Comparing Quinoa vs Rice

Countless nutritionists say that rice is an empty source of calories that has to be avoid while others consider it to be a safe starch that can occasionally be eaten, although safe and empty aren’t too reassuring.

Rice and quinoa are highly controversial in the nutrient food community, which is why we’re doing a quinoa vs rice comparison to understand better their overall health benefits and which should be included in your meals.

There is an old Japanese saying – “we basically eat rice every day of our lives and live a long time“, so it is a bit contradictory and confusing whether or not rice is healthy based on what the experts say and if it should be eaten on a daily basis because of the traditional Japanese diet.

Just because a food is stereotyped as a “health food” doesn’t necessarily make it so if anything, the more a food is touted as a miracle food, the more reasons to we have to doubt it. Nonetheless, are there better options for white or brown rice?

That’s where quinoa comes in, but most people aren’t aware of the health benefits quinoa brings compared to other known grains.

In the last few years quinoa has become commonplace in a lot of homes all over the world, and though Brown rice is healthier than white rice, quinoa should be the number one choice in your meals due to its higher nutritional content.

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Nutritional Facts

Some suggest that a quinoa vs rice comparison wouldn’t be fair as quinoa isn’t technically a grain, but a seed of the goosefoot plant. It is, however, prepared, cooked and eaten as like a grain, with similar nutritional value.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a nutrient rich seed with great health benefits, is naturally gluten-free when not cross-contaminated during processing. It’s high in dietary fiber, more than white or brown rice. It’s also very high in minerals and promotes gut health with its inflammatory abilities.

Quinoa has a much higher and healthier number of carbs than rice, although they are both a high source of carbohydrate, quinoa known as the super-seed is three to four times greater in nutrients compared to rice.

The amount of fat is higher in quinoa, but not the dangerous type of fat, quinoa has a higher amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat compared to other grains, and they both help in lowering cholesterol levels and reduce potential risks of heart disease, and other heart health complications.

The three most important and commonly known types of quinoa are:

  • White. One of the most common types found in a store isn’t very crunchy and ends up cooking faster.
  • Red. Unlike black or white, it sits in between the middle when it comes to crunchiness.
  • Black. Needs 5 to 10 minutes longer to cook compared to white quinoa, it’s also the crunchiest.

The following information and nutrition fact values and amounts are based on 1 cup (170g) of cooked quinoa.

Protein

The most beneficial point of the protein content in quinoa is that it’s a complete protein source providing all nine essential amino acids and it’s one of the few plant-based protein sources that are a complete protein, in other words: it contains all nine essential amino acids.

What makes an amino acids essential? As the body is unable to produce some of them, it is essential to acquired them from food sources, or supplementation.

It’s extremely important to ensure that you’re getting all essential amino acids, in sufficient quantities, as many health issues from diabetes, high cholesterol levels, hair loss, to erectile dysfunction can be traced back to simple metabolic disturbances and that’s because amino acids are absolutely needed for every metabolic process.

  • Histidine. Helps in transporting neurotransmitters to the brain, helps with muscle health inside each muscle cells, produces white and red blood cells which help to detoxify the body for better immunity.
  • Leucine. Number one amino acid and BCAA (branch chain amino acid) that stimulates muscle growth and strength regulates blood sugar and helps to treat and prevent depression.
  • Isoleucine. Another BCAA responsible for helping the body produce hemoglobin and energy, and assists with nitrogen growth inside the muscle cells.
  • Lysine. Responsible for collagen production, output and growth of carnitine (nutrient responsible for lowering cholesterol by converting fatty acids into fuel), and helps in absorbing calcium.
  • Methionine. Helps in forming cartilage in the entire body by utilizing the sulfur within Methionine, which no other amino acid contains. It aids in muscle growth and in building creatine.
  • Phenylalanine. Has three forms, L-phenylalanine, D-phenylalanine, and DL phenylaniline. It turns into tyrosine when ingested, which is another essential amino acid that makes protein, and thyroid hormones. Insufficient levels of this amino acid result in depression, memory problems, brain fog and other related problems.
  • Threonine. Helps in maintaining protein balance to aid in growth, energy, and repairs. Assists in fatty acid digestion in the liver so there’s no buildup which can cause liver failure.
  • Tryptophan. A vital amino acid that helps with muscle repairs and growth, maintaining the neurotransmitters functioning. It is mostly found in dairy and converts to serotonin once it reaches the brain.
  • Valine. Another BCAA responsible for maintaining muscle health, endurance, repair and growth.
Protein  24 g
Tryptophan  96 mg
Threonine  242 mg
Isoleucine  290 mg
Lysine 442 mg
Methionine  178 mg
Tyrosine  154 mg
Valine  342 mg
Leucine  483 mg

