Quinoa Nutrition Facts

Calories in Quinoa and Their Health Benefits

Bowl of quinoa with wooden shovel on wood
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Native to Bolivia, quinoa is a relative of Swiss chard, spinach and beets. Quinoa is a gluten-free whole grain packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. The most common types of quinoa found in the United States include, white, red, and black quinoa. In addition to 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. 

Quinoa is often used in vegetarian meal plans, as it is filling and protein packed. Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all of the nine essential amino acids.

Nutrition Facts

Quinoa Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving, 1 cup cooked (185 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 222 
Calories from Fat 36 
Total Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 13mg1%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Dietary Fiber 5g20%
Sugars 0g 
Protein 8g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 3% · Iron 15%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

One cup of quinoa contains 220 calories, 39 g of carbohydrate, 5 g of fiber and 8 g of protein. Although, it is not necessarily low calorie, in does contain 39 g of complex carbohydrate which can serve as a good source of energy. In addition, it is a great source of fiber and protein.

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. 

Health Benefits of Quinoa

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.

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. 

How to Pick and Store Quinoa

You can find quinoa in your regular grocery store or any health food store. Look for it on a shelf located by the rice and couscous.

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. 

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

Healthy Ways to Prepare Quinoa

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 1 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 2 cups of water (or low sodium vegetable or chicken broth) to every 1 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. 

Recipes Using Quinoa 

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Blueberries and Walnuts 

Basic Quinoa Salad Recipe

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Inca Red Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa Crusted Cod with Peach Salsa 

Black Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Avocado and Pistachios

Sources

Anderson JW. Whole grains and coronary heart disease: the whole kernel of truth. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80(6):1459-60. 2004.

Erkkila AT, Herrington DM, Mozaffarian D, Lichtenstein AH. Cereal fiber and whole-grain intake are associated with reduced progression of coronary-artery atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease. Am Heart J. 2005 Jul;150(1):94-101. 2005.

Old Ways Whole Grain Council. Type of quinoa. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-101-orphan-pages-found/types-quinoa​

van Dam RM, Hu FB, Rosenberg L, Krishnan S, Palmer JR. Dietary calcium and magnesium, major food sources, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. Black women. Diabetes Care. 2006 Oct;29(10):2238-43. 2006.

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