What Is Quinoa? - Health Benefits And Nutritional Profile

What is quinoa? A lot of people are still in the dark about this nutrient dense superfood and have no idea how or when to use it, however it is actually way more versatile than you might think and can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes at pretty much any meal.

Quinoa is presumed by most to be a grain, but it is actually a seed from a flowering plant in the amaranth family. The fact that it’s a seed makes it much healthier and more digestible for to eat, and given the fact that it can easily be used in place of your normal higher carb, lower nutrient grains, this makes it a wonderfully healthful, fat burning food.


Quinoa is an ancient super food!

This awesome seed has been used since ancient times and was eaten by the Inca’s who powered themselves on it whilst building the pyramids. This would have certainly been no mean feat, requiring  huge amounts of muscle power which they derived mainly from quinoa – so take heed muscle builders of the world as this little seed packs a powerful amino acid punch and is actually a complete protein on its own – no meat required!


Quinoa is a wheat and gluten free alternative to other grains:-

cooked white quinoa

The great thing about quinoa is you can use it as an alternative to many of your usual carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, couscous, bulgar wheat and white potatoes. It is super versatile, has a neutral flavour, and easily soaks up the flavours of other foods making it perfect to add to soups, casseroles, or pretty much anything you fancy.

The most common types of quinoa come in the white, red or black variety. The white tends to go well as a replacement for rice as it more readily absorbs flavours, but the others hold their texture and shape well and are better in cold salads, or dishes where you need some texture and bite. It could also be a good idea to even mix them up together so you get the whole range of nutrients and textures.



Quinoa’s carbohydrate content comes in at about mid range but this is no reason to exclude it from a general low carb diet as it also offers lots of other benefits that other carbohydrates don’t, such as a high protein content and LOTS of nutrients, such as fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, lysine, iron, and a range of B vitamins.



  • Manganese – 58% RDA
  • Magnesium – 30% RDA
  • Phosphorus – 28% RDA
  • Folate – 19% RDA
  • Copper – 18% RDA
  • Iron – 15% RDA
  • Zinc – 13% RDA
  • Potassium – 9% RDA




woman flexing her triceps

Quinoa is high in protein and the only known plant food to contain ALL essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and crucial to good health. This makes it not only perfect for vegetarians and vegans, but also a fantastic food for those in training who are wishing to build lean muscle mass without the use of too many acid forming animal proteins.

You will need to find out more about other high sources of plant based protein if you are thinking of becoming vegan or plant based as these will become staples in your diet. Quinoa is one of these proteins you will need along with many others, all of which have their own set of unique nutrients that help to give you a well rounded diet.



Using quinoa instead of the usual gluten free products such as potato, corn, rice, and tapioca flour, is a lot healthier as it has a FAR superior antioxidant and nutrient content. Obviously the others have their place if not just for variety, but you should try to add quinoa as much as possible if you want to have superior health and strength.

And don’t forget that a good deal of gluten free products are actually far from healthy; especially things like breads, biscuits, and cakes etc. These are often laden with sugar and unhealthy fats, plus chemicals and additives to help aid with texture and taste.



meditating in nature

There are literally thousands of trace nutrients in quinoa consisting of many that we are not familiar with, or have even heard of. The two particular antioxidants that quinoa is abundant in are quercetin and kaempferol – these have been widely studied in animals and have been found to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, AND anti-depressant.

This is interesting because the main ways to alleviate depression and anxiety is to eat a low GI diet, high in antioxidants and omega 3’s, and quinoa happens to have ALL of these benefits rolled into one. So this has got to be a no brainer if you want to feel happier, calmer, and more zen!



Quinoa has more fiber than other grains which is another resson it is super healthful. Fiber is needed to lower a foods GI and ensure a slow release of energy; but it also lowers cholesterol, fills you up, and stops you from snacking inbetween meals – meaning extra help with weight loss and weight maintenance.



toned stomach

All of these extra nutrients and protein help to slow down the rate in which quinoa’s carbs hit the bloodstream, thus making it a low GI food. GI (glycemic index) is the measurement of how fast the sugars in a food hit the bloodstream – the lower the better when it comes to health.

High GI foods cause a much stronger insulin response from the pancreas, which in turn can lead to those sugars be stored away as dangerous belly fat – whereas low GI foods offer a slow release of sugars that will be more readily burnt off as energy. This is definitely something to  consider when choosing your carbohydrates for your meals.

Adding as many low GI foods as possible to your diet will slash your risk of many diseases and super charge your health and fat burning efforts.


Other low GI Carbs that can help with weight loss:-

chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils

Instead of eating bread, rice, pasta, couscous, white potatoes, and other high carb foods, you should try to use not only quinoa, but also lentils, beans, chickpeas, pulses, amaranth, and buckwheat. These are all lower GI complex carbohydrates that will leave you feeling less bloated with more energy – plus they are far more nutritionally superior.


If you would like more information about a healthy plant based diet in general, and all the benefits it can offer you in terms of ultimate in health, vitality, and maybe even disease prevention please take a look at this beginners guide to plant based eating.



You can usually just boil quinoa in a little salted water if you want it plain or straight up – personally I prefer to cook it with a stock cube for flavour. If you decide to do this then only use as much water as it needs to cook the quinoa in and no more. You can then add more water in if needed as you go along – this way you won’t throw away any water at the end and lose the flavours you have added. Alternately you could add spices of your choice afterwards.

Quinoa should be either soaked for a few hours first to get rid of impurities or washed thoroughly before use. Here are some other ways in this video to prepare quinoa.

