Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is a basic food in pre‐hispanic Andean communities, used not only as a food but also for medicinal purposes. The interest in quinoa has increased because of its plasticity to adapt to environmental conditions: it tolerates frost, salinity and drought; it grows on marginal and arid soils and high altitudes. The nutritional quality of quinoa is well recognized: protein content ranges 13–17 g/100 g, with an amino acid score above 1.0 and it is gluten free. The grain contains starch and free sugars, with a glycemic index ranging 35–53, depending on the cooking time. It also contains bioactive phytochemicals such as dietary fiber, carotenoids, phytosterols, squalene, fagopyritols, ecdysteroids and polyphenols. The composition of quinoa varies among ecotypes and is affected by environmental factors: some amino acids and phytochemicals augment under stress episodes. The rationale for the revival of quinoa and its reintroduction into the diet is related with the epidemiological situation, which includes diseases that exhibit risk factors that may be reduced with a balanced nutritious diet, in which quinoa plays a major role, being considered as a “superfood.” Moreover, it is one of the crops selected by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to offer food security.
Part of the book: Superfood and Functional Food