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Quinoa Nutrition - Types, Benefits, and Side Effects

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Quinoa is said to substitute refined grains. Read the article below to know its composition, benefits, and other details.

Written by

Dr. Zeba Jabeen

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At September 2, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 3, 2024

What Is Quinoa?

As per the Whole Grains Council, quinoa is considered a gluten-free, whole grain that holds carbohydrates and proteins, and all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is grown and obtained from the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru. It has an appearance of a grain, but it is a seed and is of the same class as Swiss chard, spinach, and beets. Quinoa is full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and fatty acids. It is widely popular globally, especially among vegetarians but it can be a part of other diet plans too and anyone can avail of its benefits.

What Is the Nutrition Profile of Quinoa?

According to the USDA, one cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa without any additives, like salt or fat, possesses the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 222.
  • Fat: 4 g.
  • Sodium: 13 mg.
  • Carbohydrates: 39 g.
  • Fiber: 5 g.
  • Sugars: 2 g.
  • Protein: 8 g.
  • Carbohydrates. 185 g (one cup) of cooked quinoa carries 39 grams of complex carbohydrates.
  • Glycemic Index: The glycemic index of quinoa is measured to be below 55 so it is a low-glycemic food. Its protein and fiber content aid to lower its impact on blood sugar.
  • Fats: Quinoa contains heart-healthy fatty acids, that are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in minimal amounts.
  • Proteins: ​Quinoa is regarded as a whole protein, unlike other plant-based proteins, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Quinoa is a rich source of iron and magnesium. It also holds vitamin E and potassium. Magnesium participates in several metabolic processes in the body, such as those that help in maintaining blood sugar, and has also been proved to decrease the chances of stroke. Iron is required for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body, and vitamin E is fat-soluble in nature that also acts as an antioxidant. Potassium regulates sodium levels in the blood and hence, lowers blood pressure.
  • Calories: It is the carbohydrate content of quinoa from where it derives most of its calories.

What Are the Health Benefits of Quinoa?

There are abundant health benefits of quinoa, because of the variety of nutrients that it carries. It has a low sodium content and is rich in fiber and proteins, which makes it a good replacement for refined grains. It also possesses more quantities of calcium, iron, and proteins as compared to other grains. The various health benefits of quinoa are as follows:

  • Decreases Inflammation: Quinoa carries saponins, betalains, and polyphenols which have antioxidant properties so, they reduce the damage due to oxidative stress and decrease inflammation.

  • Aids Control Blood Glucose: Fiber in carbohydrates provides satiety, prevents and relieves constipation, helps in maintaining blood glucose levels, and is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestines.

  • Reduces Cholesterol: Quinoa contains many different phytosterols, besides fiber. Both of these components have a beneficial effect on cholesterol.

  • Is Gluten-Free and Has A Low-FODMAP: Pure quinoa is gluten-free and is a good option for celiac disease patients or those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

  • Quinoa is also a choice for a low-FODMAP plan as it has decreased quantities of fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, polyols, and carbohydrates that can lead to bloating and sensitivity in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease.

  • Helps in Weight Loss: The fiber found in quinoa renders a feeling of fullness and keeps the individual fuller for a longer duration. This prevents frequent consumption of food and aids in weight loss. Studies suggest that quinoa may have an impact on the actions of ghrelin, peptide YY, and insulin, which play a role in appetite.

  • May Help Fight Cancer: The antioxidants present in quinoa may prevent chronic conditions such as cancer and heart diseases. Quinoa also contains many other compounds that provide anti-cariogenic effects.

  • Supports Heart Health: The anti-inflammatory components of quinoa serve as a good inclusion to a heart-healthy diet. This is particularly because of healthy fats like oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

  • Promotes Gut Health: Quinoa has the profits of a prebiotic and can serve to enhance gastrointestinal health by increasing the levels of good bacteria in the gut. The fiber present in quinoa can also aid the beneficial bacteria in the intestines to produce butyrate, which carries gut-boosting benefits. Butyrate suppresses inflammation and also decreases the number of immune cells that may act as a source of inflammation.

  • Supports Bone Health: Due to its composition of manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus, quinoa serves as a bone-building powerhouse that may even help in preventing osteoporosis. It also holds a high concentration of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help in improving bone health in some animal models used in studies.

What Are the Adverse Effects of Quinoa?

Though there have been only limited cases of allergic reactions to quinoa. However, most of them are due to the component saponin. Saponins are components of many plants, like amaranth seeds, soybeans, chickpeas, and other legumes. These substances are considered to act as a deterrent to birds and insects.

If a person is not used to having a high-fiber diet then he may experience digestive issues after its consumption. Quinoa and other fiber-rich foods should be added gradually to the diet to prevent the development of such symptoms.

What Are the Different Varieties of Quinoa?

The most common varieties of quinoa found are white, red, and black quinoa. Besides having a different colors, the different types possess distinctive flavors and textures too yet, they all have the same nutritional profiles. White quinoa is the one most commonly eaten and has a smoother texture than other types. Red quinoa acts as the best ingredient in cold salads. Black quinoa has a bit earthier and sweeter flavor than white quinoa.

How Can Quinoa Be Prepared?

Quinoa is cooked in a similar way to rice. Several brands advise soaking or rinsing quinoa before using it to get rid of saponins, which can otherwise add a soapy taste to it.

After rinsing or soaking the dried quinoa, it can be cooked according to the instructions on the package. It is usually cooked by putting it in a saucepan with two cups of water for every one cup of quinoa, that is in the ratio of 2:1. Boil the contents and then lower the flame to low heat, cover the pan, and let the quinoa cook until it has absorbed all the water in the pan. This takes around 20 minutes or more. The final product is soft, fluffy, and light.


Quinoa is a wonderful replacement for processed and refined carbohydrates like white rice, pasta, white bread, etc. It can be easily adopted in the diet by the majority of people, as it is readily available in the market and can be prepared without putting in much effort.

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop



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