quinoa plant

Remember “Tang”? The Super “healthy” drink of Astronauts?  I remember it so well, and drank it too! (now I am dating myself) Packed with vitamins (synthetic), my folks thought it was good for you. Well, I think we all will agree it is anything but healthy.  Tang was first introduced in 1959. It did not fare well in the market place until John Glenn made it famous in 1962 by bringing it on his Mercury flight.  It was also used on some Gemini Flights.  It became popular because if John Glenn liked it,  If NASA is using it, it HAS TO BE GOOD FOR YOU!  Well, marketing is everything. John Glenn actually said “It Sucked”, LOL.

NASA flights have come a long way since the TANG days. Culinary circumstances in space have changed drastically. Samantha Cristoforetti was the first person to brew Espresso in space! She also learned to mix things up by combining space food staples to create her own culinary dishes. Pretty cool. Samantha has chosen Quinoa as one of her ‘bonus foods.’

I was researching grains for a report in my Macro and Micro Nutrients class. I learned some cool stuff about Quinoa. Calorie for calorie, it is one of the most nutritious foods you can find. As I was reading, I saw a report that NASA is growing crops of quinoa in space because of it’s adaptability and it’s nutritional value.

“SUMMARY Chenopodium quinoa is being considered as a new crop for the Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) because of its high protein values (12-18%) and unique amino acid composition. Lysine, an essential amino acid that is deficient in many grain crops, is found in quinoa approaching Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) standards set for humans. This “new” crop, rich in protein and with desirable proportions of important amino acids, may provide greater versatility in meeting the needs of humans on long-term space missions. Initially, the cultivars CO407 x ISLUGA, CO407 Heat Tolerant Population 1, and Real’ (a Bolivian variety) were examined.  The first cultivar showed the most promise in greenhouse studies. When grown hydroponically in the greenhouse, with no attempt to maximize productivity, this cultivar produced 202 g m -2 with a harvest index of 37%. None of the cultivars were greater than 70 cm in height. Initial results indicate that quinoa could be an excellent crop for CELSS because of the high concentration of protein, ease of use, versatility in preparation, and potential for greatly increased yields in controlled environment” (NASA Technical Paper 3422)


That is alot of space talk, probably hard to understand, but lets look at quinoa as it relates to us earth folk.

Quinoa was an important crop for the Inca Empire back in the day. They referred to it as the “mother of all grains” and believed it to be sacred. Quinoa is not really a grain, it is a seed, a powerful seed. It is more closely related to beets and spinach.  It’s nutritional value sustained the Inca’s and allowed them to thrive, giving them the necessary energy needed to work hard at high altitudes.  It has been consumed for thousands of years in South America, although it only became trendy and reached “super-food status” a few years ago. That tells me we need to start thinking about how food has changed over the centuries and looking at how unhealthy our society is,  we need to get back to basics.

Quinoa is gluten free (for those with celiacs disease or gluten intolerance), it is packed with protein (especially important for vegan’s).  Quinoa is versatile! You can prepare it in so many ways. Delicious, Nutritious, Accessible and has a long shelf life.

You can prepare it for Breakfast….quinoa breakfast



Or Dinner!


This is the nutrient content in 1 cup of cooked Quinoa. :

  • Protein: 8 grams.
  • Fiber: 5 grams.
  • Manganese: 58% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA.
  • Folate: 19% of the RDA.
  • Copper: 18% of the RDA.
  • Iron: 15% of the RDA.
  • Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
  • Potassium: 9% of the RDA.
  • Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
  • Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin) and vitamin E.

A total of 222 calories, with 39 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat. It also contains a small amount of omega 3 fatty acids.

That is a powerhouse of nutrition. Many foods are touted as SUPER FOODS these days. And while they all have some astounding nutritional benefits, in my opinion, Quinoa truly is a Super Food!

Do you have a favorite recipe? Please Share!


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