Carbs and Nutrients in Quinoa

Nutritional information, glycemic index, calories, protein

Quinoa in bowl
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Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an interesting food. It acts like a grain in most ways, although it is not technically a grain, as the plant is not from the grass family. It is a traditional food in parts of South America, and in the past decade or so has become more common in North America as well. It has a mild, slightly nutty flavor.

Quinoa is often touted as being high in protein, although this is not true in the way most people think of a high-protein food.

The amount of protein in quinoa is similar to other grains (that is, not a whole lot compared to the amount of starch and calories they contain). The difference is that quinoa contains more of the amino acid lysine (and, to a lesser extent, isoleucine) than other grains. This makes them more "complete" -- that is, the body can get all of the essential amino acids it needs from quinoa in similar proportions to what is required, whereas other grains would not be able to sustain the body's full protein requirements.

When quinoa is first harvested, it has a soaplike coating which is bitter and mildly toxic. Quinoa sold in North America almost always has been soaked and rinsed to remove this coating.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Quinoa

  • ½ cup of cooked quinoa: 17 grams of effective (net) carbohydrate plus 2.5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 111 calories
  • 4 oz. of uncooked quinoa (¼ lb): 64 grams of effective (net) carbohydrate plus 10 grams of fiber, 18 grams of protein, and 412 calories

    Glycemic Index for Quinoa

    One set of studies reported an average glycemic index of 53 for quinoa.

    Glycemic Load of Quinoa

    • ½ cup of cooked quinoa: 9
    • 4 oz. of uncooked quinoa (¼ lb), which is then cooked: 40

    Health Benefits of Quinoa

    Quinoa is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of magnesium, and a good source of folate.

      Recent studies have also shown it to be a good source of phytonutrients, such as quercetin and kaempferol.  This may be why some preliminary animal studies have indicated a mild anti-inflammatory effect from quinoa.

    Dini I, Tenore GC, and Dini A. Antioxidant compound contents and antioxidant activity before and after cooking in sweet and bitter Chenopodium quinoa seeds. Food Science and Technology, Volume 43, Issue 3, April 2010, Pages 447-451.

    Sydney University’s Glycemic Index Research Service (Human Nutrition Unit, University of Sydney, Australia), unpublished observations, 1995-2007. Obtained from on 12/31/11.

    USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.

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