Quinoa is very high in lysine, histidine, and methionine which is an excellent source of plant-based protein. It’s so high that the protein is comparable to casein, which is a good quality protein that comes from dairy products.

Carbs

Compared to barley, rice and other grains quinoa are made up of 20 percent of carbohydrates, 80 percent of carbs are from starches, and the remaining is mostly from sugar(small amount), ribose, maltose, galactose, and fiber.

Quinoa has low glycemic index with a score of 53, which in other words means that in most cases depending on the individual, it won’t cause rapid spikes in blood sugar.

Fiber

Good source of fiber, at 5.2g for every cup, beating other grains such as brown rice.

90% of the fiber is insoluble, which is known for reducing risks of diabetes. It also feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut improving gut health and helps in preventing risks of diseases.

Another great benefit of insoluble fiber is that it helps the movement of materials in the digestive system, which is ideal for those with irregular stools and constipation.

 Carbohydrates 109.7 g
    Starch  88.8 g
    Sugar ~
    Fiber 11.9 g

In general, fiber has many benefits from normalizing bowel movements as mentioned above, lowering cholesterol levels, controlling sugar levels and especially helps in achieving your weight goals as fiber helps in making you feel fuller, in turn, you eat less.

Fat

The fat composition of quinoa is mostly composed of linoleic, palmitic and oleic acid just like other cereal grains; these three are the major acids present.

  • Linoleic. Known as omega-6 fatty acid and it’s essential for healthy growth and development in the body, it’s also used to make a substance called eicosanoid that helps to regulate inflammation in the human body.
  • Palmitic. Most common saturated fatty acid easily found in plants and animals, and it’s it’s used mostly in skin care products.
  • Oleic. Known as Omega-9, a monounsaturated fatty acid that helps improve blood circulation, insulin sensitivity, and it’s beneficial in controlling the disease for people with prediabetes and diabetes.
Fat 10.3 g
Saturated Fat 1.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat
2.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5.6 g
Omega-3 522 mg
Omega-6 5061 mg
Trans fat ~

Vitamins and Minerals

Quinoa has a higher amount of vitamins and minerals compared to other grains, especially rice, providing higher levels of fiber, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

Below is a list of the most common vitamins and minerals (and some information for each) that are found in quinoa:

  • Potassium. An essential macro-mineral responsible for decreasing risks of stroke, lowering blood pressure, reducing kidney stones formation and preserves muscle mass.
  • Phosphorus. Promotes bone and protein formation, cellular repair, balances hormones, and proper utilization of nutrients in the body.
  • Magnesium. Another essential macro-mineral helps to build bones, a proper functionality of the nerves and energy production from food sources.
  • Calcium. Important for bone health throughout your lifetime as it contributes to build and maintain healthy bones. Muscles, nerves, and heart also require calcium to function.
  • Sodium. Helps in balancing body fluids, aids in muscle contractions helps to send impulses from the nerves.
  • Iron. Contributes to metabolize proteins, aids in red blood cells and hemoglobin production eradicates fatigue and strengthens the immune system.
  • Zinc. Helps to increase immunity, may help to fight cancer since it acts as a powerful antioxidant, fights diabetes, balances the hormones, interesting enough it increases fertility, and it also aids in the absorption of nutrients.
  • Manganese. Creates essential enzymes that help to build bones, aids the thyroid gland to function properly, regulates blood sugar levels and various other benefits just like the ones above.

