Quinoa is a nutritious grain that grows in the Andean highlands. These crops were used by pre- Colombian cultures in South America for centuries. These plants are cold- and drought-tolerant and can be cultivated in high mountains, at over 4000 meters above the sea level. The genetic variability of quinoa is huge, with cultivars being adapted to growth from sea level to high mountains, and from cold, highland climates to subtropical conditions.
Kañiwa and kiwicha are close relatives of the quinoa. These grains are usually referred to as pseudo-cereals since they are not members of the grass family, but produce seeds that can be milled into flour and used like a cereal crop. These grains are gluten-free and can be consumed by persons who suffer from coeliac disease.
These crops are also very good sources of good quality edible oil and minerals, such as calcium and iron. Quinoa is considered to carry many potential beneficial health effects, e.g. in reduction of the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Several studies have reported the nutritional value of quinoa. This crop contains proteins with a balanced essential amino acid composition that are of high biological value. The protein content of kañiwa grains is higher than that of quinoa and kiwicha. There are no statistically significant differences in the fat content of quinoa, kiwicha and kañiwa. In general, quinoa, kañiwa and kiwicha seeds are good sources of protein and fat. The main component of all three grain species is carbohydrates.
Source: Repo-Carrasco-Valencia, Ritva, Jarkko K. Hellström, Juha-Matti Pihlava, and Pirjo H. Mattila. "Flavonoids and Other Phenolic Compounds in Andean Indigenous Grains: Quinoa (Chenopodium Quinoa), Kañiwa (Chenopodium Pallidicaule) and Kiwicha (Amaranthus Caudatus)." Food Chemistry 120.1 (2010): 128-33
Quinoa grains vary by area of cultivation and by colour. Royal quinoa is endemic to Bolivia. There are three colours of quinoa grains: red, black and white.