Is quinoa good for you? Many Americans confused about South American grain

Doctors, nutritionists, and even the Food and Drug Administration are constantly reviewing their standards for which foods should be considered “healthy” and which should be avoided.

A little confusion on the topic on the part of most Americans is bound to occur.

And it turns out that the South American staple, quinoa, is just about the most confusing of them all.

Expert nutritionists surveyed recently by the New York Times consider the grain a “superfood” that packs a punch in terms of necessary vitamins and nutrients, but as far as the consumers surveyed by the paper goes, quinoa fails to make the grade, ranking below other foods more universally understood to have healthful properties, such as apples, oatmeal and chicken.

Although quinoa – sometimes called the “mother grain” or “the gold of the Incas” who ate it as a staple of their diet – apparently is still largely unknown to many in the U.S.

In fact, quinoa is not actually a grain; it’s a relative of spinach, beets and chard. The part people eat is the seed, which is cooked like rice. You can also eat the leaves.

“To me at least, and from studies I’ve read, 80 percent of people are aware of 'superfoods' such as quinoa, but only 40 percent actually eat them,” Manuel Villacorta, founder and creator of Whole Body Reboot, told Fox News Latino. "I think a lot of people simply don’t know how to cook it. This is where my recipes explain that you can’t just use water – you’ve got to put some love into it.

Despite the many who have yet to catch on, it should be noted that quinoa contains all the essential amino acids and protein needed be considered a "superfood."

There are more than 100 types of quinoa, and in recent years it’s become an important crop in the U.S. as well as South America.

Lundberg Family Farms, located in Richvale, California, produced its first commercial crop of organic quinoa in 2014 on only 40 acres. Last year that was up to 250 acres and in 2016 to 800.

Even companies like Goya have jumped onto the quinoa bandwagon, offering bagged and boxed quinoa and recipes on their website.

The New York Times poll was conducted online by Morning Consult and included 2,000 registered voters. The experts surveyed came from the professional organization, American Society for Nutrition.

Villacorta says, like quinoa, there are a slew of new and yet-to-be-discovered "superfoods" out there.

He mentions pichuberries – also known as the Inca berry – which are sweet and tart and provide 39 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin D, 37 percent vitamin A and 18 percent vitamin C in just ¾ cup, and purple potatoes, which are known to have three to four times the antioxidants as regular potatoes.

In the end, there may still be some who're in the dark about quinoa, but that's changing fast.

As gluten-free and plant-based diets become more and more common, consumers may begin to turn to the Andean seed that offers so many benefits and has been around for so long.