There are countless other health benefits for each of those vitamins and minerals, each playing an important and individual role to maintain our overall health.

Calories 626
Vitamins
    Vitamin A 23.8 IU
    Vitamin C ~
    Vitamin D ~
    Vitamin E 4.1 mg
    Vitamin K ~
    Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 0.6 mg
    Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.5 mg
    Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 2.6 mg
    Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic acid) ~
    Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.8 mg
    Vitamin B12 ~
    Folate 313 mcg
    Choline 119 mg
 Minerals
    Calcium 79.9 mg
    Iron 7.8 mg
    Magnesium 335 mg
    Phosphorus 777 mg
    Potassium 957 mg
    Sodium 8.5 mg
    Zinc 5.3 mg
    Copper 1.0 mg
    Manganese 3.5 mg
    Selenium 14.4 mcg

We have more information about quinoa’s history and further information that you can read here >

Rice

Rice is the most popular grain in the world; its cultivation began a little over 14,000 years ago, it too has many minerals and vitamins that are extremely healthy for our body. It’s also gluten-free just like quinoa, naturally low in sodium, a high source of carbohydrates and in the United States alone, almost 2.5 million metric tons of rice is consumed every year.

There are three main types of rice currently known:

  • Long grain. Normally ranges between 6-9 millimeters, the longest of the three.
  • Medium grain. Measures about 2 millimeters.
  • Small grain. Higher amount of fat and much higher in starch compared to the other two types.

With different types, comes three distinct forms of rice as well:

  • Regular-Milled White Rice. For longer storage, this form has its germ, bran and husk removed, and it’s the most known, and consumed form of rice, worldwide.
  • Parboiled Rice. Undergoes a process where the outer and inner starches are forced together which creates a separated kernel where it’s less sticky.
  • Brown Rice. Most nutritious of the three with a mild and nutty flavor, only the husk is removed which leaves the germ layers and the bran.

The information including all nutrition fact values provided below are based on 1 cup of cooked rice.

Carbs

Rice is composed primarily of carbs, mainly in the form of starch that’s made up of two glucose chains named amylopectin and amylose which contributes to the texture of rice.

Being high in carbs, it’s also fast to digest, which can cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar, especially in people with diabetes and other conditions, that goes for all grains high in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index.

Fiber

White rice contains 2.4 grams of fiber, while brown rice contains 6.5 grams, unenriched.

All in all, white rice contains small amounts of fiber compared to quinoa, while brown rice has a higher source, neither compares to quinoa in nutritional values.

White Rice Brown Rice
Carbohydrates 148 g 143g
    Fiber 2.4 g 6.5g
    Starch ~ ~
    Sugars 0.2 g 1.6g

Fat

Rice has a much lower fat content, especially the healthy fats that the human body requires.

It’s recommended to eat a certain amount of fat on a daily basis, that depends on the individual and their daily food requirements, rice is not a good source of healthy fats.

White Rice Brown Rice
Total Fat 1.2g 5.4g
Saturated Fat 0.3g 1.1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.4g 2.0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3g 1.9g
Total Omega-3 fatty acids 57.4mg 81.4mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids 270mg 1850mg

Protein

Unlike quinoa, rice itself is what we call an incomplete protein, which means that it doesn’t contain all nine essential amino acids or it doesn’t have a sufficient quantity to meet the needs of our body. For those looking to eat rice as a protein source should consider incorporating quinoa in their diet instead, as it’s a complete protein.

If you want to eat quinoa based purely on the protein content, it should be combined with other food types to provide a balance of the essential amino acids.

