Quinoa is a flowering plant in the amaranth family, is not a grass, but rather a pseudocereal botanically related to spinach and amaranth. Quinoa has a unique amino acid, carbohydrate, lipid, and micronutrient profile, with nutrient levels often surpassing those in cereal products.
The protein quantity and quality of quinoa are generally superior to those of cereal grains while offering gluten-free property and high digestibility. Quinoa has a higher total protein content (12.9% to 16.5%) than barley (10.8% to 11.0%), oat (11.6%), rice (7.5% to 9.1%), and maize (10.2% to 13.4%), and a total protein content equal to that of wheat (14.3% to 15.4%).
Quinoa contains 10% total dietary fiber. Fiber is the carbohydrate fraction that is resistant to enzymatic digestion and absorption.
The oil content in quinoa ranges from 2% to 10% (average 5% to 7%). The quinoa seed oil contains 89.4% unsaturated fatty acids and 54.2% to 58.3% polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is generally more favorable than that of other plant oils.
Quinoa seeds are a rich source of vitamins, which are required in the human diet to act in metabolism, regulate cell growth and development, protect against oxidative damage, improve vision, and play beneficial roles in various other physiological processes.
Quinoa has a higher total mineral content (3.4%) than rice (0.5%), wheat (1.8%), and other cereals.