Quinoa 101- The Supergrain of the Future

It seems these days, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is still all anyone talks about. Everywhere we turn, there are quinoa salads, quinoa fried rice, and now even quinoa protein shakes. Quinoa, often described as a “superfood” or a “supergrain,” has become popular among the health conscious, with good reason. Farmers cultivate over 120 different types of quinoa. However, the most common versions available in grocery stores are white, red, and black quinoa.1

Facts You Didn’t Know About Quinoa

  • Often used as a substitute for rice, quinoa is commonly considered to be a grain and is usually referred to as such, but it is actually a seed of a plant called Chenopodium quinoa.2 
  • It is mostly consumed as a seed as they have the maximum concentration of nutrition, but you can also eat the leaves of this plant.3
  • Quinoa is also naturally gluten-free and can be eaten safely if one has gluten intolerance such as celiac disease.4 People who follow gluten-free diets can have a hard time getting all of their essential nutrients. The Mayo Clinic lists iron, calcium, fibre, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate as nutrients especially lacking in gluten-free diets. Because quinoa is naturally gluten-free, this nutritionally dense grain is the perfect pick for gluten-free diets.2
  • There are several myths that washing processed and packaged quinoa can often ruin the taste and texture of this grain, but the reality is just opposite. While processing quinoa, several components are used to accentuate the taste and this can make the taste of quinoa slightly bitter and to enjoy it’s earthy flavours rinsing it off with water is a must.3

Nutritional Facts About Quinoa

  • One cup of cooked quinoa contains 21 percent of the recommended daily intake of fibre, which is great news for your gut. Quinoa is also more easily digestible than many other grains, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Quinoa’s good fibre content can aid in lowering cholesterol levels.2
  • Quinoa is a complete protein. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. Quinoa is unique among whole grains because it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein (something most plant-based proteins aren’t) and a particularly excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans who are not obtaining amino acids from meat.5
  • It has been found that quinoa contains large amounts of antioxidants known as flavonoids. Polyphenols, a specific type of flavonoid, may be able to help prevent certain diseases that may be chronic or shorten your life expectancy, such as cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.6 Quinoa also provides vitamin E. This is an antioxidant compound that may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and several eye disorders.1
  • Quinoa is a good source of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, folate and vitamins B1, B2 and B6.7, 8 All of these nutrients play a vital role in your health, which means that quinoa is one of the most nutritionally dense foods that you can eat.

Methods In Which Quinoa Can Be Cooked

  • Prepare as a breakfast cereal by cooking the quinoa in milk or water. Stir in diced fresh fruit, cinnamon, and a tablespoon of nuts.
  • Substitute quinoa in place of rice in stir-fries and sushi.
  • Add a half to one cup of cooked quinoa to salads or soups for crunchy texture.
  • Replace pasta with quinoa in pasta salad recipes.
  • Pop quinoa similarly to popcorn. Place a 6-inch deep pot over medium-high heat. When the pan is very hot, add enough quinoa to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Turn the heat to medium, then cover and shake the pot to ensure a more even temperature and less burnt seeds. Open the lid slightly a few times to allow steam to escape. Continue shaking the pan until popping slows or you smell burning. Pour the grains onto a baking sheet to cool. Season as desired.4
  • Quinoa can also be used to thicken up soups or stews.
  • Quinoa flour can be used in gluten-free baking.2

How It Tastes Like

The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal. It’s fluffy, creamy, crunchy and somewhat nutty, all rolled into one.

Difference Between White, Black, Red Quinoa

There are more than 120 known varieties of quinoa. White and yellow quinoa have the mildest flavor that will not overpower other ingredients in a recipe so they are good varieties to try first. They also have lighter texture and is fluffier than the other colors once cooked. White and yellow quinoa also cook quicker and is less crunchy than other colored varieties.  Red quinoa has heavier texture, more prominent flavor that is often described as “nutty”. While similar in texture to red quinoa, black quinoa has an “earthier” flavor and tends to taste sweeter than white quinoa. The heavy texture of red and black quinoa allows them to hold up very well when cooked. They both maintain their color once cooked. Typically, all quinoa colors have similar protein content. Black quinoa is highest in fibre with a one-cup serving having 5 grams of fibre.9


  1. Quinoa: Nutrition, health benefits, and dietary tips [Internet]. Medicalnewstoday.com. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274745
  2. Contributor J. Quinoa: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts [Internet]. livescience.com. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.livescience.com/50400-quinoa-nutrition-facts.html
  3. Interesting facts you didn’t know about quinoa – Times of India [Internet]. The Times of India. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food-news/interesting-facts-you-didnt-know-about-quinoa/articleshow/75481542.cms
  4. Quinoa [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/quinoa/
  5. 5 Facts About Quinoa Nutrition and Cooking Quinoa [Internet]. EatingWell. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: http://www.eatingwell.com/article/276056/5-facts-about-quinoa-nutrition-and-cooking-quinoa/
  6. 14 Quinoa Nutrition Facts You Probably Don’t Know [Internet]. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://simplyhealth.today/10-quinoa-nutrition-facts-you-probably-dont-know/
  7. Wilcox J. 7 Benefits Of Quinoa: The Supergrain Of The Future [Internet]. Forbes. 2012 [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/juliewilcox/2012/06/26/7-benefits-of-quinoa-the-supergrain-of-the-future/#1307df755a1b
  8. 11 Proven Health Benefits of Quinoa [Internet]. Healthline. 2018 [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3
  9. How do Red, Black and White Quinoa Compare with Quinta? – Quinta Quinoa [Internet]. Quinta Quinoa. [cited 27 September 2020]. Available from: https://quinta.ca/2016/07/14/how-do-red-black-and-white-quinoa-compare-with-quinta-quinoa/#:~:text=Red%20quinoa%20has%20a%20heavier,up%20very%20well%20when%20cooked.&text=Like%20red%20quinoa%2C%20the%20black,maintain%20their%20colour%20once%20cooked.