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Pseudocereals: A Novel Path towards Healthy Eating

Written By

Upasana and Latika Yadav

Submitted: January 30th, 2022Reviewed: February 14th, 2022Published: April 17th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.103708

PseudocerealsEdited by Viduranga Y. Waisundara

From the Edited Volume

Pseudocereals [Working Title]

Dr. Viduranga Y. Waisundara

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Nowadays, interest in research about pseudocereals has increased worldwide. Pseudocereals can be defined as seeds or fruits of non-grass species that can be consumed similarly to cereals. The most extensively used pseudocereals include quinoa, chia, buckwheat, amaranth, and so on. All of them, have good nutritional and bioactive compounds such as essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, phenolic acids, flavonoids, minerals, and vitamins. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has also reported that there is a buddle of plants that are under-utilized that significantly contribute to improving nutrition and health as well as enhancing food basket and livelihoods of the individual; contributing to future food security and sustainability. Earlier studies also reported that pseudocereals protein-derived peptides have anti-cancerous, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, and antioxidant properties. The presence of these interesting properties in pseudocereals enhances the interest to carry out extensive research regarding their health benefits and the way to incorporate them into the diet. In this chapter, we portray different types of pseudocereals with their nutritional benefits for living a healthy and active life.


  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • chia
  • quinoa
  • pseudocereals

1. Introduction

Food grains play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Every food has distinctiveness in its composition with a wide variety of macro and micronutrients in a different composition. Food grains that are rich sources of carbohydrates (rice, wheat, maize, etc.), protein (pulses, legumes, etc.), fats (groundnut, oilseeds), or minerals (pearl millet, etc.), while some are nutrient-dense and have optimum combinations of nutrients with good digestibility (most of the minor millets, quinoa, etc.) [1]. These nutrient-dense food grains are an adequate mix of nutrients with good bioavailability. On the other hand, pseudocereals are considered as “sub-exploited foods” or “under-utilized foods” defined as food groups that comprise non-grasses plant species not belonging to the cereals family but with similar properties and uses [1].

Currently, interest is arising regarding the use of an alternative source of cereals that can be pertinent to multiple reasons. All over the world, there is a bang regarding gathering knowledge about healthy eating options and incorporating it into the diet. Several trending terms are floating on the internet, magazines, books like healthy, wholesome, natural, or minimally processed and within cereals; for example, wholegrain, gluten-free, rich in dietary fiber or resistant starch, low carb, or digestibility have arisen and so on [2]. In the above context, pseudocereals fit properly as well as acknowledged for their several health benefits. Elevated consumption of pseudocereals for human consumption leads the food producers to develop novel and convenient food products which require not only know-how about the chemical composition of these raw materials, but also fundamental information about their physical and functional properties for processing [2].

Since agriculture is considered a cornerstone of the nation and therefore utilizing a handful of crops has placed global food security at risk [3]. Presently, the agro-industry is facing a crisis to assure adequate food supply to the 7 billion population of the world by maintaining high productivity and quality standards [3]. To confront this problem, a multidisciplinary approach is required to strengthen the food basket as well as make access to nutritious foods through nutritional supplements, enrichment, biofortification, and so on which act as a backbone of food security. The mentioned facts infuriate the researchers and scientists to explore and disseminate the knowledge regarding sub-exploited foods. These grains are rich in high-quality proteins, starch, minerals, vitamins, bioactive compounds, and nutraceuticals. This composition elaborates the potential of pseudocereals to replace or supplement conventionally utilized cereals. Since the content of gluten is also either very low or gluten-free; it can be incorporated in celiac diseases as well as also various health benefits [4]. This chapter is designed to portray the different variety of pseudocereals with their health benefits that ultimately pave the path towards healthy living which is well depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Health benefits of pseudocereals. The figure was modified from the following research paper by Thakur et al. [5]. The images used in drawing the figure were extracted from the following links as described below: 1. Amaranth:, 2. Buckwheat:, 3. Chia:, 4. Quinoa:


