Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

The truth about quinoa and protein

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This was originally posted in August of this year…

I was just leafing through the latest issue of Chatelaine magazine for blogspiration when I came across the food section and a heading “Superfood Salad”. If there’s anything that sets me off, okay if you’ve been reading my blog you know lots of this do but the term “superfood” is definitely going to do it for me. What’s the “superfood” up for discussion today? Quinoa. Now, I love quinoa, but it’s not the amazing source of protein that many advocates would have you believe. To Chatelaine’s credit, it didn’t give any misinformation. They said, “Quinoa is a high-fibre, gluten-free seed. It’s a source of complete protein as well as iron,  calcium and potassium.”

I think much of the misconception around quinoa stems from the fact that being a complete source of protein misleads people into believing that it’s a good source of protein. These statements are not synonymous. A complete source of protein contains all of the essential amino acids. A good source of protein is a lot more complicated to discern. According to food labelling regulations it’s the FO-1 Determination of Protein Rating. I have no idea how to figure out what this would be for quinoa, or anything else for that matter, so let’s just do a little comparison. Protein in a serving of quinoa is comparable to that of other grains: quinoa 3.22 g, brown rice 2.66 g, whole wheat bread 4.53 g, whole grain oats 3.38 g. Comparing a few complete sources of protein: eggs 11.8 g, chicken breast 13.72 g, skim milk 8.72 g, Atlantic salmon 19.08 g. At best, quinoa contains less than half the protein of these other complete sources of protein.

My point is not that you should stop eating quinoa. Quinoa is great, keep right on eating. My point is that the message about quinoa and protein has been distorted and you should not count on quinoa to provide you with a huge contribution to your daily protein intake.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

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