Here’s the list of amino acids and protein value in white and brown rice:

White Rice Brown Rice
Protein 13.2 g 14.7 g
Amino Acids
    Tryptophan 154 mg 187 mg
    Threonine 472 mg 538 mg
    Isoleucine 570 mg 622 mg
    Leucine 1090 mg 1215 mg
    Lysine 477 mg 561 mg
    Methionine 311 mg 331 mg
    Cystine 270 mg 178 mg
    Phenylalanine 705 mg 758 mg
    Tyrosine 440 mg 551 mg
    Valine 805 mg 862 mg
    Arginine 1099 mg 1114 mg
    Histidine 311 mg 374 mg
    Alanine 764 mg 857 mg
    Aspartic acid 1239 mg 1375 mg
    Glutamic acid 2570 mg 2994 mg
    Glycine 601 mg 723 mg
    Proline 620 mg 688 mg
    Serine 694 mg 760 mg
    Hydroxyproline  ~  ~

Vitamins and Minerals

The vitamins and minerals value of rice very on the cooking method and which type of rice that’s available to you as most nutrients are concentrated in the germ and bran of rice which are only found in the brown type and not the white because of the process it goes through explained above.

Rice is a poor source of minerals and vitamins all around, choose brown rice if you’re looking for a healthier grain, even though the taste and texture are different, and compared to quinoa, it’s still below average.

Below you’ll find a list of them:

White Rice Brown Rice
Calories 675 685
Vitamin A 0.0 IU 0.0 IU
Vitamin C 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Vitamin D ~ ~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.2 mg 2.2 mg
Vitamin K 0.2 mcg 3.5 mcg
Thiamin 0.1 mg 0.7 mg
Riboflavin 0.1 mg 0.2 mg
Niacin 3.0 mg 9.4 mg
Vitamin B6 0.3 mg 0.9 mg
Folate 14.8 mcg 37.0 mcg
Vitamin B12 0.0 mcg 0.0 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 1.9 mg 2.8 mg
Choline 10.7 mg 56.8 mg
Betaine ~ ~

As you can see, the amounts are very low, increasing the amount of rice to eat will do you worse as the level of carbohydrates are very high, depending on your food intake and macros at the end of the day you might end up gaining weight.


Chemical Compounds

Chemical compounds are known as phytochemicals, phytonutrients, and other names. They’re found and produced in fruits, beans, grains and various other plants, and each comes in different varieties with different benefits.

The primary use of these chemicals is to help protect the plants from threads such as predators such as bugs, fungi, pathogens and others.

They are non-essential nutrients, which means the human body does not need it for keeping the body healthy and alive.

There are thousands of phytochemicals; not many have been deeply researched. Recent studies show the effects of phytochemicals on vegetables and plants might have a higher and positive impact on our health; further studies required though.

Not all of these phytochemicals are healthy; some can cause a direct imbalance with our diet and cause major health issues if consumed at a higher level.

Below we’ll take a look at some of the phytochemicals that both quinoa and rice contain, with little information about each.

Quinoa Rice
Saponins Ferulic Acid
Oxalates Lignans
Phytic Acid Phytic Acid
Squalene 2-Acetyl 1-Pyrroline
Kaempferol Phenolic Acids
Quercetin Anthocyanins
Ferulic Acid Proanthocyanidins
Tocopherols
Tocotrienols
γ-oryzanol

Phenolic Acids

Studies have shown various health benefits of phenolic acids; it helps to treat and prevent various diseases like cancer, diabetes, and others.

It acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antihistamines, antivirals as mentioned earlier, boosts mental health, metabolism and various other benefits.

Ferulic Acid

An antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals such as nitric oxide, hydroxil radical and superoxide which can cause oxidative damage to the DNA or even the cell membranes. It also protects us by preventing ultraviolet damage to our cells and it’s normally used in anti-aging products.

It also protects against cancer and reduces the risk of heart disease as it reduces cholesterol levels.

Lignans

Antioxidants that contain both insoluble and soluble fiber supports the immune system and helps to balance the body’s hormone levels.

It contributes in balancing estrogen levels in woman and men, balances the testosterone-DHT relationship, and helps to convert testosterone to DHT with certain enzymes which help to improve prostate health.

Phytic Acid

Many forms of seeds store phosphorus as phytic acid, it’s basically a storage form that’s considered to be an anti-nutrient as it binds the minerals in the digestive tract making it difficult to be absorbed by our body.

Although, the same anti-nutrient properties in it can prevent chronic diseases and others.

