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Is There Protein in Quinoa?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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The protein in quinoa is fairly significant, at about 8 grams per cooked cup (185 g) of this popular seed. Food writers note that one of the reasons quinoa has become some popular is because it is a complete protein, which makes it very suitable for vegetarian diets. There are other benefits to this food, including good levels of fiber and iron. On the other hand, a quinoa-only diet is inadequate to meet nutritional needs.

The 8 grams of protein in a 1 cup serving of quinoa is a fairly significant amount, and represents about 12.5% to 16.7% of the body’s daily protein needs. This figure varies because requirements for protein are calculated by assessing weight, age, and gender. A larger serving could provide additional protein amounts, if people desired. It's important to note, though, that as grain-type foods go, quinoa is pretty high in calories at 222 per cup.

What makes this seed so special to nutritionists is that it provides a complete protein. This means it contains all nine of the amino acids needed by humans. These include lysine, valine, leucine, and tryptophan, among others. Most non-animal product foods, aside from tofu, are incomplete proteins. They only possess a few of the nine amino acids and must be eaten with other foods. For example, combining beans and rice creates a complete protein, not provided by either food alone.

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There are other reasons besides the protein in quinoa to consider adding this food to a diet. It has plenty of fiber, and the cup serving represents about 21% of a day’s fiber requirement. Additionally, the food is decent source of iron, at 15% of the daily recommended amount, and it also provides manganese and magnesium.

Although the protein in quinoa is definitely in its favor, there are some disadvantages to the seed. First, it can taste bitter, and it needs to be carefully washed to remove the coating that creates that taste. Some people simply don’t care for it, however prepared or disguised.

Fortunately, vegans often have an alternative to quinoa in tofu. It is also a complete protein and may be used in a greater number of recipes. Depending on the protein in quinoa alone is not advised because 6 to 8 cups a day would need to be eaten to fulfill daily requirements.

When new foods are discovered and introduced, they’re often used excessively. Quinoa is undoubtedly a good food with many uses and it has a decent serving of a complete protein. Nutritionists advise people to include it in their diet, if they enjoy it, along with many other varied, well-balanced, and healthy foods.

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