2. Types of pseudocereals

In the human diet, pseudocereals play a remarkable role to meet the necessities of the population suffering from coeliac diseases as well as other health consequences due to their wide range of nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals. Here, in this chapter mainly four types of pseudocereals are discussed namely amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, and quinoa. These pseudocereals are discussed below:

2.1 Amaranth

Amaranth is known as one of the New World’s oldest crops, originated in Mesoamerica [6]. It is a dicotyledonous pseudocereal that belongs to the family of Amaranthaceae. The word Amaranthus is derived from the Greek word “anthos” (flower) which means everlasting or unwilting. Presently, it is widely cultivated and consumed throughout India, Nepal, Southern, and Eastern Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central America, and Mexico [6]. The common species of Amaranthus grown for alleviating the dietary beneficiaries for human consumption includes Amaranthus hypochondriacus, Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus, and so on.

It is considered a superfood because of its high nutraceutical properties like the high quality of proteins with multiple essential amino acids, a good source of unsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, squalene, tocopherols, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, phytates, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers [7] which is well represented from Tables 13.

Water (g)11.35.813.3
Ash (g)2.884.82.38
Energy (kcal)371333486368
Protein (g)13.613.316.514.1
Carbohydrate by difference (g)
Total lipid/fat (g)7.022.2230.76.07
Fiber, total dietary (g)
Fatty acids, total saturated (g)1.4603.330.706
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated (g)1.682.311.61
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated (g)2.7823.73.29

Table 1.

Macronutrient’s content of amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, and quinoa [8, 9, 10, 11].

Calcium, Ca (mg)1596763147
Iron, Fe (mg)7.6127.724.57
Magnesium, Mg (mg)248335197
Phosphorus, P (mg)557860457
Potassium, K (mg)508311407563
Sodium, Na (mg)40165
Zinc, Zn (mg)2.874.583.1
Copper, Cu (mg)0.5250.9240.59
Manganese, Mn (mg)3.332.722.03
Selenium, Se (μg)18.755.28.5

Table 2.

Mineral’s content of amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, and quinoa [8, 9, 10, 11].

Vitamin A (IU)05414
Vitamin B1, Thiamine (mg)0.1160.620.36
Vitamin B2, Riboflavin (mg)
Vitamin B3, Niacin (mg)0.9238.831.52
Vitamin B5, Pantothenic acid (mg)1.460.772
Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine (mg)0.5910.487
Folate, total (μg)8249184
Vitamin B12 (μg)000
Vitamin C (mg)4.21.6
Vitamin D (IU)000
Vitamin E (mg)
Vitamin K (μg)01.1

Table 3.

Vitamin’s content of amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, and quinoa [8, 9, 10, 11].

2.1.1 Health benefits of Amaranth Rich source of protein

The grains of amaranth have higher sources of protein especially have a higher content of lysine and tryptophan which is limiting in the conventional cereals like wheat, rice, and maize whereas, it is deficient in leucine. Earlier studies are also stated that the protein content of the amaranth is also relatively rich in sulfur-containing amino acids, which are generally limited in the pulses [12]. Since, it is well known that protein is required for every cell for growth and maintenance of the body, for supporting neurological functions, aids in digestion balances hormones naturally as well as maintaining the immune system [6]. Reduces inflammation

It is well known that inflammation is a normal process of immune response designed to protect the body against infection and injury. If the inflammation process exists in the body; this may be contributed to or be associated with diabetes, cancer, or any other autoimmune diseases [6]. It was also elaborated in earlier studies that consumption of amaranth reduces the inflammation caused by diseases. This is so because extruded amaranth protein hydrolysates prevent inflammation by the activation of bioactive peptides that reduces the expression of several pro-inflammatory markers [6, 13]. Health of the bone

Calcium is the main driver in maintaining healthy bones in the human body. As the composition suggests, amaranth contains more calcium than any other seeds making them helpful for preventing osteoporosis and many other diseases related to bone health. Therefore, it was stated earlier in the studies that the intake of extruded amaranth products helps individuals in improving and maintaining the optimum calcium requirement for healthy bone density [6]. Cholesterol-lowering effect

