The Health Benefits of Quinoa

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is considered a whole grain but it is really a seed. In fact it is in the same plant family as spinach.  Quinoa is high in protein and dietary fiber. It contains more high quality protein than any other grain. Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all the 9 essential amino acids.

Nutrition Information of Quinoa

One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 32 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of dietary fiber.  Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, iron, selenium, calcium, folate and vitamin E.  One cup contains 4 milligrams (mg) of iron, 90 mg of magnesium, 175 mg of phosphorus, 314 mg potassium, and 1.5 mg zinc.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

  1. Gluten-Free: Quinoa is a great substitute for people who need to be on a gluten-free diet.
  2. Decreases the risk of cancer & heart disease: Quinoa is a good source of saponins, which are phytochemicals that help prevent cancer & heart disease.
  3. Helps to regulate blood sugar and high blood pressure:  It has a very low glycemic index so the blood sugar does not spike after eating quinoa and is high in dietary fiber which helps to regulate both blood sugar & high blood pressure.
  4. Contains high levels of quercetin: Quinoa contains high levels of quercetin, a potent flavonoid, effective at lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer, & cataracts.
  5. Fight obesity: Because of quinoa’s high fiber content, quinoa is filling making you feel full thus eating less food.

Health Risks

Quinoa contains oxalates which can be used to develop kidney stones in some people. The oxalate amount in quinoa varies but even the lower end is too much for people who need to restrict oxalate-restricted diet.

Cooking, Buying & Storing Tips

I typically use quinoa in the place of rice or couscous. It takes about 10 – 15 minutes to cook. I use my rice cooker for that perfect quinoa taste. You just follow the cooking directions just like you are making rice. I typically cook a batch and store in the refrigerator.  It can be stored up to 4 days. I use it in soups, as a base for stir fry vegetables and for breakfast as a cooked cereal.

You can buy quinoa at most larger supermarkets in the health food section or at a health food store around the rice.  Quinoa has many different varieties like white, red and black.  Store quinoa is an airtight package in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months or so. You can also freeze quinoa for longer storage.

Check out these recipes:

Chicken Carrot Quinoa Soup

Cheese Quinoa Black Bean Sweet Potato Casserole

Fueling on a Budget for Traveling Sports Teams

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Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition,, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 12 grandchildren.    


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