5 questions about quinoa

Superfood or health hype? There are lots of stories about quinoa. But one thing is certain: it’s a nutritious crop that’s full of protein and is wind and weather resistant. And it needs far less water than rice or wheat. Quinoa could therefore play an important role if the world’s population continues to grow and the climate continues to warm up. That’s why we have five questions and answers about quinoa.

1. What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a very ancient crop; it 's been cultivated in the Andes since 5,000 BC by pre-Columbian peoples. It was (alongside potatoes and maize) the Incas’ staple food. Quinoa is not a grain, but a herbaceous crop. The ‘fruit’ of the plant is featherlike with little spherical white, red or black seeds: quinoa as you know it on your plate.

White, red and black quinoa
Quinoa is more than 7,000 years old and comes in white, red and black varieties.

2. Why is quinoa the ‘food of the future’?

Quinoa is a sustainable, nutritious and resistant crop which can be grown in different climate zones. Also in Belgium by the way.

  • Low water footprint: it requires 5 times less water than rice and half as much as wheat to produce quinoa.
  • Protein-rich: quinoa contains all the essential amino-acids you need. And its protein content is higher than that of cereals.
  • Fibre-rich: you are sated more quickly and take longer to feel hungry again thanks to its slow sugars
  • Disease-resistant: the crop suffers from few diseases.
  • Stress-resistant: quinoa can resist frost, drought and saline soil very well. So it can be grown in many regions.
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Quinoa field
Quinoa needs far less water than rice or maize for the same yield: useful with climate change in mind.

3. How do we make quinoa production more sustainable?

As part of ‘Wanted: Food for the Future’, we’ve set up a chain project in Peru, in the Ayacucho region. Over 180 small farmers grow quinoa and are assisted by the Solid Food Peru commercial and social organisation. Solid Food Peru buys the quinoa from the farmers at a fair price which is higher than the average market price. The organisation looks after the logistics, processing and packaging. It then sells the quinoa to Colruyt Group and we transport the crop by sea. This cooperation means the farmers in Ayacucho get additional income and a permanent sales market in Belgium. Solid Food Peru reinvests the profits in social projects in the local community.

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Farmer harvesting quinoa in the Andes
Over 180 small farmers in Peru sell their quinoa to Colruyt Group via Solid Food Peru. © Isabel Corthier (Solid)

4. Where can I buy Peruvian quinoa?

You’ll soon find the first 500g boxes of Boni Selection tricolour quinoa from Ayacucho in Colruyt, OKay, Bio-Planet and Spar. White, red and black quinoa have been mixed together to give a colourful and delicious result.

Quinoa field in Peru
Farmers from the Peruvian region of Ayacucho find a permanent sales market in Belgium at Colruyt and Bio-Planet.

5. How do I use quinoa?

Quinoa is naturally delicious in salads as a grain substitute, but you can also make breakfast cereals, bread or pasta with it. And it’s ideal for particular groups of people! Did you know that quinoa is naturally gluten-free? Vegetarians can eat it as a meat substitute. Many diabetic patients also include it in their diets: quinoa is rich in fibre and can therefore help to prevent peaks in blood sugar levels. Do you have a baby or toddler at home? They’ll certainly love quinoa.

Quinoa in a salad
Quinoa is also suitable for particular groups of people: diabetics, vegetarians, gluten intolerant, etc.

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Zero hunger Responsible consumption & production Climate action