Previous studies reported that amaranth’s oil helps the individual in reducing total and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol) as well as increases the HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in a tested animal model [6, 14]. Also, it was reported that amaranth affects the absorption of cholesterol and bile acid production, hepatic cholesterol content, distribution of cholesterol lipoprotein, and biosynthesis cholesterol [6, 15]. Fights against duodenal peptic ulcers

It was revealed from the earlier studies that the duodenal peptic ulcer and chronic gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori can be cured with Amaranth oil [7, 16]. Fights against diabetes

The incorporation of amaranth helps diabetic patients in regulating the blood glucose level due to its higher content of manganese that helps in the pathway of gluconeogenesis. Besides the above, manganese also helps in maintaining the immune system of the individual, level of cholesterol, skin and bone health as well as the renal function of the individual [7]. Gluten-free

Amaranth can be considered as an excellent source of gluten-free protein required for patients of coeliac disease as well as for those who want to incorporate a gluten-free diet into their lifestyle. Helps pregnant women

Since folic acid is suggested to pregnant women to be incorporated in their diet to prevent the birth defects like spina bifida and heart diseases. As the content of amaranth suggests the folic content is 88.0 mcg which is beneficial for the generation of new cells; therefore, helps pregnant women in decreasing the incidence of organism defects [7]. Prevents constipation

It is well reported that amaranth is a good source of soluble dietary fibers. As we know dietary fibers aid bowel movements helping the individual in preventing constipation. Antioxidant property

Antioxidants are known as “scavengers of free radicals”. These components help in inhibiting oxidation lower the risk of infections, maintain heart health, and prevent several forms of cancers and degenerative diseases. In amaranth, the antioxidant potential is attributed to the presence of phenolics and flavonoids. It was reported that Amaranthus flowers, leaves as well as extracts possess the highest antioxidant activities compared to other parts, rutin being the major radical scavenger [6, 17]. Amaranth is a superfood that provides optimum nutrition for maintaining good health

As reported earlier in several studies amaranth supports several physiological processes in the human body by playing the role of antimicrobial, hepato-protective, anti-cancerous, anti-malarial, anti-anemic, supplementary, or nutraceutical foods, and so on. Due to its presence of high content of iron, manganese, calcium, dietary fibers, essential amino acids, lipids, antioxidants, it is labeled as a superfood that is required for sustaining a healthy lifestyle.

2.2 Buckwheat

Buckwheat is also known as gluten-free pseudocereals belongs to the family of Polygonaceae with the genus Fagopyrum. Common buckwheat that is cultivated for human consumption includes Fagopyrum esculentumand Fagopyrum tartaricum. The significant producer of buckwheat all over the world include Russia, China, and Ukraine. Now a days, its consumption is increasing all over the world. In India, on Hindu traditions during the period of fasting (like Navaratri, Ekadashi, Mahashivaratri, Janmashtami, etc.) people of northern states eat foods made up of buckwheat flour; as eating cereals made up of wheat, rice, maize is prohibited during fasting days [18].

Buckwheat is considered as a good source of nutrients like proteins, fats, vitamins (like B1, B2, B3, and B6), minerals (like copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium), dietary fibers, and in combination with other health-promoting components like organic acids, polyphenols, flavonoids and inositol [19]. Due to its composition of the high biological value of proteins and amino acids, it is considered superior to other grains which are well shown in Tables 13.

2.2.1 Health benefits of buckwheat Antioxidant effects

Buckwheat contains antioxidants including flavonoids like oligomeric proanthocyanidins which are found in hulls and seeds as well as present in buckwheat flour. It also contains protective phenolic compounds that help in fighting against cancer or heart diseases [20]. Moreover, antioxidants also support cellular functions of the body by protecting DNA from damage and preventing inflammation or cancerous cell formation [20]. Source of highly digestible protein

It is well known that proteins are known as “building blocks” as it is required for the growth, development, and maintenance of the body. As stated earlier in the studies buckwheat is a good source of protein as it contains almost 12 amino acids as compared to conventional cereals like rice, wheat, or maize. Furthermore, buckwheat also contains essential amino acids like lysine and arginine that ensure the full range of amino acids required for the proper functioning of the human body [20]. The grains of buckwheat contain roughly 11–14 grams of protein for every 100 grams which are almost higher than most whole grains [20]. Source of dietary fibers

