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Quinoa vs. Amaranth A Nutritional Comparison and Preparation Guide

Author: Yean Toh | Published date: June 30, 2024 | Category: Nutrition


Understanding Quinoa

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa is an edible seed from the spinach family, not the grass family. It is native to South America, where it was the staple diet and a sacred food for the Incas. Technically, quinoa is not a grain. However, its nutritional profile is similar to that of other grains, although with a slightly higher content of protein and fat. Quinoa is also eaten like other grains.

Nutritional Profile of Quinoa

Among "grains", quinoa stands out for its high-protein content. It has about 18 percent protein, whereas most other grains (except oat) have between 10 and 15 percent protein. Moreover, the protein in quinoa contains all the eight essential amino acids. This makes quinoa a good protein source for vegetarians.

Fat Content and Health Benefits

Quinoa has about 6 percent fat, which makes it relatively "fatty" compared to other grains that typically have less than 2 percent fat. These are healthy fats, which, together with other nutrients like magnesium and potassium, support cardiovascular health and help regulate blood pressure.

Preparing Quinoa

The quinoa seed is covered by saponins, the anti-nutrient that is bitter tasting. Fortunately, most of the saponins are removed when the husk is shelled during the harvesting process. Quinoa sold in health stores is generally safe to eat. Quinoa cooks quickly in about 15 minutes. As the quinoa cooks, the germ that surrounds the grain pulls off and creates a small tail. The grain is soft but the tail remains crunchy.


Understanding Amaranth

What is Amaranth?

Amaranth is similar to quinoa in many ways. It looks like quinoa although it is a much smaller seed. It was an important staple food for the Aztecs, who dominated Mexico and Central America from the 14th to 16th centuries. Like quinoa, this is another "grain-like crop".

Nutritional Profile of Amaranth

Amaranth is relatively high in protein, containing about 14 percent. The protein in amaranth is incomplete, but in an interesting way. Amaranth is rich in lysine, an amino acid that is lacking in grains. At the same time, it is deficient in leucine and threonine, which can be found in other grains. This makes amaranth a good complement to grains like wheat, rice, barley, corn, and millet.

Fat Content and Health Benefits

The fat content of amaranth is also relatively high, at 7 percent. As with quinoa, these fats regulate blood pressure and support cardiovascular health. Proper preparation and cooking of amaranth are also important as it contains anti-nutrients such as saponins, oxalates, nitrates, and phenolic acid. These anti-nutrients can be minimized by soaking amaranth and changing the water, as well as discarding the cooking liquid.

This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.

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