A delicious addition to a salad or a main meal, quinoa can be light and nutty and flavorsome. It has also come into favor as many people look to eating healthier and cutting their intake of refined carbohydrates. But is the added expense and the effort of thinking up creative quinoa recipes worth it? Here’s a look at the health benefits of quinoa and its advantages over rice so you can decide for yourself.
1. Quinoa Has Fewer Calories And Carbs Than Rice
While rice is a cereal and a grain, quinoa is what is known as a pseudocereal. What you’re consuming is, in fact, the seed of this non-grass crop. Here’s how the two stack up on the nutrition front:
- Quinoa contains 120 kcal in a 100 gm serving of the cooked food. This translates to about 21.3 gm of carbs, 4.4 gm of protein, 1.92 gm of fat, and a whopping 71.61 gm of water.1
- A comparable portion of cooked long grain white rice has 130 kcal, 28.17 gm of carbohydrates, 2.69 gm of protein, 0.28 gm of fat, and 68.44 gm of water.2
- Brown rice would have 123 kcal, 25.58 gm of carbohydrates, 2.74 gm of protein, 0.97 gm of fat, and 70.27 gm of water.3
2. Quinoa Is Richer In Antioxidants Than Rice
If you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you probably steer clear of wheat and may have switched to rice. When you’re trying to avoid bread or other gluten-containing foods, quinoa too can be an option as it is gluten-free. But, unlike rice, quinoa is also rich in polyphenols, micronutrients with antioxidant power, and can help to enrich your gluten-free diet.4
While the antioxidant capacity of quinoa has still to be fully understood and researched, consuming it could improve your body’s ability to respond to oxidative stress.5 Compounds in quinoa can help to regenerate antioxidants in the body, which in turn protect you from oxidative damage.6
3. Quinoa Packs In A Protein Punch Compared To All Rices
What makes quinoa so compelling is that it is a complete protein from a plant source. So you can get your protein without the usual issues of counting grams of saturated fat, unlike an animal protein like meat or a dairy product like yogurt or milk.
There’s another advantage. While animal proteins give you all your essential amino acids at once, most other plant sources can only supply some of these amino acids. With quinoa, you’ll be able to provide your body with all the essential amino acids it needs to stay healthy, without having to resort to an animal protein source.7
The protein levels in rice, both white and brown, unfortunately, pale by comparison, clocking in at about a little over half of what quinoa offers. The protein content in rice is similar to a potato and is the lowest of all cereals.8
4. Quinoa Keeps You Full Longer Than White Rice
Aside from the protein, quinoa also boasts of a decent fiber content, with 2.8 gm of fiber per 100 gm of cooked quinoa.9 Protein and fiber help with satiety and quinoa can make you feel fuller for longer than when you have refined grains like white rice. And it does this without actually packing on the calories or fat.10
Brown rice, on the other hand, has about 1.6 gm of fiber in a 100 gm portion size, which is not too shabby.12
5. Quinoa’s Protein To Carb Ratio Makes It A Better Option For Diabetics
If you’re cutting carbohydrate intake because of diabetes or in an attempt to lose weight, you’ll be happy to know that the seeds have a very good protein to carbohydrate ratio. This is thanks to the germ of quinoa, which makes up 60 percent of its mass. This is even higher than the more popular wheat germ which makes up under 3 percent of its kernel.13 Rice, unfortunately, does not have this advantage and has a higher carbohydrate content gram for gram.
6. Quinoa Has More Betaine Than Rice And Better Impact On Liver And Heart
Betaine is an amino acid that your body needs for liver function and detoxification. It also helps ward off atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease, strokes, and osteoporosis. Wheat bran and wheat germ, as well as baked goods, are popular sources of betaine in the average American diet.14 However, because the baked goods are processed, they may not be the best way to get in your betaine. For those with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, wheat-based foods are also off the table. Quinoa, on the other hand, is right up there with wheat when it comes to betaine content.15
7. Quinoa Can Help With Weight Loss And Improve Lipid Profile
Quinoa could help you with your weight loss goals. Animal studies have found that consumption of this pseudograin is linked to an improvement in lipid profile and decreased weight gain.18 There is no comparable benefit for white rice though brown rice, being a whole grain, has the heart health benefits of other whole grains.The fiber content of brown rice makes it a good addition to the diet of anyone hoping to ward off heart disease and diabetes.19
8. Quinoa Has More Potassium And Magnesium To Keep BP In Check
Quinoa contains around 172 mg of potassium in 100 gm when it is cooked. This nutrient helps relax the blood vessel walls and keeps your blood pressure under control.20 If you already have a high blood pressure problem, upping your intake of potassium may help significantly bring down systolic blood pressure.21
What quinoa also has is higher magnesium content. And magnesium intake, like potassium, is linked to lower blood pressure.24 A 100 gm serving of cooked brown rice contains 39 mg of magnesium while quinoa has 64 mg. White rice has just 12 mg.