It was reported previously that 1 cup serving of buckwheat provides almost 6 gm of dietary fibers; which helps to fill you up and hastens the transit of food through the digestive tract (essential for bowel movement regulation). Moreover, buckwheat also protects the digestive organs from infections, cancers as well as other negative symptoms by preventing oxidative stress within the gastrointestinal tract [20]. Anti-diabetic effects

Buckwheat has a low glycemic index as compared to other conventional cereals like rice, wheat, and maize. It possesses anti-nutritional factors like polyphenols and enzyme-inhibitors that delay digestion; thus, helping in regulating the blood glucose level [19]. Previously, it was also stated that buckwheat contains rutin and quercetin that helps in reducing insulin resistance conditions by enhancing the capability of hepatic antioxidant enzymes [19, 21]. Nevertheless, it was also revealed from the study that the chemically synthesized D-chiro-inositol (an insulin regulatory component) is used to lower serum glucose concentrations in diabetic patients and is available relatively in high amounts in buckwheat [19, 22]. Gluten-free and non-allergic

The size, appearance, texture, and taste of buckwheat are very similar to barley but the main advantage of buckwheat is zero gluten [20]. As a result, buckwheat is safe for individuals suffering from coeliac diseases or for individuals who want to take a gluten-free diet. It also helps in preventing numerous diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract like diarrhea, bloating, constipation, leaky gut syndrome, and so on. Furnishes important minerals and vitamins

The flours of buckwheat contain minerals like iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and folate as well as contains vitamins like B vitamins. It was elaborated that the manganese content of buckwheat helps in improving the digestion process, aid in muscle growth and recovery, and defend against stress’s negative impacts on the body [20]. Nevertheless, B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc help the individual in maintaining healthy circulation and blood vessel function, plus they are needed for neurotransmitter signaling in the brain that fights depression, anxiety, and headaches [20]. Other benefits

Several studies reported that buckwheat plays multiple roles in regulating numerous physiological processes by acting as a hypocholesterolemic, hypotensive, hypoglycaemic, neuroprotective, anti-obesity agent as well as anti-aging foods.

2.3 Chia seeds

Chia seeds are originated from Mexico, belong to the family Lamiaceae with the representative of genus Salvia and species hispanica. The chia seeds are utilized in the form of whole seeds, flour, mucilage as well as seed oil. It is a nutrient-dense superfood that contains superior quality omega-3 fatty acids, gluten-free protein, and high content of anti-oxidants protecting seeds against microbial and chemical degradations [23, 24]. It is an oilseed that contains carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which is well shown in Tables 13.

2.3.1 Health benefits of chia seeds Gluten-free

Likewise, other pseudocereals, chia seed is also gluten-free; so, these can be incorporated by individuals who are suffering from health issues like gluten intolerance. Protein content

It is well known that protein is a macronutrient, utilized by the body for the generation of energy to perform multiple body functions [23]. Chia seeds possess a significant amount of protein that helps in minimizing the problem of protein-energy malnutrition [23, 25]. Previous studies also enumerated that chia seeds possess an excellent balance of amino acids containing a high concentration of cysteine, lysine, and methionine as compared to the primary cereals [23, 26]. Another study reported that regular consumption of chia seeds having an appreciable amount of protein in the diet proved helpful for the individual suffering from either obesity or overweight and other health-related issues such as diabetes [23, 27]. Antioxidant

It is well known that antioxidants are the components that have the potential to neutralize the free radical and thus help the individual in preventing various metabolic disorders. From various clinical studies, it was revealed that chia seeds are a potential source of antioxidants like sterols, tocopherols, and polyphenolic compounds like caffeic acid, myricetin, chlorogenic acid, protocatechuic acid, quercetin, kaempferol, rutin, and so on; exhibits beneficial effects like anti-aging, anti-carcinogenic, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective as well as prevent some neurological disorders. Dietary fibers

Dietary fiber is an important constituent of our diet. According to recommended dietary allowances 2020, it was prescribed to include 25 gm for sedentary women and 32 gm for sedentary men of dietary fiber per day [28]. It was stated in the previous study that the fiber content of chia seeds is almost twice as bran, 4–5 times greater than amaranth, quinoa, soya, and almonds [29]. Several clinical studies stated that optimum intake of dietary fibers helps the individual from several disorders like diseases related to the digestive and circulatory system, hemorrhoids, kidney stones, colorectal cancer, diabetes mellitus, metabolic diseases, and so on.

