This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
There are many food recommendations for weight loss but they are not always justified. Is quinoa actually healthy and good for weight loss?
Quinoa is a food that has been rising in popularity over the years. This food is the seed of the quinoa plant so it’s technically not a grain. Quinoa itself is gluten-free but sometimes it’s handled together with gluten-containing products so it can be smart to check the food label anyway.
Some people swear this is one of the healthiest foods out there. Find out if that’s really the case.
Micronutrients in quinoa
The first thing to look at are the micronutrients in quinoa.
Micronutrients are a group of nutrients your body absolutely needs to survive and thrive. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. These are involved in basically every aspect of your health, including weight loss.
100 grams of cooked quinoa provides you with approximately (1):
- Manganese: 32% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Magnesium: 16% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 15% of the DV
- Folate: 10% of the DV
- Iron: 8% of the DV
- Thiamin: 7% of the DV
- Zinc: 7% of the DV
And a few other micronutrients in smaller amounts. That’s a nice amount of extra vitamins and minerals certainly if you consume quinoa in bigger amounts.
Quinoa also contains a few antioxidants, substances that can be beneficial for your body by decreasing oxidative stress.
Fiber in quinoa for weight loss
Another very important factor for weight loss is the amount of fiber in your food.
Quinoa contains around 2.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This is a medium to high amount of fiber per 100 grams if you’re comparing with other whole foods.
Fiber has multiple benefits. First of all, it feeds your microbiome, the microbes that live in your intestines. The health of your microbiome influences your body’s health and weight. Feeding it well is usually not a bad idea.
Fiber also helps you feel less hungry without adding a lot of calories to your diet. Hunger and cravings can be a big pitfall for people trying to lose weight, so avoiding this is a big plus.
With the amount of fiber in quinoa you can reduce the time you spend craving for food.
Protein in quinoa for weight loss
Another thing in food that can help you on your weight loss journey is the amount of protein in it.
Cooked quinoa contains about 4.4 grams of protein per 100 grams. To compare, salmon contains around 25.4 grams per 100 grams (2).
Protein is considered to be the most filling of the 3 macronutrients. Eating enough protein will also help you prevent muscle loss. Muscle helps you burn extra calories throughout the day which is very good for weight loss. Protein calories also take your body more calories to process than calories from carbs and fats.
Not every kind of protein is the same. The smaller building blocks of protein called amino acids can vary from food to food. Quinoa is considered a “complete” protein. This means that it contains all essential amino acids.
The amount in quinoa is a nice addition but this food won’t be enough to fulfill your protein needs. Do keep in mind that overdoing it with protein isn’t good either.
Will quinoa help you lose weight?
Let’s take a closer look at the macronutrients in cooked quinoa.
120 calories per 100 gram. 85.1 of these calories come from the carbohydrates (21.3 g per 100 gram of which 2.8 g fiber).
If you’re trying to follow a low carb diet you might want to avoid eating too much quinoa.
The amount of calories in quinoa are medium compared to a lot of whole foods. A bit higher compared to many whole grains but still medium to low in general.
Combine this with the amount of nutrients and fiber and you have a good weight loss food option. Quinoa can help you feel fuller and provide you important nutrients without adding too many calories.
Quinoa also combines great in all kinds of meals like for example salads.
If you’re still struggling with eating too many calories while eating quinoa, options like vegetables and fruits might be better choices.
Is it OK to eat quinoa every day?
It should be fine to eat quinoa every day. There is not too much to worry about.
Quinoa will help you reach your daily goals of fiber and micronutrient intake while only adding a medium amount of calories to your diet. Just how much you can eat each day for health and weight loss depends a lot on the rest of your lifestyle.
Is it good to eat quinoa at night?
It’s almost never smart to eat at night and certainly not carbohydrate rich foods. Since the calories in quinoa are mostly made up of carbohydrates, it’s better to avoid eating quinoa at night.
In fact you preferably want to keep quinoa for earlier in the day.
Carbohydrates in the food you eat raises a hormone called insulin. Insulin can mess with the production of sleep hormones. Sleep is very important for weight loss.
How to cook quinoa
The first step depends on the brand of quinoa you buy. Naturally quinoa has a bitter layer around it. If the quinoa you have is not rinsed you can quickly do that yourself for a better taste.
