Difference of Quinoa vs Rice: Which is Better?

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quinoa vs rice

Rice has always been a staple in most households. It is versatile, affordable, and easy to make. Quinoa, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer.

So what are the two foods and how do they compare? And more importantly, which is better for your health?

Quinoa vs Rice? Rice exists in many different forms and each has its own health benefits. White rice may be the most common, but its outer shell has been removed, and along with it, many of its nutrients. Brown rice is far more nutritious than white rice so if you are given the choice, it is definitely better to select this option. Quinoa has been described as a superfood and for good reason. It is high in protein and fiber and contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals. While brown rice is healthier than white rice, quinoa is much better than either of them.

What is Quinoa?

what is quinoa

Quinoa comes from a flowering plant that is part of the amaranth family. The quinoa we eat is actually the seed part of the plant.

While quinoa looks similar to rice, it is actually more similar to spinach. However, while we eat spinach leaves, we eat quinoa seeds.

Even though quinoa has always grown in nature, it has only become a popular food source in the last few decades. White quinoa is the most common variety but you can also choose from red quinoa and black quinoa.

Quinoa was labeled as a superfood because it has so many nutritional benefits. As a result, people have been quick to flock to it, looking for an alternative to rice.

What is Rice?

what is rice

Rice is a cereal grain. It is actually a seed from a grass species. There are two main species, including African rice and Asian rice.

Across the world, rice is the most consumed staple food. It is extremely popular in Asia and Africa but also eaten in every other country.

Rice is traditionally grown in more tropical areas that have a high rainfall. It takes a lot of land to grow rice.

Research has continually targeted rice, trying to create more nutritional and hardy varieties. Because it is used so often in developing countries, it is important to make it as sustainable and nutrient-dense as possible.

Quinoa vs Rice Comparison

quinoa vs rice comparison

Health Benefits

Quinoa

Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free plant source. It is high in fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol as well as lower blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, the minerals it has, including magnesium and manganese, help your bones become stronger. In fact, a cup of quinoa might just be more beneficial to your bones than a cup of milk.  

Finally, quinoa is a complete protein, which means it has all the essential amino acids the body needs. These work to repair damaged cells and create an overall healthier, more energetic body.

Rice

Rice is a food staple for a reason. It has plenty of health benefits.

Since brown rice has a different carbohydrate makeup than white rice, it can help regulate blood sugar levels, which is especially important for those who are diabetic.

Brown rice is also a good source of fiber. This important element reduces the risk of stroke as well as lowers cholesterol.

Again pertaining to brown rice, this variety contains antioxidants. Antioxidants can help prevent cancer because they protect against the risk of free radicals from damaging cells.    

Nutrition Facts

Quinoa

Protein

Quinoa is considered a really good source of protein. One cup of quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein.

What’s more important, though, is that the protein is a considered a complete protein. It includes all the essential amino acids you need for a healthy body. Many protein sources are incomplete, so you need to consume multiple protein sources to get all the nutrients.

There are actually many types of quinoa, although basic white quinoa is the most popular. The good news is that while different quinoa varieties, including red and black, have different tastes, they all contain the same amount of protein and all have a complete set of essential amino acids.

Carbohydrates

Despite its great nutritional elements, quinoa is also a source of a lot of carbohydrates. In one cup you can find about 40 grams of carbs, which is equal to a cup of white rice.

However, because quinoa is a whole grain, its carbohydrate load isn’t as bad as you might think. It isn’t digested too quickly, meaning it won’t immediately spike your blood glucose levels.

Fiber

Quinoa is a good source of the dietary fiber you need. In one cup of quinoa, you can expect to find about 20 grams of fiber.

Fiber is incredibly important for digestion. It keeps everything moving while also making you feel full, which in turn leads you to eating less.

Fat

There is not much fat in quinoa. Expect to find just 1 or 2 grams in a cup. Quinoa is rich in many other elements, so it is great to be consumed if you are on a diet.

The fat that quinoa has is a healthy fat, so you don’t have to worry about it being unhealthy.

Vitamins and Minerals

You can find many essential minerals in quinoa. These include manganese, phosphorus, folate, iron, copper, and zinc.

Furthermore, you can find the B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. If you have the choice of eating cereals or quinoa, then you should definitely choose quinoa. It just has a really nice balance of everything your body needs.  

Rice

Protein

Rice is considered a carbohydrate and not a good source of protein. While it does have some protein, about 3 grams per cup, it is really not very much.

There are some forms of rice that are much better in this category. Wild rice has double the amount of protein than white rice does because it still retains its seed hull.

Brown rice falls in the middle of the two with about 4 grams of protein per cup.

Carbohydrates

The primary component of rice is carbohydrates. In fact, about 80% of its makeup falls in this category.

Within the category of carbohydrates, rice is categorized as a starch. Once starch is digested by the body, it becomes a sugar, which is then used as energy.

However, different types of rice take different amounts of time to be digested.

For example, basmati rice has a high amount of amylose, which is a long chain of glucose. Amylose will actually slow down digestion, making your body feel fuller for longer.

In contrast, sticky rice, such as what is used to make sushi, is rich in a different long chain of glucose, called amylopectin. Amylopectin is digested by the body quite quickly, so you won’t have that same full feeling.

If you have diabetes, it’s not recommended to eat sticky rice. Because it is digested so quickly, it can lead to a large spike in your blood sugar level.

Fiber

Because there are so many types of rice, understanding the fiber value of rice is quite complicated.

White rice has very little fiber, measuring about 0.4 grams per cup. Conversely, brown rice has about 1.4 grams per cup.

When growing, rice actually starts out as brown rice. To create white rice, the seed coat, also known as the bran portion, is removed. This is similar as to how white flour is created.

The majority of rice’s fiber lays in this seed coat.

While white rice may be the staple food, if you want more nutrition, it’s best to stick with brown rice.

Fat

For those on a diet, rice is a nice choice because it contains virtually no fat. However, just be aware that its large carbohydrate portion can quickly turn to fat if you don’t use the energy it produces.

Vitamins and Minerals

By now, you should be aware that the different types of rice have very different nutritional qualities. White rice has some vitamins and minerals, but brown and wild rice are much better in this category.

Brown rice is incredibly high in manganese which helps with your protein and amino acid regulation. Niacin, thiamin, selenium, and magnesium can also be found in brown rice.

Much of today’s rice has been enriched through genetic enhancements. It has a lot more vitamins and minerals because of agricultural scientists.

Gluten Content

Quinoa

Quinoa is a naturally gluten-free food. It is a great alternative for those who cannot consume any gluten.

Rice

Rice does not contain gluten. However, you will want to pay attention to what your rice is served with, or how it has been prepared.

There are times when rice has been cross-contacted with other foods such as wheat or rye, which do contain gluten. You will want to check the label on your quinoa, to make sure that it is definitely gluten-free.  

Conclusion – Which is Better?

The healthier option is definitely quinoa. While brown or wild rice are both good options, quinoa offers more benefits and a more complete nutritional profile. Quinoa is higher in fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins.

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