2.4 Quinoa

Quinoa is an annual herbaceous, dicotyledonous plant belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family with the genus with the genus Chenopodium and species quinoa. It is originated in the Andean region and able to adapt to different climatic conditions and soils [30]. This pseudocereal is a rich source of proteins with an exceptional balance of essential amino acids, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibers which is well depicted in Tables 13. It also contains health-beneficial phytochemicals like saponins, phytosterols, and phtoecdysteroids [30]. Above all, it contains top-level protein i.e., lysine and methionine when compared to conventional cereals like wheat, rice, maize, barley [31]. It was also reported in previous studies that the fatty acid composition of quinoa is almost equivalent to soyabean oil [31].

2.4.1 Health benefits of quinoa Good for celiac diseases

Celiac disease is a condition in which an individual is not able to tolerate the gluten protein which is found in traditional cereals like wheat, rye, barley, and so on. It is well known that quinoa is free from gluten protein; so, it is well tolerated by patients with celiac diseases as well as for individuals who want to include gluten-free food products in their diet. Antioxidant property

Reported in earlier studies that the main edible part of the quinoa plant is quinoa seeds, but the leaves too contain rich phenolic compounds that have antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties [32]. The quinoa extracts contain a considerable amount of ferulic, sinapinic, and gallic acids, kaempferol, isorhamnetin, and rutin an inhibitory effect on prostate cancer cell proliferation and motility [32, 33]. It has been also proposed that these compounds help in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes [32, 33, 34]. Anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, and hypocholesterolemic effect

Various clinical studies elaborated that quinoa contains multiple types of bioactive components like peptides, polysaccharides, phenolics, phytosterols, and so on that are proposed to prevent health complications like hyperglycemia, adiposity, and dyslipidemia. The mechanism involved for the above beneficial effects includes reduced lipid absorption and adipogenesis, increased energy expenditure and glucose oxidation, and corrected gut microbiota [35]. It can be stated that quinoa offers several unique attributes that could be harnessed to improve the dietary management of obesity, diabetes as well as cardiovascular diseases [35].


3. Conclusion

The innovation of nutraceutical foods and its product is one of the captivating shifts of agri-food industries. With the growing awareness of individuals regarding nutritious foods all over the world; the burden arises for researchers and scientists to develop food products that are high in protein content, gluten-free as well as nutrient-dense. As a result, in the last couple of years, interest arouses regarding the development of nutritious healthy products from pseudocereals for living a disease-free and healthy life; that can be beneficial for coeliac patients as well. As we know amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds as well as quinoa are the major pseudocereals that have a balanced nutrient composition of dietary protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, antioxidants as well as bioactive components that have beneficial properties like cardioprotective, immunomodulatory, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolemic, maintains disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and so on. The gluten-free products which are available in the market are prepared by using starches and additives that are deficient in vital nutrients which are required for the growth and development of individuals suffering from coeliac disease. Therefore, incorporation of these gluten-free pseudocereals (amaranth, buckwheat, chia seeds, and quinoa) in the diet of coeliac patients not only pacifies the nutrient deficiency but also paves the path of blossoming these underutilized food grains.



We pay our profound sense of gratitude to Mr. Nirmal Kumar for his assistance, encouragement, and insightful advice throughout in constructing this book chapter. We also apologize for not citing the research papers of all the authors that helped us in better understanding of this topic.


Conflict of interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Upasana and Latika Yadav

Submitted: January 30th, 2022Reviewed: February 14th, 2022Published: April 17th, 2022