Is quinoa a cereal? The response of a nutritionist and botanist may be different
Quinoa , a food rich in nutrients and properties. Everyone agrees on its benefits, but when it comes to defining what you’re talking about, the issue starts to get complicated. Is quinoa a cereal or not ?
Thousands of years ago the Incas nicknamed the quinoa ” mother wheat ” since it was the most important crop for their subsistence. Even today many people consider quinoa to be a cereal because it is consumed as such but at the botanical level it is actually something else.
So depending on who is called to answer the question, the conclusion may be different.
The botanist’s answer: no
A botanist would have no doubts in answering: no, quinoa is not a cereal. If we speak scientifically, quinoa is a plant of the same family of amaranth (Amaranthaceae ) that grows in South America and can even reach 9 meters in height.
It is more closely related to spinach than to wheat and farmers harvest the small seeds of this plant for food consumption.
The dictionary answer: yes … or almost
The dictionary answers yes, or almost. Just as we usually call the tomato vegetable (in reality it is technically a fruit), we could define quinoa as a cereal, avoiding being trapped in a restrictive and in some cases not very useful scientific definition (since it is easier to define things as we use them rather than by their real nature).
For quinoa, but also for amaranth and buckwheat, the term ” pseudo-cereal ” has been coined to indicate those foods that cannot be considered botanically cereals but that are used and commonly known as such.
The nutritionist’s answer: yes
A nutritionist, functional to his job, would say that yes quinoa is a cereal. This is obviously because within a diet it is used on a par with wheat, rice, spelled, barley, etc. combining it with vegetables or legumes.
The ” The Whole Grains Council “, a consumer advocacy group that promotes the consumption of whole grains, recognizes the status of pseudocereal to quinoa but still classifies it as a whole grain due to its nutritional profile and similar preparation method compared to real cereals.
Even nutritionists who offer the paleo diet would say the same: quinoa is to be considered cereal and therefore it should be avoided (it should be remembered that this restrictive diet does not allow to insert wheat, rice and all other types of cereals and pseudocereals).
However, these are only definitions, what matters is the substance. Quinoa is a food that, although not at zero kilometer (we can however buy it from fair trade), in our diet it can play an interesting role if consumed in rotation together with other cereals or pseudocereals.