Is quinoa a carb?

Quinoa (pronounced keenwah) is the seed of a plant that is native to South America, and has become increasingly popular over recent years. It is often thought of as a superfood, due to the many health benefits it brings.

Quinoa is commonly eaten because of its high protein content. But what about carbohydrate? Is quinoa a carbohydrate rich food, and if so, how much carbohydrate does it contain?

Nutritional information

A cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa provides you with:

Calories 222
Carbohydrates 39.4 g
Dietary fiber 5.2 g
Starch 32.6 g
Protein 8.1 g
Fat 3.6 g

From the table above you can see that quinoa is indeed a carbohydrate rich food. Carbs make up around 21% of cooked quinoa, which is similar to the carbohydrate percentage of cooked rice.

Most of the carbohydrate in quinoa is in the form of starch, whilst the rest consists of dietary fiber and sugars. Starches are long chains of glucose molecules, which end up being broken down back into glucose by the digestive system as a source of energy. Other starch rich foods include beans, potatoes, corn, pasta and rice.

How does quinoa impact weight loss?

One of the primary reasons why people follow low carbohydrate diets is because they have been proven to assist with weight loss. For example, studies such as this have found that low carb diets can be much more effective for weight loss than low fat diets. A lot of the body fat that is lost when following a low carb diet comes from the belly area (also known as visceral fat), which is the most dangerous kind.

So if quinoa is a carb rich food, will it negatively impact weight loss? Not necessarily.

The reason for this is because of its high protein and fiber content. Many studies have shown that both protein and fiber increase feelings of fullness after being eaten, which in turn means less food is eaten throughout the day, thereby benefiting weight loss.

And sure enough, studies such as this and this have found that quinoa consumption is associated with weight loss and may in fact help to prevent obesity.

Another study carried out on mice found that the consumption of quinoa extract led to increased energy expenditure, less dietary fat absorption and improved glucose processing. And this study found that rats who were fed quinoa had a lower food intake than those who were fed casein (a type of milk protein).

Additionally, quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, which isn’t considered high. The glycemic index provides an indication of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Quinoa provides a slow and steady release of energy, compared to refined grains such as white rice, which raise blood sugar levels much faster.

So the bottom line is that whilst quinoa does have a high carbohydrate content, it can still be part of an effective weight loss diet. The important thing to keep in mind is to eat it in reasonable portions.

A cup of cooked quinoa (222 calories) will account for around 10% of the total daily energy requirement of the average adult. You can use the tool below to estimate your individual calorie requirements, depending on your overall goals.

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This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

Be sure to eat quinoa together with other foods that are beneficial for weight loss, such as vegetables and lean protein.

Quinoa is very nutritious

Besides having the potential to assist with weight loss, quinoa is an excellent source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. These include:

  • Iron – a cup of cooked quinoa provides 15% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron. Iron is a component of haemoglobin, the molecule that transports oxygen throughout the body.
  • Magnesium –¬† 30% RDA per cup. Magnesium helps increase energy levels, assists with restful sleep, improves digestion and relieves muscle aches.
  • Phosphorus – 28% RDA per cup. Phosphorus maintain strong bones and teeth, plays an important role in metabolism and is needed for cognitive function.
  • Zinc – 13% RDA per cup. Zinc increases immunity, balances hormones and supports liver health.

Quinoa also provides you with vitamin E, the B vitamins, calcium, potassium, manganese, copper and selenium. All of these nutrients bring with them many health benefits.

Besides these micro-nutrients, quinoa is a source of the compounds quercetin and kaempferol, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants help to reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body, thereby preventing a number of serious diseases.

Quinoa is a complete protein source, meaning it provides all 9 essential amino acids, which is rare amongst plant based protein sources.

Quinoa is easy to incorporate into the diet

Quinoa is readily available at grocery stores & health food shops and is also easy to prepare. It has the added benefit of being gluten free, meaning it can be enjoyed by people who suffer from gluten intolerance or those who choose not to include gluten in their diet.

To prepare quinoa, you first need to rinse it under running water to get rid of the outer shell that gives it a bitter flavour. It then needs to be cooked in a similar way to rice, by boiling it in water for around 15 minutes.

Quinoa can be a bit boring to eat on its own. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious and healthy quinoa based recipes out there for your to enjoy!