For example, foods high in phytic acid can enhance natural killer cells activity, stop the growth of tumors, lower chance to succumb to prostate and breast cancer, helps prevent hardening of the arteries, improve kidney health and prevent kidney stones and various other benefits.

2-Acetyl 1-Pyrroline

A volatile aromatic compound that’s responsible for the smell and taste.

Anthocyanins

Laboratory research, both in humans and animals show that anthocyanins may have a significant role in reducing and preventing risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline, but these studies suggest that these health benefits comes from an unidentified source far beyond their antioxidant capacity.

Proanthocyanidins

A powerful antioxidant that’s known to be 20 times stronger than Vitamin C and 50 times higher than Vitamin E and helps to promote cell health, flexibility, protects from UV ray damage, strengthen the capillaries and various other benefits.

Aside from being stronger than Vitamin C and D, it enhances the vitamins activity which helps in supporting the capillary system health.

Tocopherols

Commonly known as a generic Vitamin E as the substances in vitamin e are made up of tocopherol.

The human body needs vitamin E to prevent health problems, that’s one of the reasons why it’s sold in stores as supplements as it contributes to a health diet in case vitamin E isn’t being ingested from food sources.

Tocopherol has antioxidant properties that help to fight chronic disease.

It’s important to remember that an elevated amount of vitamin E or tocopherol can cause various illnesses such as stroke or heart attack.

Tocotrienols

Like tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, tocotrienol is also another form. Known to reduce the formation of tumors, and helps to prevent damage to the cells, and DNA.

And has the same benefits as tocopherol.

γ-oryzanol

Known as gamma-oryzanol, gammariza, calclate and thiaminogen.

Mostly known to treat menopause symptoms since the early 1960’s. It also helps in treating other medical conditions such as nausea, anxiety, depression, heartburn rashes and muscle pains.

Saponins

Studies have shown Saponins have various health benefits, from cholesterol reduction, lowers cancer risks, boosts the immune system, reduces bone loss, and it has antioxidant activities which reduce risks of heart diseases.

Oxalates

Oxalates reduce calcium absorption and can cause problems for people with or without recurring kidney stones. [1]

Squalene

Squalene is natural to our body. It’s used to keep the skin and other bodily tissues moist, lubricated. Aside from external use, it helps to boost the immune system, prevent diseases; it’s good for the digestive system, bones, heart and helps protect the body from external toxins.

Kaempferol

An important antioxidant that helps in preventing oxidative damage to our cells, DNA, and lips. It also acts as a chemopreventive agent which prevents the formation of cancer cells in our bodies.

Quercetin

One of the most important antioxidants, it helps to fight free radical damage, and it stops the effect of aging and inflammation.

It’s mostly known to be used and purchased as an anti-inflammatory supplement.

Ferulic Acid

Another antioxidant that’s known to be associated with skin care benefits aside from enhancing heart health lowers high blood pressure and cholesterol; it also helps with osteoporosis and diabetes.

It’s typically used to treat damage caused by the sun and reverse the signs of wrinkles and fine lines.


Takeaways and Winner

Firstly, we’ll go ahead and compare the glycemic index and glycemic load of both. If you don’t know what they are, to be abrupt, the glycemic index is a measurement of how fast a food causes a spike in a person’s blood glucose while the glycemic load is the total amount of carbohydrate that a food has contributed to the diet.

  • Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53 and a glycemic load of 13.
  • Rice has a glycemic index of 73 and a glycemic load of 30.

Unlike rice, quinoa is not part of the grass family; it is a pseudo-cereals which are non-grasses and are used exactly like true cereals.

Quinoa wins hands down due to its low glycemic index and glycemic load, higher nutritional level, gluten-free health benefits and it contains all essential amino acids.

Quinoa Rice
Calories 624 675
Protein 31g 22g
Carbs 109g 148g
Fats 10.3 1.2g

All in all, those who are on a high nutrient diet and are physically active should do great with quinoa consumption.

Of all the grains, quinoa is definitely one of the safest, and best options to have in your cooking and dieting arsenal.

As far as quinoa vs rice goes, the winner is clearly the delicious and exotic quinoa due to its beneficial health contents.

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