Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is a herbaceous plant that is primarily cultivated for its protein-rich seeds. The seeds are often a dietary replacement for grains such as rice and can be prepared in similar ways.

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Quinoa Is a gluten-free, whole-grain that is packed with vitamins, minerals and protein with all 9 essential amino acids to make it a complete protein. It has many anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant health benefits.

Quinoa has more energy content and nearly double the fiber of barley, oats, rice, corn, and wheat. It also has more calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins.

The fiber in quinoa helps reduce blood sugar and diabetes risk while promoting short-chain fatty acids that improve gut health, reduce cholesterol, and help with weight loss.

The protein in quinoa has many amino acids not produced within the body or found in plants which makes it an excellent source of protein for vegan and vegetarians.

The fat in quinoa can help the body absorb nutrients, improve cell growth, provide energy, and protect organs..

Quinoa has many essential vitamins and minerals that are often lacking in western diets like copper and magnesium as well as  phosphorus, folate, iron, manganese, zinc and iron which promote healthy metabolism, bones, heart, cell function and skin tissue.

The high content of flavonoids in quinoa have antioxidants that clean the blood of free radicals and reduce cell damage and aging.

Quinoa should be prewashed before being cooked and can be served as a cereal, rice alternative, or salad addition.  The leaves of the quinoa plant are also edible and highly nutritious, although not often used.

Other uses

Starch grains for quinoa can be used for candy or cream substitute.

Where is Quinoa Grown

Historically, quinoa was considered a sacred crop of the Inca Empire for thousands of years grown extensively through high plains of South American Andes in Peru.

It was considered a peasant crop for subsistence farming in the Andes region for over 4000years.

Quinoa production skyrocketed and spread rapidly to more than 100 countries from 2011-2019.


Peru and Bolivia was responsible for 80% in 2014 to 65% in 2019..

Most quinoa still is produced in the region along with other South American countries such as Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina.

Quinoa has an enormous genetic range with cultivars that can thrive from the coast to highest mountain regions.

Different strains of seeds have been developed to grow in rich and poor countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America.


Quinoa has been grown in areas of the Rocky Mountains, from Colorado since 1980 especially in the San Luis Valle .

Production research has been conducted in Washington, New York, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota, Virginia, Maine, and Arizona, while commercial production has been attempted in California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

Currently, the biggest barrier to U.S. quinoa production is climate. Most cultivars of quinoa optimally grow in cool regions because the pollen goes sterile in high temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

In Season

In the northern United States, quinoa is best planted from late April to early June when the soil will be moist enough for germination in early June.

Economic Impact


Quinoa exports from Peru and Bolivia increased 700% and prices soared 600% between 2005 and 2013.

Prices dropped sharply after 2015 as global production of quinoa tripled from 75,000 to 230,000 metric tons between 2009 and 2019.


US imports of quinoa grew 400% from 2006-2010 to 22.3 million pounds and the price of quinoa rose 300%. Quinoa prices peaked at  6.74/kg in 2014 then plummeted to 1.64/kg in 2017.  Prices have been steadily rising since to 3.58/kg in 2019.

Price fluctuations, infrastructure, and variations in global agribusiness has led to unpredictable volatility in quinoa price and availability.

Environmental Impact

Quinoa is a potent, drought resistant agricultural crop that is able to survive in diverse environments from sea level to 4,000 meters above sea level without deforestation and can survive climate change.   Because of these properties, quinoa can grow in food deserts and urban areas where other crops can’t.

Quinoa’s adaptability to different environments as well as its dietary benefits, it has the potential to lessen dependence on staples such as wheat and rice.

Traditional regenerative agriculture, no-till farming methods were used by subsistence farmers to cultivate quinoa in Peru and Bolivia for over 4000 years with no irrigation and minimal environmental impact. The explosion in global demand and commercial mono-crops production with heavy tilling equipment has put pressure on biodiversity and soil quality.  Erosion is the main cause of land degradation in the Peruvian Sierra, affecting about 50–60% of the agricultural area under cultivation.


Quinoa can be grown with minimal to no irrigation in dry soil.


Quinoa has been grown in the Andes of South America without chemicals or irrigation since the Inca empire.

In parts of North America, quinoa crops are susceptible to a leaf miner which can affect yield.

Quinoa can cross with its wild weed relatives of the Amaranth family like pigweed and lamb’s quarters, which need to be controlled in order to maintain a pure seed. These issues can be controlled organically with proper spacing and cover crops.


When grown organically, quinoa can be a nutritious crop that causes minimal air pollution, point source pollution, or other negative environmental impacts.

Social Impact

Before 2004, 90% quinoa was grown on small family farms without irrigation, in desert-like landscapes of Peru and Bolivia.  The major surge in demand for quinoa brought new prosperity to these subsistence farmers, ballooning their incomes and enabling their communities to build houses, schools, infrastructure and dramatically improve their standard of living.


The United Nations declared 2013 “The International Year of Quinoa” due to the seeds’ potential to contribute to food security and food equity worldwide.


As exports increased, domestic consumption in Peru and Bolivia dropped. New commercial farms spread across the country and the world. The original quinoa farmers in Peru and Bolivia began eating pasta and bread instead so they could sell their quinoa. The increase worldwide production led to large commercial farms with heavy equipment eventually outcompeting the small farmers. When prices collapsed in 2015, the small Andean farmers suffered.


Efforts are underway to protect the small  farmers and promote sustainable stewardship of the earth through Fair Trade agreements.

There has been a movement to leverage growing markets for place-based foods–linking quinoa to a specific place and differentiating it from quinoa produced in other regions in order to increase its value.

Research and development is taking place worldwide to cultivate quinoa as a sustainable crop that can combat malnutrition and provide food security to communities all over as they deal with the effects of climate change.






Where Grown


Economic Impact

Environmental Impact
How sustainable is quinoa? – Food Navigatorfoodnavigator.com

Social Impact