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Stefanie Taylor

I have studied all things nutrition for many years and it is where my absolute passion lies. I and have recently transformed my life, health, and fitness with the plant based diet, and have been truly astounded by the new level of zest and vitality I feel because of it. I am here to share this with you, and to maybe help you on your own journey to this awesome state of being. Let's make the world a healthier, happier place together :-)


Matts Mom · 22/04/2018 at 9:43 pm

I have never made quinoa before, but I have had it and I actually love it. I am always low in magnesium, and supplements only have 3%, which is crazy. So now that I see I can get this from something I love, I am going to purchase it and start incorporating it in my diet. My son and I are both on a diet. He is not over weight, but doing it for muscle. Anyway we have been eating nothing but grilled chicken and rice with veggies. I like that I can substitute the rice some days for the quinoa. Thanks for sharing!

    Stefanie Taylor · 23/04/2018 at 8:39 am

    Hi there, yes I can see how you are probably getting very bored of rice and chicken. I used to live on that too before I went plant based. Definitely give quinoa a shot, especially if you are low on magnesium. The thing with magnesium is it is a bulky kind of mineral that has lots of substance to it so you are never going to get much in a general multivitamin supplement. You would need to buy a separate supplement which are usually quite large, or a powder. It takes pretty much a whole teaspoon of pure powder to give you 400mg of magnesium (which is a good amount you would need to get your levels up again).

    You would feel a lot better if you replenished yourself of this mineral as being low can cause all sorts of problems over time. I would only suggest that you buy from a good brand as many commercial magnesium supplements are literally in an unabsorbable form and useless in the body. Trusted brands that I can think of off the top of my head are ‘Nature’s Plus’, ‘Viridian’, ‘BioMag’. I think all of these are available in the US.

      Matts Mom · 23/04/2018 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you so much Stefanie! I plan on it! Same goes for potassium too I am sure?

        Stefanie Taylor · 24/04/2018 at 11:58 am

        Yes, I think so, though I think potassium would be in smaller amounts, I would have to check with my herbalist at work. But often you can but potassium and magnesium together in one supplement so it’s worth having a look about.
        Anyway, I’m glad to have been of help to you.

Sam · 22/04/2018 at 11:35 pm

Enlightening ma’am… Thanks a lot I hope this helps a whole lot of people

    Stefanie Taylor · 23/04/2018 at 8:29 am

    Hi Sam, thanks for reading and commenting and I’m glad you found the post interesting. Yep, it really is good stuff that quinoa hey, I’m going to start eating it all the time now haha

Wendi · 23/04/2018 at 2:04 pm

I love quinoa. I started using it to replace rice. My whole family loves it. We now even use it it soups and stews. Thanks for this article. I’ll certainly cook with it even more often now.

    Stefanie Taylor · 23/04/2018 at 3:36 pm

    Hi Wendi, yes it’s great stuff isn’t it? Glad you’re already using it as lots of people haven’t even heard of the stuff ha ha. Thanks for commenting.

sarah · 25/04/2018 at 8:33 am

Hi Stefanie, thank you so much for sharing this amazing post about quinoa. I haven’t heard about it before but now I know how it is so important I will include it in my regular diet and will forward this article with all the people I know. You really are an amazing and knowledgeable person and I always admire your work.

    Stefanie Taylor · 25/04/2018 at 10:26 am

    Yes I know, I didn’t realise just how good quinoa was until I researched it in depth for this article which has given me the impetus to eat it more also. Plus it tastes great, especially if you add some spices and favourings to it. My favourite is vegetable boullion powder.

    Glad you found the article informative, oh can expect many more in the future.

travel and treatz · 26/04/2018 at 4:25 am

Thanks for sharing. I’ve had this a few times, it’s not bad, it’s actually something really easy to add to your meal and switch out a carb. I’d switch it with the vegies I don’t like, but as we get older those things need to stay. Thanks for sharing! Very informative post. I learnt something, didn’t know about the protein content.

    Stefanie Taylor · 26/04/2018 at 10:41 am

    I’m really glad you have learnt something new with my post as that is my aim. I absolutely love quinoa these days and often have it as my carb with meals. It is actually really versatile and can have so many different herbs and spices added to it for different variations.

    Another great way to eat quinoa is actually as a breakfast or a dessert. You can book it in nut milk, sweetener, cinnamon etc. Pretty much anything you fancy, then add nuts, fresh fruit, or just have it plain like a rice pudding. Delicious!

Stefan · 27/04/2018 at 1:50 am

Hi and thanks for introducing quinoa to me.

I haven’t heard of this valuable seeds before and they look very tasty to me.

I wonder if I could grow them here in Thailand, a rather hot and dry environment.

I love to eat beans, grains, and seeds of all kinds and am always welcome to learn about new varieties 🙂

    Stefanie Taylor · 27/04/2018 at 11:10 am

    Hi Stefan, sounds like you have a good diet; especially as you live in Thailand. I love Thai food as it is just so healthy and full of fresh fruit and veg. Delicious!

    I’m not sure about whether you can grow quinoa in Thailand, but I’m pretty sure you could get hold of it. It’s definitely worth a try as it is just so healthy.

Wiebren · 03/09/2018 at 10:03 am

Hi Stefanie, thanks for the in depth article. I learned a lot about quinoa.

    Stefanie Taylor · 03/09/2018 at 10:53 am

    Hey there, no problem. There is a lot to know about it isn’t there? Who knew; it sure is a fantastic food!

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