Is quinoa "protein"?

Is quinoa protein-rich?

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 sensationalistic titles and internet traffic.

One clever marketing idea is that “quinoa is protein”, meaning that quinoa is a food rich in protein. Is this correct? Let’s have a look at the facts.

That clever marketing currently includes the false idea that "quinoa is protein". This in turn resulted in misinformed health-conscious women, further reducing their already paltry protein intake, because apparently “too much protein is bad for you'“.

Forget the hype: quinoa “is a carb”, not “a protein”

White bread protein content: 12%

To see if quinoa is a protein-rich food, let’s start with a food perceived to be a “carb”, i.e. a food rich in carbs and low on protein.

Would you say that white bread is a high-protein food? Of course not. White bread, with 12% 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 "white bread is protein". Even brown bread has 11% protein and of course nobody calls it a high protein food.

Quinoa protein content: 4.4%!

Then why on earth "nutritionists" 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 bread.

Quinoa: a really low protein food

Quinoa has:

  • half the protein of beans: cooked navy beans have 8% protein, 3.25x more carbs than protein

  • half the protein of lentils: 9% protein, 2.2x more carbs than protein

  • five times LESS protein than almonds: 21% protein, 1:1 protein & carb ratio

  • half the protein of tofu: 8% protein and 4.2x more protein than carbs

  • three times LESS protein than eggs: boiled eggs have 13% protein and 11.8x more protein than carbs - that’s a truly high protein food

  • six times LESS protein than lean beef: 27% protein, 0% carbs, literally infinitely more protein than carbs

  • five times LESS protein than sea bass: 24% protein, 0% carbs, infinitely more protein than 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 white or brown bread.

But under no circumstances can one say that a food containing 4.4% protein, such as quinoa, is a high protein food. This is absurd.

Quinoa: a gluten-free, high carb, high fibre food

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.

Female skin: the victim of nutritional misinformation about protein and hype about foods like quinoa

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, i.e. the opposite of what their muscles and especially skin need.

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 days complain about loose skin, saggy bits and cellulite: too little weight training, too little protein, too many carbs = loose skin 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 again combine them with loads of vegetables.

(OK, almonds and other nuts contain way too much fat for the protein they provide, usually 2-3x times for fat than protein, but vegans must have some kind of protein that does not come out of a box of pea protein powder - not the best way to take the majority of your protein.)

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.

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