Quinoa 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Quinoa 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced “KWAH-wah”) is a small seed with a creamy white fleshy interior. It grows wild in Mexico, Central America, South America and other parts of the world. It’s native range includes most of North and South America, but it has been cultivated since ancient times in Peru where it was called teocinte or tepuisco. Today, it is grown commercially in many countries around the world.

The seeds are edible when they’re fresh and have a mild nutty flavor. They can be eaten raw or cooked into salads, soups and stews. Some recipes call for them to be added to cereal products like oatmeal or even used as flour substitute in baking.

It is one of the few legumes that do not require soaking before cooking. You can eat quinoa straight from the pod, or you can soak it first to make it easier to digest. If you choose to use the pods, then wash them well and store them in your refrigerator until ready to use.

How Much Protein Does Quinoa Contain?

Quinoa contains only trace amounts of protein, which means that eating too much will cause no problems for most people. However, it’s still a good idea to not overdo any food that has even a trace amount of protein in it.

How Much Fiber Does Quinoa Contain?

Quinoa contains a moderate amount of fiber, especially when compared to other grains and cereals. One cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8 grams of fiber, which is fairly impressive. It’s not quite as impressive when compared to other foods, but it’s still a very respectable amount.

What Are the Benefits of Quinoa?

There are many benefits to eating quinoa. It’s nutritious and contains many essential nutrients, such as magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron and manganese. In fact, it has more magnesium than any other whole grain. Magnesium helps to metabolize protein, aids in the absorption of calcium and is good for your nerve and muscle function.

One cup of cooked quinoa also contains about 4 grams of protein. This amount may not seem like a lot, but it’s still more than you’ll find in most other grains or cereals.

Quinoa is also gluten free, making it a more nutritious substitute for wheat based products. It’s also very easy to digest and even improves your digestive health when eaten on a regular basis.

How Many Calories are in Quinoa?

There are 130 calories in one cup of cooked quinoa. While this isn’t an overwhelming amount, it certainly isn’t a low calorie food either. It’s important to keep your total calorie intake into consideration when eating this healthy little seed.

How to Eat Quinoa

Quinoa comes in three basic varieties: white, red and black. The only difference between these three is the color of the germ and the flavor. They are all prepared in the same way.

You can eat quinoa on its own as a side dish, or you can make it the main starch in a meal. It’s a great substitute for rice or potatoes, or you can use it to make patties or croquettes like you would with ground beef.

Quinoa is most commonly eaten as a breakfast cereal mixed with your choice of milk, fruit and honey. It’s also used to make a type of beer in South America.

Quinoa keeps well if stored properly and can be used in recipes throughout the week. It’s great to keep in your pantry for when you need a last minute meal idea.

Quinoa Recipes

Here are some of the tastiest quinoa recipes to give you some ideas of what to do with this nutritious little seed.

Quinoa and Black Bean Patties

This recipe uses canned black beans, but you can certainly substitute dried black beans and prepare them from scratch if you prefer.


1 cup cooked quinoa

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Quinoa Pilaf with Shrimp and Zucchini

This is a great way to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.


1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1/2 lb small shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

This recipe uses a canned ingredient to save time. However, you can certainly substitute fresh ingredients if you prefer.


1 small to medium acorn squash

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup cooked quinoa

Quinoa with Garbanzo Beans and Vegetables

This is an easy dish that’s good for you too. It makes enough to serve four people as a main dish.


1 cup water

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

2 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp dried oregano leaves

4 medium green onions, chopped (reserve some green tops for garnish)

Quinoa and Vegetable Soup

This is a simple soup that makes use of leftover quinoa. Feel free to replace or substitute the vegetables listed here with your own favorites.


1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (1/2-inch)

3 14 1/2-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 medium zucchini, sliced (1-inch)

1 cup small cauliflower florets (about 1/2 head)

1 15-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup water

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Quinoa and Corn with Spicy Shrimp

This spicy shrimp dish is delicious served on a bed of white rice. It’s also great served on toasted bread as an openfaced sandwich. You can also leave out the shrimp and use chicken instead.

Sources & references used in this article:

Quinoa: Nutritional, functional, and antinutritional aspects by AMM Filho, MR Pirozi, JTDS Borges… – … science and nutrition, 2017 – Taylor & Francis

Processing technologies and health benefits of quinoa by MNS Srujana, BA Kumari, WJ Suneetha, P Prathyusha – 2019 – researchgate.net

Bioactivities of alternative protein sources and their potential health benefits by A Pihlanto, P Mattila, S Mäkinen, AM Pajari – Food & function, 2017 – pubs.rsc.org

The Quinoa Cookbook: Nutrition Facts, Cooking Tips, and 116 Superfood Recipes for a Healthy Diet by J Chatham – 2012 – books.google.com

Characterisation of fatty acid, carotenoid, tocopherol/tocotrienol compositions and antioxidant activities in seeds of three Chenopodium quinoa Willd. genotypes by Y Tang, X Li, PX Chen, B Zhang, M Hernandez… – Food chemistry, 2015 – Elsevier