Thursday, October 10, 2013

Is Quinoa Really Packed with Protein?

Quinoa (Photo by: Pom2, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

You can’t read a health blog or website without somebody mentioning quinoa. What is quinoa? Technically, it’s a seed, but it’s often used as a grain. It’s often touted as a “superfood” or a “supergrain,” primarily due to the fact that it contains complete protein (all nine essential amino acids in good proportion), unlike other grains, which are usually short on one or more essential amino acids. In fact, it’s even frequently described as being “packed with protein.”  It’s also high in fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, and some B vitamins. 

Because of all of this, I picked up a bag of quinoa the last time I visited the health food store. When I got home and read the label, I was annoyed to see that one serving had 170 calories, and only 6 grams of protein! I did the math, and that worked out to just 14% protein.

Quinoa may be a good source of many nutrients and have complete protein, but “packed” with protein? Not really. I know many will disagree with me on that, but I don’t consider 14% to be “packed.” Whole oat groats have much more protein, with 8 grams in a 130-calorie serving, which works out to about 24.6%. Even broccoli is more “protein packed” than quinoa, with about 4 grams in a 50-calorie serving, or 32%. Yes, I know that the protein in oats and broccoli isn't “complete,” however, it’s now known that you don’t need to eat a complete or complementary protein with each meal. As long as you get your protein from a variety of sources throughout the day, your body will combine them.

That being said, quinoa can still be a beneficial addition to your diet. That is, if you enjoy the taste. Let’s just say that I was less than impressed the first time I tried it. It tasted more than a bit vegetable-like to me, and as I said in a previous post, I’m not a fan ofvegetables. I found a recipe for quinoa and cheese, and I can tolerate that. I’ll finish up the bag I bought and I’ll continue to search for recipes to make it more palatable, but whether I buy it again remains to be seen.

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