Is Quinoa Good for You? Everything You Need to Know About the Superfood

by OneGoodFoodBlog
Is Quinoa Good for You? Everything You Need to Know About the Superfood

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. Forged in South America thousands of years ago and called “the mother grain” by the Inca, quinoa today is still considered a wonderful “superfood” — especially once the United Nations declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa.” (Yes, that happened). (1)

But when and why did quinoa become so popular? What is it that makes this low-carb rice substitute so invaluable in the world of nutrition despite all the years that have passed?

Its popularity today may have just been good timing. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal dubbed quinoa “the perfect collision of trends,” which Abbey Sharp, RD, a blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen, totally gets. (2) “I think quinoa saw its biggest spike in popularity in 2014. This was partially because it’s a naturally gluten-free grain, which became important with the gluten-free trend,” she says. And because of its protein base, “this helped coincide with the rise in the vegan trend.”

Quinoa has since maintained buzz as one of the most popular health-food trends, including low- and gluten-free diet plans. But now at the peak of its popularity, some of us are returning to ask, well, what in the heck is it?

We’re here to explain.

According to the Whole Grains Council, quinoa is a gluten-free, whole-grain carbohydrate, as well as a whole protein (meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids). (3) Most of this information is well known. But when it comes to whether quinoa is a whole grain or not, many people get confused. So, let’s clear this up.

Technically, the quinoa we all know and love is actually a seed from the Chenopodium quinoa plant. So no, it is not a grain. Whole grains (or cereal grains), like oats and barley, are defined as seeds extracted from grasses — not plants.

But the way we eat quinoa does resemble a whole grain. Because of this, the nutrition world considers it a whole grain. Or if you want to get real technical with it, quinoa is actually quantified as a “pseudo-cereal” — a term used to describe foods that are prepared and eaten as a whole grain, but are botanical outliers from grasses.

But the preferred colloquial term (though it may be slightly untrue) is whole grain.

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