Breaking Down Quinoa Part I – What nutrients make it so super?

We’ve all heard it by now – the United Nations has declared 2013 ‘The International Year of the Quinoa”. Undoubtedly, the word ‘quinoa’ (pronounced ‘keen’-‘wa’) has popped up more and more over the last couple of years, as a high nutritional quality, gluten-freepseudo-cereal grain alternative. Quinoa’s quick rise in popularity is evident through a number of new food products that incorporate the ingredient, as well as the consumer sales of quinoa that continue to increase at an astonishingly fast rate. Quinoa’s unique ability to deliver a complete plant protein profile, as well as a high abundance of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients, earns it the title of ‘Superfood’.

What’s a superfood you ask? By definition, it’s a food/plant high in a number of nutrients, considered to be very beneficial for your health. Often this can tie in with functional foods – considered to benefit your health beyond that of basic nutrition, possibly for treatment of health conditions, benefit to disease states, etc.

So what nutrients in quinoa give it its superfood status? We’re working on a series of blogs to premiere over the next several months that break down the key nutrients in quinoa, and more importantly, how these nutrients act to benefit YOU!

Let’s start with some of the micro-nutrients in quinoa… Zinc first.

Zinc is an essential mineral that is found naturally in some foods, but is also added to foods, and available as a supplement (like most nutrients). Zinc’s main function in the body is cellular metabolism. This includes, but is not limited to, immune function, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division.  Particularly necessary during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence, zinc works to support normal growth and development.

Here’s something that’s not so commonly known… zinc is required for two of our five senses: taste and smell!

So how much zinc do we need a day? It depends greatly on your age and health status, and can be anywhere between 2-12mg. The best way to find out how much zinc you need is to consult a Recommended Dietary Allowance table, or talk to your local health care provider.

Now back to quinoa…

Imported quinoa, mainly from Peru and Bolivia, on average contains 20-30 ug/g of zinc (See graph below). At Katan Kitchens, we’ve been growing and researching quinoa in Ontario for the past four years, and through preliminary nutrient analysis of our crop, have discovered quinoa grown in Ontario has a noticeably higher nutrient profile than quinoa grown in South America.  Zinc, for instance, is up to four times higher (130 ug/g) in our Quinta Quinoa grown in Northern Ontario.

We are very excited and pleased to see how Quinta Quinoa grown in Ontario is even more super with respect to zinc content. We believe it’s a combination of our climate and the amazing nutrient-rich Ontario soils, as well as the unique, non-GMO, natural-breeded variety of quinoa seed we are growing.

What other nutrients does Quinta Quinoa set the bar for? Stay tuned for upcoming blogs featuring other super nutrients! Next up… Iron!