Quinoa: What is it, Properties, Benefits and Recipes

Quinoa: What is it, Properties, Benefits and Recipes

Quinoa is a great food with a High Nutritional Value. More and more people, specially those who follow a healthy lifestyle, are starting to add this product to their diets. It provides excellent results, both in terms of physical performance and at an esthetic level. Moreover, it is incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa, even though it is considered a pseudocereal, is a seed native to the Andes. It is known for being an excellent vegetable proteins and for having many properties for our health. This product has more protein than any other cereal, which is why it is so valuable for vegetarians and vegans. In addition, it is a carbohydrate source with a high protein content.

What is Quinoa?

The FAO decided that 2013 was the international year of quinoa. This is due to it is a plant with many properties, multiple uses and it is a potential alternative to eradicate famine in the world

It is not exactly a cereal, since it belongs to the family of products such as chard, beet root and spinach. Although it is mainly used as a cereal (like rice), to make bread and pasta and to replace other cereals. Moreover, it does not have gluten, which is something that we will develop later on.

Origin of Quinoa

For thousands of years, it was a core ingredient in the diet of Andean people. Quinoa was eaten together with more common products such as tomatoes, corn or kidney beans. However, with the arrival of the European colonizers, its use was forbidden due to superstitious beliefs. This situation did not change until it became the focus of prestigious north american studies. They proved its excellent ability to grow in hostile climates, which are common in the Andes, as well as its abundant harvest.

Eventually, this led to its cultivation in North America, its cultivation techniques are being perfected due to its huge popularity nowadays.

Cultivation of Quinoa

It is genetically related to conventional vegetables like spinach and chard, since they all belong to the chenopodiaceae family. But, in terms of its chemical and nutritional composition, as well as its use, it is closely related to cereals as well.

There are several varieties cultivated which differ in color, inflorescence, nutritional value and demands in terms of soil and climate. Said cultivation is mainly located in South America, mainly in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile. These countries are the main quinoa producers worldwide.

One of the peculiarities of cultivating quinoa is that it lacks pesticides and all kinds of chemical substances. This is due to the fact that it is a very sensitive plant and said products can even kill it.

Cultivation of Quinoa

Nutritional properties of Quinoa

Quinoa has properties that any other cereal can compete against. Even though quinoa may look like a cereal at first glance, it is in fact a seed. It belongs to the same family as spinach or beet root. Moreover, it contains the 9 essential amino acids for the protein synthesis.


Macronutrient comparative chart per 100g of product

Most cereals are not complete proteins. This means that they lack some of the essential amino acids that the body needs to create proteins. They usually lack lysine. This is the reason why vegetarians need to combine rice, cereals and legumes to build a complete aminogram.

Quinoa proteins have a high biological value due to its lysine and methionine amino acid content. Cereals tend to lack the first one and legumes the second one. This means that quinoa has the ability to compensate for certain deficiencies caused by these two products. The protein content in quinoa is higher than 15%, which is twice as the one in rice, for example.

Amino acidsQuinoaCornRiceWheat

Aminogram comparative chart per 100g of product

In terms of vitamins and minerals, quinoa is has a high complex B vitamins content, mainly thiamine and riboflavin, as well as tocopherols and ascorbic acid. It also has an excellent mineral profile including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium. When compared to other cereals, it also stands out in its trace element supply, exceeding the recommended daily amounts.

Calcium148.7mg (19%RDA)17.1mg6.9mg50.3mg
Iron13.2mg (94%RDA)2.1mg0.7mg3.8mg
Magnesium249,6mg (67%RDA)137,1mg73,5mg169,4mg
Phosphorus383.7mg (55%RDA)292.6mg137.8mg467.7mg
Potassium926.7mg (46%RDA)377.1mg118.3mg578.3mg
Zinc4.4mg (44%RDA)2.9mg0.6mg4.7mg

Mineral comparative chart per 100g of product

If we talk about its fat supply, around a 50% comes from omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid) and Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid). Moreover, said essential fatty acids are preserved perfectly thanks to its vitamin E content, which works as a natural antioxidant

Regarding fiber, it is made up by a 15% of this ingredient. On top of that, it is inaccessible to microbial fermentation due to the fact that it is an non-soluble seed.

