Quinoa Protein - Nutritional Value, Benefits, and Trends
High in proteins and nutrition, Quinoa is increasingly becoming popular in the United States and Europe. It has also gained the title as the newest superfood. Scientifically known as Chenopodium Quinoa, Quinoa is a plant seed and is prepared and consumed like a cereal grain. [i] [ii]
Okay, wait, so is Quinoa a grain, a carb, or a protein? I’m going to answer these questions and much more in this article!
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa doesn’t grow on grass like other grains, including rice, wheat, and oats, and is classified as a gluten-free pseudocereal. Quinoa seeds are oval, flat, and have a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. They come in various colors ranging from pink to black, with its taste varying from bitter to sweet. The seeds are packed with protein, nutrients, and fiber and offer a wide range of health benefits.[iii]
How Much Protein is There in Quinoa?
Quinoa is high in protein as compared to its whole grain peers like buckwheat and barley. Quinoa offers 16% of protein by dry weight, significantly more than most of the cereal grains, including rice, barley, and corn.[iv] [v] [vi]
Quinoa Protein Nutrition Facts
One hundred grams of cooked Quinoa contains 120 calories with approximately:
- 72% water
- 4.4 grams protein
- 21.3 grams carbs
- 0.9 grams sugar
- 2.8 grams fiber
- 1.9 grams fat
Starches contribute to around 83% of the carbs in Quinoa. The rest comes from fiber and small amounts of sugars such as galactose, maltose, and ribose. Though the amount of carbs in Quinoa is comparable to that in rice and barley, its relatively low glycemic index (G.I.) score of 53 doesn’t cause a rapid spike in blood sugar.
One cup (185 grams) of cooked Quinoa consists of 8 grams of protein. With all nine essential amino acids, Quinoa is an excellent, plant-based, complete protein source.
Fiber constitutes 10% of the cooked Quinoa's dry weight, which is more than yellow corn and brown rice. Out of this, 80-90% are insoluble fibers like cellulose.
One hundred grams of cooked Quinoa contains 2 grams of fat, primarily composed of oleic acid, palmitic acid, and linoleic acid.
Quinoa Vitamins and Minerals
Besides being a good protein source, Quinoa is an excellent source of antioxidants and provides more vitamins and minerals than many common grains.[vii]
Quinoa is an excellent source of magnesium, iron, and manganese.[viii]
- Magnesium is present in every human cell and essential in more than 300 enzymatic reactions.
- Iron is vital for many body processes, including carrying oxygen, supporting cell function and energy, healthy muscle metabolism, and more.
- Our body requires manganese for growth, metabolism, and development.
Besides these, Quinoa is a good source of folate, an essential B vitamin vital for the formation of D.N.A. Folate helps reduce the risk of depression. In addition to this, folate also helps decrease the chances of neural tube defects in infants. Quinoa is also a good source of phosphorus, zinc, and copper.
Other Plant Compounds in Quinoa
Quinoa even contains other plant compounds such as Quercetin, Kaempferol, and Squalene that act as antioxidants and benefit our body in many ways. While Quercetin helps promote bone, heart and immune health, Kaempferol also provides a range of benefits for whole body health.[ix]
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Different Types of Quinoa
Quinoa is available in various colors, from white to red to black, and differs in taste, texture, and properties. The most common versions available in grocery stores are white, red, black, and tricolor quinoa.
White Quinoa has the lightest texture with a delicate taste and is fluffier than its counterparts. Red Quinoa is slightly chewier and has a richer taste with nuttier and heartier flavors than the white variant. Black Quinoa has a more earthy flavor and a little sweeter taste, while the tricolor is a blend of all three types.[x]
What Are the Health Benefits of Quinoa?
If someone asks, “What is quinoa good for?” some of the top reasons would include - supporting blood sugar levels already in a normal range, digestive health, heart health, weight loss, and immune health.[xi]
Supports Blood Sugar Levels
Quinoa is associated with a heart and blood sugar health. According to one study, Quinoa also helps maintain health blood fats already in a normal range. Also, it affects blood sugar levels to a lesser degree than traditional gluten-free bread and pasta.[xii]
Supports Healthy Heart
A diet rich in antioxidants is associated with healthy heart function. A high amount of antioxidants in Quinoa can help protect the heart and other organs from oxidative stress and free radicals.[xiii]
Supports Digestive Health
The fiber content in Quinoa helps maintain regularity. Since Quinoa is gluten-free, people suffering from gluten intolerance can consume it safely.[xiv]
May Support Weight Loss
Fiber also helps you feel full for a longer time and may support weight loss and help manage a healthy weight.[xv]
Is Quinoa a Complete Protein?
Unlike most other plant-based protein sources, Quinoa is considered a high-quality protein source with all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa contains an exceptionally high amount of lysine, an amino acid usually lacking in plant-based sources, and a rich histidine and methionine amount. The quinoa protein digestibility is comparable to casein – a high-quality protein found in dairy products.[xvi]
Quinoa Market Trends
With its impressive nutrition profile, gluten-free nature, and range of health benefits, Quinoa is becoming increasingly popular. In the United States, the value of consumption of quinoa seeds is estimated to reach over $117 million by 2024, with a CAGR of 12%. Quinoa’s growing popularity for reaping various health benefits presents a promising opportunity for brand owners to tap into its potential as a complete vegan protein supplement.[xvii]
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