Quinoa : source of good nutrition

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Wild) is still an underutilized crop, given its nutritional superiority over traditional crops and its wide adaptability to diverse agronomic conditions.

Quinoa : source of good nutrition

The subcontinent like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Seri Lanka and Bangladesh covering the large land area and withstands 20% of the world’ population.These area losses their natural resources due to severe cultivation leading to declining soil fertility, deterioration in the quality of irrigation water, changes in water table depth, and rising salinity in the region. Much of the population has little access to a protein-rich diet, since wheat and rice are the principal food grains grown and consumed in the area.

The growing population necessitates increased food production combined with a shift towards environmentally sound sustainable agriculture. It is therefore important to select crops requiring less inputs while able to respond to the nutritional deficiency prevalent in the region.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Wild) is still an underutilized crop, given its nutritional superiority over traditional crops and its wide adaptability to diverse agronomic conditions, and its commercial potential in South Asia has remained untapped. Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal native to the harsh climate of Andean Mountain.

Quinoa has a superior nutritional profile as compared to common cereal. Quinoa to consider it a food for future food security. Its grain has higher protein and minerals than other cereals like wheat, rice and maize. Quinoa has heart healthy fats like monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) and small amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid.

It also acts as a natural appetite suppressant because it is effective in controlling appetite and helps to consume less food throughout the day. Therefore, it recommended due to its high protein and low calories profile and it is good for Hypertension, Diabetics, and blood pressure patients.   

Seed plant of Chenopodium quinoa is an annual broad-leaved plant, 1-2 m tall with deep penetrating roots which can be cultivated from sea level up to an altitude of 3800 m. It is a grain with intrinsic outstanding characteristics. Aspects like exceptional nutritional quality, genetic variability, adaptability to adverse climate and soil conditions, and low production cost constitutes quinoa as a strategic crop with potential contributor to food security and sovereignty.

Quinoa adapts to desert, hot and dry climates. This crop can grow with relative humidity from 40% to 88%, and survive with temperatures from -4 °C to 38 °C. It is resistant to low soil moisture, and can produce acceptable yields even with precipitations from 100 to 200 mm.

Due to its ability to adapt to adverse climate and soil conditions where other crops are unable to grow, harvest can be obtained at altitudes from sea level to 4000 m. The cultivation of quinoa provides an alternative for countries with limited food production. The history of its human consumption reaches back 5000 years.

Today everyone knows that it is one of the oldest crop plants, included in the group of the so-called ‘pseudo cereals’. Seeds of this species are distinguished by high nutritive value because of its very good chemical composition, high proportion of vitamins, microelements, fat, including essential unsaturated fatty acids (EFA), mainly linoleic and linolenic acids.

However, the greatest advantage of this plant is the content and quality of protein. Quinoa seed have a high protein content (about 15%), and its essential amino acid balance is excellent, because of a wider amino acid spectrum than cereals and legumes with higher lysine (5.1–6.4%) and methionine (0.4–1.0%) contents.

Quinoa contains lysine, methionine and cysteine higher than common cereals and legumes making it complementary to these crops. Quinoa’s protein quantity ranged from 10.4% to 17.0% depending on its variety.

Nutritional Values:

Quinoa is considered a healthy food because it is a good source of many nutrients. In addition, quinoa is a good source of quality protein, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fats and minerals. While quinoa is a nutritious food, it is important to consume it as a part of a balanced diet to obtain good overall nutrition.


Compared to other plant foods, quinoa is generally higher in protein than most grains, but lower in protein than most legumes. Quinoa’s protein quantity depends on the variety, with a protein range of 10.4 to 17.0 percent of its edible portion3.

While generally higher in protein quantity than most grains, quinoa is known for its protein quality 4. Protein is made up of amino acids, of which eight are considered essential for both children and adults. Quinoa exceeds the recommendation for all eight essential amino acids.

Dietary Fiber:

Quinoa is a rich source of dietary fiber which is the indigestible portion of plant foods and improves digestion and prevents constipation. Quinoa’s dietary fiber value is generally higher than that of most grains, but lower than that of legumes.

A recent study of four quinoa varieties found the dietary fiber in raw quinoa to range from about 13.6 to 16.0 grams per 100 grams dry weight 5. Most of the dietary fiber was insoluble, with a range of 12.0 to 14.4 grams compared to 1.4 to 1.6 grams of soluble fiber per 100 grams dry weight.


In quinoa contains more fat (6.3 g) per 100 grams dry weight than maize (4.7 g), rice (2.2 g) and wheat (2.3 g). Fat is an important source of calories, and aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Of quinoa’s total fat content, over 50 percent comes from essential polyunsaturated fatty acids linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) acid2.

These acids are considered essential fatty acids because the body cannot produce them. Quinoa’s fatty acids have been shown to maintain their quality because of quinoa’s naturally high value of vitamin E, which acts as a natural antioxidant6.


On average quinoa is a better source of minerals than most grains. Quinoa is especially a good source of iron, magnesium and zinc when compared to the daily mineral recommendations. A lack of iron is one of the most common nutrition deficiencies. However, quinoa, like all plant foods, does contain certain non nutritive components that can reduce its mineral content and absorption.

Most notable are its saponins, which are found on the outer layer of the quinoa seed and are usually removed during processing to remove their bitter taste. Quinoa is also high in the compound oxalate, which can bind to minerals such as calcium and magnesium, reducing their absorption in the body.


Quinoa is a good source of B vitamins riboflavin and folic acid compared to other grains. It contains similar amounts of thiamine to other grains but on average is lower in niacin as shown in Table 3. It also contains significant amounts of vitamin E, though the quantity seems to decline after processing and cooking. In general, quinoa’s vitamin content is not affected by removing its saponins as the vitamins are not found in the pericarp of the quinoa seed.

BY : Salman Haidar Abbasi and Muhammad Nazim.

Department of Agronomy, Muhammad Nawaz Shreef University of Agriculture Multan.

By Muhammad Nazim

M.Sc.(Hons.) Crop Physiology, Department of Agronomy, MNS-University of Agriculture, Multan, Pakistan.