Benefits of Quinoa

  • Suitable for vegans, providing complete proteins, including lysine
  • Gluten free
  • Higher fiber content than other grains or cereals
  • With low GI carbohydrates (glycemic index) that release energy progressively
  • Almost a 100% of the recommended daily amount of iron (per 100g)
  • Quite useful for fat loss due to its protein supply and satiety
  • It improves the energy metabolism due to its complex B vitamin content
  • Quinoa protects the heart and the cardiovascular system thanks to its polyunsaturated fat supply, which lowers the cholesterol and the blood pressure
  • Antioxidant effect thanks to its flavonoid content
  • Very versatile, it is easy to add to your diet and it can be used in many recipes

The low glycemic index from quinoa has been studied in many different ways. One of them studied the effects of eating quinoa bread every day (with 20g of quinoa flour) on the CVD markers when compared to 100% refined wheat bread.

37 overweight healthy men (35-70 years, body mass index> 25 kg / m²) complete 4 weeks, separated by a cleansing period of 4 weeks. There were blood tests at the beginning and at the end of each period. A constant glucose monitorization was done at the end of each intervention period. After 4 weeks, the glycemia and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) were significantly lower. One of the reasons was the fiber content of quinoa.

Medicinal Properties

All the parts of the quinoa plant have some medicinal use. The leaves, stems and grains share the following properties and effects: wound healing, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, disinfectant, bone growth stimulant, anti-hemorrhagic and even insect repellent.

Starch and non-soluble fiber create viscous protective layers during inflammatory processes in the gums, mouth, stomach or bowel. It also has an antibiotic and anti-fungal effect thanks to its saponin content.

Benefits of Quinoa for sport

The benefits of quinoa for athletes are similar to that of oats due to the high mineral, carb and protein content. These nutrients improve our muscles’ resistance during workouts and competitions, as well as the muscle recovery. We suggest eating more quinoa because it is a good protein and energy source at the same time. Quinoa can be eaten for breakfast (flakes), lunch or dinner.

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The purpose of new food trends is to get as close to a natural diet as possible. Eating quinoa is very versatile, in fact, it can be used in any of our meals. Before using it though, you have to wash it to remove the saponin glaze that has a bitter flavor.

To cook it, use 3:1 of water and grain. Boil it at medium heat for fifteen minutes until the grain becomes transparent and becomes twice as bigger.

Apart from the grain, the soft leaves can be eaten like a veggie which has a high protein content.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to cooking this product; you can make a warm and fresh salad, a quinoa and chicken salad, quinoa soup with clams, quinoa salad with green asparagus, goat cheese, black olives and dry tomatos, or the famous Pesque, made with boiled quinoa grains without salt with milk or grated cheese.

Quinoa for a fitness diet

Who can benefit from Quinoa

We could say that it is a very good product for anyone. Nevertheless, we will mention a couple of situations when it can be specially beneficial.

Quinoa is gluten free, which means that it is suitable for those who suffer celiac diseases which compensates for many of their dietary restrictions. Their low glycemic index is compatible with diets for diabetic people, since it basically has starch, which have a slow metabolism, preventing any sudden glycemia alterations.

The Omega 3 and 6 content, along with the fiber, keeps the cholesterol under control. The latter stimulates the bowel peristalsis by fighting against constipation while being useful in vegetarian diets due to its protein and iron content.

Quinoa to lose weight

Quinoa is more effective to lose weight than wheat and rice, due to its satiating effect and non-soluble fiber. This feature also helps to transport cholesterol

How to cook Quinoa

Cooking quinoa is very similar to cooking rice, which sometimes can cause some confusion.

When it comes to cooking, you just have to boil a pot with water. Add 2 cups of water per cup of quinoa. Once the water is boiling, add the quinoa and cook it a medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

To know if it is cooked, check that it has released the white germ and that it is twice as bigger than before. Then, you just have to strain it and it will be ready for any dish.

The quinoa grains are sold already washed in dietary stores, as well as herbalist’s shops and delicatessen stores. If you want to preserve it, store it away from light, humidity and heat, preferably in hermetically closed recipients, prolonging their useful lifespan for several months


Salad with Quinoa and Chickpeas

Quinoa and chickpeas salad


Recipe Tips: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes
  • Portion size: 1 Bowl
  • Number of servings: 1
  • Cooking style: American


  • 3 big asparagus, clean and cut in 2cm bits
  • ½ courgette cut in half-moon shape
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut in slices
  • 1 spoonful of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 branches of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 80g of quinoa
  • 1 ¼ spoonful of lemon juice
  • 1 spoonful of raisins
  • 1 spoonful of pine nuts
  • 100g of washed and boiled chickpeas
  • A handful of fresh parsley
Nutritional Information per serving
of which saturates:2,8g
of which sugars:19g

How to make: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 200ºC.
  2. Mix the vegetables with the oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a baking mold. Put it in the middle tray of the oven and cook it for 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are soft.
  3. In the meantime, cook the quinoa according to the instructions in pre-cooked stock or water. Turn off the heat when you think it is properly cooked and smooth. Strain it.
  4. Once the veggies are ready, add the quinoa to the rest of veggies while they are still hot.
  5. Add the lemon juice, raisins and pine nuts. Add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil once again, add the cooked chickpeas and the parsley
  6. Mix everything until it is well combined and add salt or pepper according to taste. You can also add other vegetables such as red pepper or tomato.

