Did you really think quinoa "is protein"?

"Quinoa is protein"

Quinoa is a South American gluten-free grain that has become very popular in the last few years. As is common with many foods novel to Europe and the US, it was cleverly marketed as "superfood" by the media, in their quest for sensationalist titles and internet traffic. That clever marketing currently includes the false idea that "quinoa is protein", which in turn resulted in misinformed health-conscious women, further reducing their already low protein intake.


"We do not need so much protein"...

At my practice I regularly see women, especially younger ones, who come to see me for treatment for loose skin and cellulite, and who state that they either do not take enough protein because they don't like it or because they have read that "we do not need much protein".

However, there is a big difference between having too much protein and having almost none. Skin is almost pure protein, made up of collagen, elastin and other proteins (and some unwanted fat, called cellulite!), so by not having enough protein in your diet you end up not replacing your collagen and elastin and your skin gradually becomes loose. Add carbs, that replace protein in the diet, and you end up not only with skin looseness but with that extra fat under your skin i.e. cellulite.

Unfortunately, there are many "nutritionists" in popular magazines and websites these days who claim that we do not need much protein, offering a disservice to their readers. And then there are those who claim that alleged "superfoods" like quinoa are "chock full" of protein. Well, not really...


Is white bread "protein"?

Would you say that a food with 11% carbs "is protein"? Of course not! Brown bread, with 11% protein and 54% carbohydrates (4.9x more carbs than protein) is not considered by anyone as a high protein food, it is a high carb food. Nobody says "brown bread is protein". Even white bread has 12% protein and of course nobody calls it a high protein food.

Then why on earth people say that "quinoa is protein", when cooked quinoa contains only 4.4% protein, almost 3x times less than white bread? With 4.8x times more carbs than protein (21% carbs), quinoa is in fact a high carb food, almost identical in it's carb to protein ratio to the (justly) maligned bread.

Quinoa has half the protein of beans (cooked navy beans have 8% protein, 3.25x more carbs than protein) or lentils (9% protein, 2.2x more carbs than protein ), almost five times less protein than almonds (21% protein, 1:1 protein & carb ratio) and is a far cry from tofu (8% protein and 4.2x more protein than carbs) and especially eggs (boiled eggs have 13% protein, 11.8x more protein than carbs), lean beef (27% protein, 0% carbs and 6x times more protein than quinoa), fish (sea bass, for example, has 24% protein, 0% carbs).

Granted, the protein is quinoa is gluten-free and of better quality than bread, but it is still a high-carb food, exactly as high as brown bread (4.5x more carbs than protein). But under no circumstances one can say that a food containing 4.4% protein, such as quinoa, is a high protein food. This is absurd.

Quinoa should more accurately be described as a high carb / high fibre food, which would do justice to it's nutritional qualities, but would not mislead people into thinking that they are ingesting a high protein food, good enough for muscle building, organ protein maintenance, bone health and skin health.

With such misinformation as "you don't need a lot of protein" and "quinoa is protein" touted to the public by so-called "experts", women end up having a very high carb / low protein nutrition, further increasing the already high carb content of modern diets and reducing their protein content. With the monthly sugar cravings and the urban myth that "you should only do very light weights because proper weight training will bulk you up overnight", it is no wonder that many women these day complain of loose skin, saggy bits and cellulite...


Glutes are not built with carbs

Don't get me wrong, I love quinoa and I find it a quality carb food. But when I see protein-starved clients, who have real protein foods only once a week, clinging to the brainwashing they have been fed by the media, I cannot help wanting to set the record straight.

So, in summary, if you wish to get some protein in your body that will replenish those protein stores on your skin, hair, nails, muscles, bones and organs, go for fish, lean beef, chicken and eggs and combine them with loads of vegetables. Or, if you are vegetarian, go for tofu, eggs, beans, lentils and even almonds - and combine them with loads of vegetables again.

But don't raise your hopes too high with so called "high protein foods" like quinoa, in the same way you would not expect bread to give you proper protein after that squat session in the gym. Glutes are not built with carbs!