Quinoa - A Balanced Protein Source

~ January 2009 No.221 ~

Most of us eat the more traditional protein sources - meat, eggs and the common grains, but you may want to consider some interesting alternatives. Protein is an essential part of the diet as it provides amino acids that are the building blocks of protein in the body. Some amino acids we can produce in our bodies. Others have to come from the diet we eat - these are called essential amino acids. A diet which contains a variety of proteins sources is ideal because a single protein source usually does not have all essential amino acids that we need. When a protein contains one of the essential amino acids at a lower level than we need, that amino acid is said to be limiting in that protein source. The amino acid lysine is the limiting essential amino acid in corn, wheat and rice; legumes are limiting in tryptophan.

quinoa seeds

Quinoa, a plant native to South America and that has been consumed since long before the Europeans arrived, is attracting a lot of attention because of its high total protein level (12-18%) and its good balance of amino acids. Quinoa is not a true grain (although it is often referred to as a grain), but is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. Quinoa seeds range in color from ivory to pinks, brown to reds, or almost black depending on the variety. There are over 120 species of Chenopodium, but only three main varieties are cultivated

Quinoa is popular with vegans who are looking for good sources of protein. Besides its favourable amino acid pattern, it is also good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice - boiling and adding spices or other flavourings.

A diet that contains a variety of foods is recommended by nutrition counsellors to have balance and an adequate supply of all essential nutrients. Quinoa may be a protein source worth considering.

 

Amino Acids and protein in Quinoa
Essential
Amino Acid
Quinoa
mg/g protein
Methionine + cystine21
Lysine51
Tryptophan8
Valine45
Threonine30
Phenylalanine + tyrosine74
Histadine25
Isoleucine37
Leucine64

 

  1. Reference
    • Ruales & Nair, Nutritional quality of the protein in quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Wild) seeds. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 42: 1-11, 1992.

 

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Last modified

August 08 2016