Quinoa (which name is derived from the Spanish spelling of the Quechua name kinwa ) is a grain like seed obtained from the Chenopodium quinoa family plant, growing in highland plains of South-American Andes (Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru). The Incas believed that quinoa was “the mother grain” (chisaya mama) as according to them, consuming it with food would confer them a long and healthy life. The crop was once the staple food sources of Incas before the Spanish explorers forced them to abandon its cultivation.
Actually, quinoa doesn’t belong to the botanic group of cereals, although you can make flour out of its grains. Similarly to other grains like amaranth, it does not contain gluten, being a specific component of cereals.
Source of high quality protein
Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain; an average of 16.2 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for rice, 9.9 percent for millet, and 14 percent for wheat. Some varieties of quinoa are more than 20 percent protein. Beside this, Quinoa’s protein is of an unusually high quality. It is a complete protein, with an essential amino acid balance. Quinoa’s protein is high in lysine, methionine and cystine. According to studies on nutrition and statistics published by FAO (Food Agricultural Organisation http://www.fao.org/home/en/), quinoa can be considered as a source of protein that is comparable to soya.
Balanced Source of nutrients
Besides its unique protein properties, quinoa also provides starch, sugars, oil (high in essential linoleic acid), fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Richness of vitamins and minerals
It should be pointed out that quinoa is much more easily digestive than soya and that it is extraordinarily rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains four times more calcium than wheat, more iron and more vitamins B and E. In addition to this, it is an excellent source of magnesium, iron and potassium.