Quinoa Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Quinoa

quinoa nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Native to Bolivia, quinoa is a relative of Swiss chard, spinach, and beets. Quinoa is a gluten-free whole grain packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Quinoa is often used in vegetarian meal plans, as it is filling and packed with protein. But you don't need to follow a specialized diet to put this grain on the menu, anyone can gain benefits from quinoa.

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (140g) of cooked quinoa with no added salt or fat.

  • Calories: 169
  • Fat: 2.5g
  • Sodium: 10mg
  • Carbohydrates: 32g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 6g

Carbs in Quinoa

One cup of quinoa contains 169 calories, 32 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 6 g of protein. Although, it is not necessarily low in calories, it does contain 32 g of complex carbohydrate which can serve as a good source of energy. 

If you'd like to reduce your calorie intake, stick to 3/4 cup cooked. This is helpful, too, if you are reviewing labels that list the nutrition information for 1/4 cup dry, which actually yields 3/4 cup cooked.

The glycemic index of quinoa is estimated to be under 55, making it a low-glycemic food. The protein and fiber in quinoa help to reduce its impact on blood sugar. 

Fats in Quinoa

There is a small amount of fat in quinoa, but most of it is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat—considered to be healthy fats.

Protein in Quinoa

Quinoa is a complete protein, providing six grams per serving. Complete proteins are those that contain all of the nine essential amino acids.

Micronutrients in Quinoa

Because quinoa is a whole grain seed, it is also naturally a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E and potassium. Magnesium is part of many metabolic processes in the body, including some that help to regulate blood sugar. Iron is an essential mineral that helps to transport oxygen through the body, and vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, helping to fight free radicals in the body.

Health Benefits 

Quinoa is naturally low in sodium and rich in fiber and protein. Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrate that helps with satiety, prevents and alleviates constipation, can help to pull cholesterol away from the heart and is important in keeping blood sugars stable. The extra fiber in quinoa allows the digestion of carbohydrates to be slowed, assisting with blood-sugar control.

Studies suggest that the risk of type 2 diabetes is lower when whole grains are eaten frequently. Therefore, if you are looking for an alternative to pasta to satisfy your starch craving, quinoa maybe a good choice for you.

Common Questions 

What are the different types of quinoa?

The most common types of quinoa found in the United States include white, red, and black quinoa. In addition to the uniqueness of color, the different varieties yield distinctive flavor and textures. White quinoa is the most common, with a smoother texture than red quinoa, which is best used in cold salads. Black quinoa is a bit earthier and sweeter than the mild taste of white quinoa.

Is quinoa gluten-free? 

Yes, quinoa is a gluten-free option for those with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Why is quinoa sometimes bitter? 

Naturally occurring saponins may be coating the individual quinoa seeds, contributing to a bitter or soapy flavor when cooked. A simple rinse prior to cooking is enough to get rid of them.

How should I store quinoa?

Dry quinoa has a long shelf life and can be stored in your pantry in its package or an airtight container. Because it is a seed, it typically has a "best by" date but can be used safely past that date. Once it is cooked, quinoa will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 6-7 days. You'll know that it is starting to go bad, once it becomes hard and develops mold.

Can I freeze quinoa?

You can store quinoa for longer in the freezer in an airtight freezer container.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

You can find quinoa in your regular grocery store or any health food store. Look for it on a shelf located by rice and couscous. Then experiment with the grain in recipes you already enjoy. 

Quinoa is a great substitution for processed, refined carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta. Use quinoa to whip up delicious side dishes and save leftovers for hot breakfast meals. Or, get creative and top your proteins with it as a replacement for breadcrumbs.

The cooking method for quinoa is similar to that of rice—that is, one part starch to two parts water. The only difference is that many brands recommend to soak and/or rinse quinoa prior to use in order to remove naturally occurring saponins, which are soapy-tasting substances thought to act as a deterrent to birds in nature.

Always read the package instructions for precise directions. Place one cup of the raw dried quinoa seed into a fine strainer, and run it under water while swishing it around with your hand.

After rinsing your dried quinoa, cook it according to the package directions—generally by placing it in a saucepan with two cups of water (or low sodium vegetable or chicken broth) to every one cup of quinoa. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the grain has absorbed all of the water, about 20 minutes or longer. The finished product should be fluffy and light.

Allergies and Interventions

There are some limited reports of allergic reactions to quinoa. Most sources cite saponin as the culprit. Saponins are compounds found in many plants. Additionally, if you are allergic to some grains, it is possible to become allergic to others. If you suspect an allergy or experience symptoms after consuming quinoa, consult your healthcare provider.

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Article Sources
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