J Sci Food Agric 2010; 90: 2541–2547
Quinoa, Chenopodium quinoa Willd., is an Amaranthacean, stress-tolerant plant cultivated along the Andes for the last 7000 years, challenging highly different environmental conditions ranging from Bolivia, up to 4.500m of altitude, to sea level, in Chile. Its grains have higher nutritive value than traditional cereals and it is a promising worldwide cultivar for human consumption and nutrition. The quinoa has been called a pseudo-cereal for botanical reasons but also because of its unusual composition and exceptional balance between oil, protein and fat. The quinoa is an excellent example of ‘functional food’ that aims at lowering the risk of various diseases. Functional properties are given also by minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants that can make a strong contribution to human nutrition, particularly to protect cell membranes, with proven good results in brain neuronal functions. Itsminerals work as cofactors in antioxidant enzymes, adding higher value to its rich proteins. Quinoa also contains phytohormones, which offer an advantage over other plant foods for human nutrition.