A common quinoa to water ratio is 1 part uncooked quinoa to 2 parts water. You can make the portion as big as you want.
Once you have measured out both you can combine the water and quinoa in a saucepan. First you bring the mixture to boil over a medium to high heat. After that you can decrease the heat a bit and let it simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed the water, the cooking time will be about 10-20 minutes. In general, the more you have the longer it will take.
Then you can take the pot off the heat. You can let it sit for a few minutes, add some salt and you’re good to go.
Quinoa vs similar dishes for weight loss
A common question is how quinoa compares to a few similar dishes in terms of weight loss and health. Find out how quinoa compares to (brown) rice, oatmeal and couscous.
Quinoa vs brown rice
The most frequently asked about comparison is with both white and brown rice.
If you’re only looking at calories, brown rice contains a slightly smaller amount of calories per 100 grams (9 calories lower). But then if you look at all the other nutrient options the scale gets tipped the other way.
Quinoa has more fiber (2.8 grams) than brown rice (1.8 grams) per 100 grams (3). Quinoa also has slightly more protein (4.4 grams) than brown rice (2.6 grams). These things mean quinoa will leave you fuller for longer than brown rice. This is a big point for the people who struggle with hunger.
In terms of percentages of daily value, quinoa contains slightly more vitamins and minerals. The thing is that the kinds of vitamins and minerals in rice are not the same as quinoa. This means it might be smart to switch it up from time to time to make sure you enough of all different vitamins and minerals.
In short, quinoa looks slightly better than rice for weight loss but only by a tiny margin. It might be smart to eat some of both from time to time.
Quinoa vs oatmeal
People also wonder about the comparison with oatmeal.
The calorie count from oatmeal is certainly a lot higher (389 calories vs 120 calories per 100 grams). Do keep in mind that this calorie count in oats is from uncombined oats, so no water or milk added yet (4).
The vitamins and minerals in oats are also a lot higher. Oats also have more protein (16.9 grams) and more fiber (10.6 grams) than cooked quinoa.
It’s hard to say whether one is better than the other for weight loss. The calories in quinoa are a lot lower but protein and fiber help you feel a lot fuller. Both of these nutrients are also helpful in other areas of weight loss.
Quinoa vs couscous
Lastly, there is quinoa vs couscous. Couscous is slightly lower in gross calories (8 calories lower per 100 grams). The thing is that this dish is also lower in fiber (1.4 grams vs the 2.8 grams of quinoa). So the net calories are about the same since fiber doesn’t get absorbed as regular calories (5).
The protein levels from these 2 dishes are very close. 3.8 grams per 100 grams vs the 4.4 grams in quinoa.
Quinoa is richer in vitamins and minerals than couscous. All of this together means that quinoa is slightly better for weight loss.
The amount of vitamins and minerals in the foods does matter for weight loss and health but you can’t simplify that in one number. You can check out the numbers for quinoa (1), brown rice (3), oats (4), and couscous (5) to compare.
|Values per 100g||Quinoa (Boiled)||Brown Rice (Boiled)||Oatmeal (Dry)||Couscous (Boiled)|
|Calories||120 calories||111 calories||389 calories||112 calories|
|Fiber||2.8 g||1.8 g||10.6 g||1.4 g|
|Protein||4.4 g||2.6 g||16.9 g||3.8 g|
What is the best way to eat quinoa for weight loss?
The best way to eat quinoa for weight loss is as least processed as possible. That means just cooking them or adding them to a healthy smoothie. You can eat quinoa with some vegetables as breakfast, lunch and early dinner.
You should avoid foods like quinoa flour, quinoa cake and quinoa bread if you’re looking to lose weight.
Can you use quinoa to lose weight?
Quinoa provides some great benefits for weight loss and health. This food has a nice amount of fiber, a good amount of vitamins and minerals, some protein and it’s not that high in calories. It will help you feel fuller and provide you with important nutrients without adding that many calories to your diet.
Do keep in mind that the rest of your diet and lifestyle stays important when it comes to losing weight and being healthy. One food is almost never the cause of weight gain or the key to weight loss.
Some people do have a quinoa allergy but for all other people quinoa is a fairly healthy food.