Quinoa is a type of pseudocereal that people use in cooking and baking. It is free from gluten, and individuals can use it as a substitute for grains such as wheat and barley.

A person may need to avoid adding gluten to their diet due to certain health conditions. Quinoa is a gluten-free alternative to cereals containing gluten.

Read on to learn more about quinoa, its nutritional value, how to eat it, and other gluten-free grains.

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Quinoa is a form of pseudocereal. Cereals, such as maize and rice, are grains that food producers make from different grasses. A pseudocereal is a starchy seed or fruit that people use in the same way as a cereal.

Quinoa can come in various colors, such as:

  • pink
  • yellow
  • black
  • white
  • red

There are many varieties of quinoa available. Information from 2016 notes that there are 250 varieties of the grain.

Quinoa is native to the Andean region of South America. While people usually eat the seeds of the quinoa plant, its leaves are also edible.

People sometimes refer to quinoa as a superfood. This is because it contains many nutrients and may have various health benefits.

Learn more about superfoods here.

Quinoa is free from gluten.

Gluten is a group of proteins in certain cereal grains. Gliadin and glutenin are the two main forms of gluten in food.

Gluten acts like glue inside food, helping it maintain its shape. When people use it with water, it has sticky, stretchy properties. This helps give bread dough elasticity, allowing it to rise during baking.

Common foods that typically contain gluten include:

  • pasta
  • noodles
  • crackers
  • bread
  • breakfast cereals
  • soy sauce
  • some types of gravy
  • beer

Health conditions related to gluten

People who have gluten-related health conditions can experience symptoms if they eat it. Therefore, they should avoid gluten and seek alternatives.

Research from 2016 found that in the United States:

  • up to 1% of people have a wheat allergy
  • up to 1% of individuals have celiac disease, a condition where eating gluten causes a person’s immune system to attack their tissues
  • at least 6% of people have nonceliac gluten sensitivity

Those with sensitivities to gluten may experience the following symptoms if they eat gluten:

A person who cannot eat gluten should be careful when purchasing quinoa products. Quinoa harvests often occur alongside fields that contain grains, such as wheat or rye, which can contaminate the quinoa. Therefore, a person should be careful to only buy quinoa products with a gluten-free label.

Quinoa contains a variety of nutrients.

Information from 2016 found that quinoa contains around:

  • 14.1% protein
  • 6% fat
  • 64.2% carbohydrate
  • 7% dietary fiber

Quinoa contains more protein, fat, and fiber than regular grains.

The body uses protein to maintain and create tissues, and quinoa is a complete protein. This means it contains the nine essential amino acids the body cannot produce itself. Amino acids are a type of molecule that combines to create proteins.

Quinoa also has a larger amount of antioxidants than other gluten-free grains. Antioxidants are compounds that may help slow down or prevent certain kinds of cell damage.

The majority of fats in quinoa are unsaturated fats, which can have a positive effect on:

However, unsaturated fats are still a type of fat. Therefore, a person should ensure they eat them as part of a balanced diet.

Additionally, quinoa contains a number of vitamins and minerals, such as:

Learn more about eating a balanced diet here.

There are many ways a person can eat quinoa. It is a versatile food that can feature in sweet or savory dishes.

People should rinse quinoa in a fine mesh wire strainer for 1 minute before cooking it. They should then bring it to a boil, cover it, and leave it to simmer for around 15 minutes.

After cooking, a person can eat quinoa in many ways, including:

  • using it to replace foods such as rice or pasta
  • blending it into smoothies
  • adding it to salads
  • using quinoa flakes as a replacement for oatmeal or muesli
  • using quinoa flour in baking instead of wheat flour
  • cooking with quinoa oil or drizzling it on salads
  • adding it to soups
  • using it in wraps

Quinoa leaves are also edible. Research from 2019 found that quinoa leaves contain higher amounts of protein and amino acids than amaranth and spinach. Additionally, they are lower in carbohydrates than both these leaves.

A person may want to try eating quinoa leaves in salads, soups, or sandwiches.

Learn more about quinoa here.

In addition to quinoa, there are various other gluten-free grains available. These include:

A person can use these grains as gluten-free alternatives to grains such as spelt and barley. Those who have a health condition that gluten triggers may wish to try these options.

Learn more about a gluten-free diet here.

Quinoa is a gluten-free pseudocereal. It is native to the Andean region of South America and comes in many colors and varieties.

Quinoa is a highly nutritious, gluten-free alternative to grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Foods, such as bread and pasta, that consist of quinoa are safe to consume by people with gluten sensitivities.

However, a person should ensure that any food products they buy have a gluten-free label. People can include quinoa in both sweet and savory dishes. A person can try swapping foods, such as pasta and oatmeal, for quinoa alternatives.

If a person experiences adverse symptoms when eating food containing gluten, they should speak with a doctor.