Quinoa breaches the boundaries of outer space

Find out why astronauts include quinoa in their diet

15 Apr 2015

It’s been around for thousands of years; the UN General Assembly named an international year for it in 2013; and now it has been sent into space.

Quinoa is a superfood in more ways than one. It is a good source of protein, the highest of all the whole grains; and its edible seeds provide all of the essential amino acids the body needs. Rich in fibre, quinoa is also high in magnesium, phosphorus and iron as well as vitamin E and potassium.

New ‘bonus food’ approved by NASA

On board the International Space Station, Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA), Air Force pilot, and protagonist of the second long-duration mission of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), has chosen Quinoa as one of her ‘bonus foods.’ 

Initial testing in the greenhouse showed that quinoa responds well to a hydroponic (or soil-less) culture in controlled environment production; growth was rapid and seed production good, which made it the perfect food for outer space.  Quinoa is rich in fibre and minerals and provides up to 14 grams of protein for every 100 grams of quinoa.

Why is Quinoa perfect for long space voyages? 

Bear in mind that there are no refrigerators or freezers in space. Food needs to be maintained at a specific temperature that takes into account an atmosphere of high pressure not to mention the absence of gravity. Another consideration is longevity. Food must remain edible for at least 18-24 months without the cold chain – i.e. at room temperature – and without preservatives. The way food is packaged is also an important factor. Small packages (30X20 cm) are preferred to heavier, bigger ones.

Because of its texture, weight and substantial vitamin and mineral concentrations, Quinoa helps make a difference. 

Samantha says…

With less than ten days to go before EXPO 2015 opens in Milan on the 1 May, Samantha, aboard the space station for the last couple of months, sent out a special video transmission:"Here at the International Space Station today we’ll be eating quinoa salad with mackerel. Sitting around at our dinner table in space, is a special moment for us and we are happy to be sharing it with all of you."

Download the free “Quinoa in the kitchen” book and try out your own quinoa recipes!

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