But Brown Rice Can Be Good Too
While there is merit to cutting down your intake of polished white rice, other varieties of less processed rice can be nutritious! Switching to brown rice, for instance, can up your fiber content and bring in cardioprotective nutrients like magnesium and selenium to your diet. It could also help cut inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors in those who are overweight and obese.25 Brown rice has more manganese than quinoa. Manganese can help boost immunity, support bone development, blood clotting, and nutrient absorption among other things.26
In Conclusion: Have Quinoa As Part Of A Wholesome Diet
Quinoa is certainly more expensive than rice. But if you’re hoping to tap into some of its health benefits, it could be worth it for you. Especially if you can’t eat gluten or are trying to curb animal protein intake.
There is also another factor to consider if it is something that you’re particular about. As Time reported, quinoa monocultures, driven by the boom in global demand for the crop, has threatened the environmental balance in regions where it has replaced other crops.27 Factor these in while making your choices. A good idea would be to balance things out and consume a mix of brown rice and other whole grains along with quinoa as part of a wholesome diet rich in fresh produce as well.
|↑1, ↑9||Quinoa, cooked. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑2||Rice, white, long-grain, regular, unenriched, cooked without salt.
|↑3, ↑12, ↑23||Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑4||Alvarez-Jubete, L., H. Wijngaard, E. K. Arendt, and E. Gallagher. “Polyphenol composition and in vitro antioxidant activity of amaranth, quinoa buckwheat and wheat as affected by sprouting and baking.” Food chemistry 119, no. 2 (2010): 770-778.|
|↑5, ↑18||Simnadis, Thomas George, Linda C. Tapsell, and Eleanor J. Beck. “Physiological effects associated with Quinoa consumption and implications for research involving humans: a review.” Plant foods for human nutrition 70, no. 3 (2015): 238-249.|
|↑6||Quinoa: Should You Eat It?.
|↑7||Quinoa: Should You Eat It?.
|↑8||Nutrient composition and protein quality of rice relative to other cereals.The Food and Agriculture Organization.|
|↑10||Jonnalagadda, Satya S., Lisa Harnack, Rui Hai Liu, Nicola McKeown, Chris Seal, Simin Liu, and George C. Fahey. “Putting the whole grain puzzle together: health benefits associated with whole grains—summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium.” The Journal of nutrition 141, no. 5 (2011): 1011S-1022S.|
|↑11, ↑22||Rice, white, long-grain, regular, unenriched, cooked without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑13||Quinoa – March Grain of the Month.
|↑14||Betaine Concentration of Common Foods in the US. Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑15, ↑16||Ross, Alastair B., Alicia Zangger, and Seu Ping Guiraud. “Cereal foods are the major source of betaine in the Western diet–analysis of betaine and free choline in cereal foods and updated assessments of betaine intake.” Food chemistry 145 (2014): 859-865.|
|↑17||Zeisel, Steven H., Mei-Heng Mar, Juliette C. Howe, and Joanne M. Holden. “Concentrations of choline-containing compounds and betaine in common foods.” The Journal of Nutrition 133, no. 5 (2003): 1302-1307.|
|↑20||Quinoa – March Grain of the Month. Oldways Whole Grains Council.|
|↑21||Potassium lowers blood pressure. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑24||Magnesium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑25||Kazemzadeh, Mahdieh, Sayyed Morteza Safavi, Shahrzad Nematollahi, and Zeinab Nourieh. “Effect of brown rice consumption on inflammatory marker and cardiovascular risk factors among overweight and obese non-menopausal female adults.” International journal of preventive medicine 5, no. 4 (2014): 478.|
|↑26||Manganese. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑27||Quinoa: Should You Eat It?. Time Oct 2015.|