
Iron  8.5 milligrams
Vitamin C  1 gram
Thiamin  0.24 grams
Riboflavin 0.23 grams
Niacin 1.40 grams

Source: Bethzabe Iiguez de Barrios. Mil Delicias de la Quinua. Oruro, Bolivia: (Editora Quelco, 1977), p. 29.

quinoa plants

Interesting facts:

  • More than 200,000 pounds are gown each year in the US Rocky Mountains.
  • It is the whitest and the sweetest tasting when grown above 12,500 feet. When it is grown at lower elevations, it is more bittersweet in taste.
  • It thrives at altitudes of 9,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level and survives on as little as two inches of rainfall.
quinua cooked

How to Store:

It is best to store quinoa in an airtight container.
When stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for three to six months.

Here is my favourite quinoa:

truRoots Organic Quinoa 100% Whole Grain Premium Quality, 4 lbs for $18.99 US

  • Pre-washed (so no rinsing), Organic (all grains are best organic)
  • From farms that use best practices and time-honored tradition. (Eco friendly is high on my list)


Cooking Quinoa: How to cook quinoa the fast and easy way.

Deluxe Quinoa Pudding is easy to make and delicious.

Quinoa Coconut Almond Porridge – Sugarless is a great breakfast.

Delux Quinoa Pudding

Quinoa is is one of the essential foods in our Alkalize Your Body BootCamp and the  One Month Online Healthy Diet and Detox.  Get hands on experience and knowledge from the  comfort of your home.

Copyright ©Diana Herrington

By | 2017-10-29T15:41:40+00:00 April 10th, 2012|Nutrition, PowerFoods|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am the Founder and Author at Real Food For Life. Have been teaching cooking classes worldwide since 1982. Create original, healthy recipes and menus, which are gluten free and white sugar free. Also, the author of the GREEN means LEAN and Balance Your Body e-books. I turned a debilitating health crisis into a passion for helping others with healthy, sugar free, gluten free eating and cooking.


  1. Maddumage Kasun Seneviratne December 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    How can I get a few Quinoa seeds to grow?

  2. Minh Amspoker February 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    This is just amazing. I wish I could do the same.

  3. ratchet pruners July 26, 2013 at 1:22 am

    The knowledge above is truly effective. I have uncovered several helpful tips.

  4. lisa August 29, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    I have digestive issues with rice. This was a great alternative to rice in my sushi and stir fry.

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