Quinoa Flour

Quinoa flour


Making quinoa flour is very easy and it is so versatile. You can use it to cook pancakes, sponge cakes, bread, homemade pizza dough...

Recipe Tips: Quinoa Flour

  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes
  • Portion size: 1 Bowl
  • Number of servings: 1
  • Cooking style: American


  • 1 or 2 cups of quinoa
  • Water
Nutritional Information per serving
of which saturates:1g

How to make: Quinoa Flour

  1. Add quinoa directly to a pan and cook it until it is roasted. You have to stir it through the whole process. This step will take less than 5 minutes.
  2. Once golden, you have to ground it with a blender in order to obtain a thin powder.
  3. Filter this powder with a strain with a thin mail
  4. Before storing, make sure that it is not hot

Veggies with Quinoa

Quinoa with veggies


Recipe Tips: Quinoa with Veggies

  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes
  • Portion size: 1 Dish
  • Number of servings: 1
  • Cooking style: American


  • 1 cup of quinoa (80g approx.)
  • 1 spoonful of soy sauce
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • 1 pinch of turmeric
  • 1 pinch of oregano
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 small courgette
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 mushroom can
  • 1/2 corn can
Nutritional Information per serving
of which saturates:0.5g
of which sugars:10g

How to make: Quinoa with Veggies

  1. Cut the veggies while you cook the quinoa. Cook the garlic in a pan with oil.
  2. When the garlic is golden, add the veggies, black pepper, turmeric and soy and stir well. Cook for 7 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
  3. Turn off the heat. The quinoa should be cooked by now, strain it and add it directly to a pan and mix it with the rest of the veggies.
  4. Your quinoa with veggies is ready!

Vegan Quinoa Hamburger

Vegan quinoa hamburger


Recipe Tips: Vegan Quinoa Hamburger

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 15 minutes
  • Portion size: 1 Hamburger
  • Number of servings: 5
  • Cooking style: American


  • 100g of quinoa
  • 50g of chickpea flour
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 sliced garlic
  • 1 pinch of spicy pepper
  • 1 pinch of oregano
  • 1 pinch of parsley
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 mango
  • Some lettuce leaves or any similar type of vegetable
Nutritional Information per serving
of which saturates:0.6g
of which sugars:2.1g

How to make: Vegan Quinoa Hamburger

  1. Cooking the quinoa is similar to the previous recipes. Cut the veggies in very small bits.
  2. Add some oil to the pan and heat it. Then, cook the garlic with the rest of veggies, add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Once the quinoa is ready it, mix it with the vegetables.
  4. Now, add a little bit of water to the chickpea flour and stir until you get a mass.
  5. Add the quinoa to the veggies with the chickpea flour mass and mix until you get a homogeneous mass. Add the parsley and oregano and shape the mass into small hamburgers.
  6. Cook the hamburgers in a pan on both sides, make sure that each side is cooked properly.
  7. Serve with some avocado, mango and the lettuce leaves.

Oat and Quinoa Pancakes

Quinoa and Oat pancake


This is a delicious pancake recipe for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Recipe Tips: Quinoa and Oat Pancakes

  • Preparation time: 8 minutes
  • Cooking time: 8 minutes
  • Portion size: 1 Pancake
  • Number of servings: 3
  • Cooking style: American


  • 1 spoonful of Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil by BioSeries
  • 3 eggs
  • 30g of Out Flour by FoodSeries
  • 30g of quinoa flour
  • 120g fresh whipped cheese
Nutritional Information per serving
of which saturates:4.5g
of which sugars:1.7g

How to make: Quinoa and Oat Pancakes

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan while you blend all the ingredients in a blender until you get a homogeneous mass.
  2. Pour the mass on the pan. Lower the heat and cook on both sides for 2 minutes.
  3. The quinoa and oat pancakes are ready! You can spread some sugar free hyperprotein cocoa and hazelnut spread on top, it's up to you!

Related Entries:

Quinoa Review

Lowering the cholesterol - 99%

Supports weight loss - 100%

Sport Performance - 100%

Improved Intestinal Transit - 100%

Adherence to the diet - 100%


HSN Evaluation: 5 /5
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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
"Knowledge Makes Stronger", Javier Colomer's motto, sets out his clearest statement of intentions expressing his knowledge and fitness experience.
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