Quinoa is a candidate crop for NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems.

Quinoa's protein values and the relative proportions of amino acids meet or exceed the requirements of humans.

Quinoa seeds have an exceptionally well balanced amino acid profile. For example, lysine, an essential amino acid deficient in most grain crops exceeds the concentrations necessary for proper amino acid nutrition in humans. In
addition, the sulfur containing amino acids, cystine, and methionine are found in concentrations that are unusually high compared to other plants. Many minerals are found at concentrations greater than that reported for most grain crops; providing they are found in bioavailable forms, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are found in sufficient quantities for a balanced human diet. Most of the other minerals necessary for a balanced diet are found in greater concentrations than in most other crops as well. The pericarp of the quinoa seed contains saponins which may useful in the human diet and other applications for long-term space travel.

Conventionally, the seeds of quinoa are considered to be the edible form of the plant while the leaves have generally been overlooked. The leaves and sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked and provide a substantial amount of nutritive value. Utilizing quinoa as a leafy vegetable and a grain crop may provide nutritional and harvest versatility greater than that of a purely vegetative crop or that of a crop grown solely for it's seeds.

Comparative mineral nutrition values of quinoa seeds and leaves with other major seed and leafy vegetable crops.

 

Content (mg/100g)

Crop

Calcium

Phosphorus

Iron

Sodium

Potassium

Quinoa seed

160

270

19

4

2170

Wheat

38

341

3

8

381

Soybean

201

550

7

5

1800

Quinoa leaves

2920

370

29

16

1181

Spinach

126

55

4

65

633

Cabbage

35

30

1

4

266

Amino acid composition of quinoa compared with wheat, soybean, skimmed milk, and amino acid requirements of humans.

 

Content (g/100g protein)

Amino acid

Hydroponic quinoa

Field quinoa seeds

Wheat

Soybeanz

Skimmed milk

Amino acid requirements

leaves

seeds

Isoleucine

3.2

3.9

5.2

3.8

4.9

6.3

4.0

Leucine

5.6

6.4

6.7

6.8

7.6

9.7

6.7

Lysine

3.5

5.9

6.2

2.9

6.4

7.7

5.0

Phenylalanine

3.9

4.1

3.8

4.5

4.9

4.9

3.2

Arginine

4.0

9.4

7.9

4.8

7.2

3.7

2.0

Histidine

1.2

3.0

2.7

2.2

2.5

2.6

1.7

Alanine

3.9

4.0

4.4

3.8

4.3

4.0

-.-

Aspartic acid

8.0

9.0

8.1

5.3

12.0

8.3

-.-

Glutamic acid

14.0

15.0

14.0

27.0

18.0

23.0

-.-

Glycine

4.3

5.3

5.7

4.0

4.2

2.2

-.-

Proline

3.6

3.5

4.0

10.0

5.5

11.0

-.-

Serine

3.6

4.4

4.6

5.0

5.6

6.0

-.-

Tyrosine

2.6

3.2

3.1

3.1

3.5

5.0

3.2

Phenylalanine + Tyrosine

6.5

7.3

6.9

7.6

8.4

9.9

6.4

Cysteine

0.6

1.0

1.4

2.3

1.5

0.9

1.3

Methionine

0.8

1.0

1.4

1.7

1.4

2.5

1.9

Threonine

3.5

3.5

4.1

3.1

4.2

4.6

3.4

Tryptophan

1.6

1.1

1.2

1.1

1.3

1.4

1.1

Valine

4.0

4.5

4.6

4.7

5.0

6.9

4.6

Cysteine + Methionine

1.4

2.0

2.8

4.0

2.9

3.4

3.2

   
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