Quinoa, a pseudograin (pseudocereal), can be eaten both cooked and uncooked. It originally comes from the Andes in South America, the home of the Incas, where it has been cultivated for 6,000 years. Quinoa thrives in this region at an elevation of up to 4,200 meters (13,800 feet). The leaves, which are rich in minerals, are also eaten there as vegetable dishes or salads. Quinoa is gluten-free and has more protein, magnesium, and iron than common grains. It also contains more essential amino acids, even more lysine.
From Wikipedia: “Quinoa (/ˈkiːnoʊ.ə/, from Quechua kinwa or kinuwa) is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.”
Nutritional information per 100 g of uncooked quinoa:
“Energy 1434 kJ (343 kcal), water 12.7 g, protein 13.8 g, fat 5.0 g, carbohydrates 58.5 g, (of which fiber 6.6 g), minerals 3.3 g
Minerals: potassium 805 mg, phosphorous 330 mg, magnesium 275 mg, calcium 80 mg, sodium 10 mg, iron 8 mg, zinc 2.5 mg
Vitamins: vitamin B1 170 µg, nicotinamide 450 µg*”
“Nutritional evaluations indicate that raw (uncooked) quinoa is a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, several B vitamins and dietary minerals, nutrients whose contents are substantially reduced by cooking. Analysis shows its protein is relatively high in essential amino acids.”
“However, quinoa doesnʼt contain any vitamin A or C in its seeds, and over 50% of the fatty acids are unsaturated.*”
“It is a pseudocereal, similar in some respects to buckwheat, rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. As a member of the Amaranthaceae family, it is related to and resembles amaranth, which is also a pseudocereal. After harvest, the seeds must be processed to remove the coating containing the bitter-tasting saponins. The seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. The leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but commercial availability of quinoa greens is limited.”
“In their natural state, the seeds have a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making them unpalatable. Most of the grain sold commercially has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as it is unpopular with birds and therefore requires minimal protection. ...
The toxicity category rating of quinoa saponins treats them as mild eye and respiratory irritants and as a low gastrointestinal irritant. The saponin is a toxic glycoside, a main contributor to its hemolytic effects when combined directly with blood cells. In South America, quinoa saponin has many uses, including as a detergent for clothing and washing and as an antiseptic for skin injuries.”
“The grain has become increasingly popular in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China and Japan where it is not typically grown, increasing crop value. Between 2006 and early 2013 quinoa crop prices tripled. ... The higher prices make it harder for people to purchase, but also brings a livable income for farmers and enables many urban refugees to return to working the land.”
“In 1993, a NASA report made quinoa famous as the ʽnewʼ grain and declared that thanks to its high protein levels and unique amino acid structure, it was especially suited for use in Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (e.g., space stations and colonies.*”
“The Incas used quinoa as a remedy for sore throats. It is a suitable whole grain replacement for people who suffer from celiac disease (gluten intolerance). Given these attributes, it is also a good choice for people with allergies and is popular in both vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Quinoa is used to produce gluten-free beer.*”
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry