Although not many people are aware of quinoa, a few farmers in Musanze and Kirehe grow it. It is a flowering plant grown for its edible seeds that are very nutritious with versatile applications in food production and consumption. One can eat both the seeds and leaves (as a vegetable similar to spinach). In addition to being extremely versatile in the kitchen, quinoa also has some pretty incredible health benefits, according to nutritionists. According to Dr Christophe Ngendahayo, NCDs and climate health trainer with the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), quinoa has the potential to provide drought-tolerant, nutritious complementary crops to maize that is predominantly cultivated within the country. Although it’s commonly referred to as a grain, he says quinoa is actually a pseudo-cereal which basically means it’s more like a seed than a grain, but it’s eaten and treated like a grain, and contains more vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants than any other grain. Rene Tabaro from King Faisal Hospital says although it’s not easy to access or find quinoa in grocery stores and restaurants, people need to make use of it whenever they come across it, as it is super healthy to eat, easy to prepare and is the perfect substitute for less health conscious options like rice. He says from studies, one cup of quinoa contains eight grams of protein, five grams of fibre, as well as a good chunk of the daily recommended allowance for magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamins B1, B2 and B6. Another reason quinoa is so healthy, Tabaro says, is because it is high in antioxidants, which are substances that neutralise free radicals and are believed to help fight ageing and many diseases. For instance, one cup of cooked quinoa weighing 185 grams (g) provides 8.g of protein. “The protein in quinoa offers a wide range of amino acids. Amino acids are vital for supporting muscle development and immune activity, among other essential functions,” he says. Tabaro says this makes quinoa an excellent dietary choice for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet. In addition, quinoa is a good source of antioxidants compared to other common grains in a gluten-free diet. Dr Ngendahayo says most gluten-free products consist of corn, rice, or potato flour. These generally provide fewer nutrients than products using quinoa, such as quinoa flour. He says quinoa also provides vitamin E, which is an antioxidant compound that may help reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases, certain cancers, and several eye disorders. One cup of quinoa supplies 2.76 mg of iron providing 34.5 per cent of the recommended intake for males and 15.33 per cent for females. Maintaining adequate levels of iron is essential for good health. He goes on to add that adequate iron intake also supports healthy connective tissue and muscle metabolism.