7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Quinoa

Sure, it’s been labeled a “superfood”, but like any beloved superhero, they have a compelling backstory.

Quinoa – good for you; hard to pronounce. That’s about all we knew about this very in “grain” before looking to uncover more. Sure, it’s been labeled a “superfood”, but like any beloved superhero, they have a compelling backstory.

Here are seven more things you probably didn’t know about quinoa.

1. Quinoa Is Not A Grain, But A Seed


Come to think of it, it does look like the stuff I put in my bird feeder. Photo: Alpha / Flickr

While it’s easy to think of quinoa as a grain, what you are eating is a seed, which may help explain why it’s so nutritionally dense. As part of the goosefoot family, quinoa is actually a cousin to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

2. It’s One Of The Rare Plants That’s A Complete Protein


A weird looking plant, but packed with protein nonetheless. Photo: Christian Guthier / Flickr

For vegans looking to get that extra protein boost look no further than quinoa. There are nine amino acids the human body can’t produce and, therefore, must be obtained from food. While meat and eggs have them, most vegetables don’t. But quinoa, along with others like soy, chia seeds, and buckwheat have the full lot.

3. It Can Take The Heat And The Cold


Quinoa plants: working hard or hardly working? Photo: RVCTA Imágenes / Flickr

80% of the world’s quinoa grows in South America, specifically in the areas of Peru and Bolivia. Thankfully, quinoa is a highly adaptable crop that can be grown anywhere from sea level to an altitude of 4,000 meters (12,000 feet), and can withstand temperatures from minus eight to 38-degrees Celsius (17.6 - 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

4. Help Your Hair With A Heaping Of Quinoa


LOLZ. Photo: @kendall_is_green / Instagram

When you consume quinoa, you’re ‘cleaning’ hair follicles with vegetable protein. It’s nine amino acids protect hair shafts, strengthening and even repairing damaged hair. These ancient grains…err…seeds also help reduce dry scalp and dandruff. Thanks to those proteins, split ends are treated and balanced by natural oil production.

5. Quinoa’s Coating Is A Natural Bird And Pest Repellent


That is if you’re trying to repel birds. Photo: @soerinelillemor / Instagram

We rinse quinoa in cold water to remove its natural, waxy coating called saponin, which can make it taste bitter. This outer layer acts as a natural pest and bird deterrent.

Once decoated, cook as you would rice. Be wary of purchasing products made of quinoa flour, though. They are typically refined and do not possess the same health benefits of consuming whole grain, err, seed. We’ll never get used to this.

6. Other Countries Drink Their Quinoa


When is this going to start trending up north? Photo: David Berkowitz / Flickr

Chicha is a beverage commonly consumed in Central and South America. Typically made of corn, quinoa can also get used. Served to visitors and during social gatherings, its taste varies depending on which country you’re in, and whether it’s been fermented (akin to beer) or not. We say don’t question it, and drink up. Cheers!

7. NASA Has Served Quinoa For Long-Duration Manned Spaceflights


NASA tested, astronaut-approved. Photo: Paul Hudson / Flickr

With zero cholesterol and the most nutrients per 100 calories, this super gluten-free seed is a preferred food at Cape Canaveral. The World Health Organization even equates its protein levels to that found in milk. It not only does a body good but quinoa nourishes astronauts to infinity and beyond!