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Bulgur vs. Quinoa — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on June 22, 2023
Medically reviewed by Arpi Gasparyan Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Bulgur
vs
Quinoa

https://foodstruct.com/articles/vitamin-aSummary

Quinoa is denser in nutrients, providing more calories, net carbs, protein, and fats. Quinoa is 4 times richer in vitamin B2. On the other hand, bulgur is almost two times richer in dietary fiber. 

It is also a better source of nearly all minerals, including selenium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron.

Bulgur is a wheat product and contains gluten. Quinoa, unlike bulgur, is gluten-free and can be used instead of wheat or bulgur on a gluten-free diet.

 

Introduction

Bulgur and quinoa are nutritious grains with distinct tastes, textures, and nutrient content differences. In this article, we will discuss these differences and their similarities.

Classification and Origin

Bulgur is made from cracked wheat kernels that have been partially cooked and dried. It is a staple food in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Bulgur is classified as a whole grain, meaning the germ, bran, and endosperm are not removed.

Quinoa, on the other hand, is a pseudocereal that is native to the Andean region of South America. It is not technically a grain but is often used like one in cooking. 

Regarding classification, bulgur is a type of wheat, while quinoa belongs to the same family as beets and spinach.

Appearance, Taste, and Use

Bulgur is a type of wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and cracked into small pieces. It has a light brown color and a slightly coarse texture.

On the other hand, quinoa is a small, round grain that comes in various colors, including white, red, and black. It has a slightly translucent appearance and a soft texture.

Bulgur has slightly nutty, earthy flavor and a chewy texture. It is often used in Middle Eastern dishes, such as salads (tabbouleh), pilaf, stews, and soups. It can also be used as a substitute for rice or couscous in many recipes.

Quinoa has a slightly nutty but milder flavor and tender texture. It is often used in South American cuisine, such as salads or as a side dish. It is a popular gluten-free alternative to traditional grains like wheat or rye.

Nutrition

In the infographics below, you will find nutritional information for 100g servings of cooked bulgur and quinoa.

One average serving of these grains per person is one cup, weighing 182g for bulgur and 185g for quinoa.

Macronutrients and Calories

These two cereal grains are very similar in their macronutrient compositions, with quinoa only a little denser. 

Bulgur comprises 78% water, 19% carbohydrates, and 3% other nutrients, while quinoa comprises 72% water, 21% carbs, and 7% other.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Bulgur
1
:
4
Quinoa
Contains more Protein +42.9%
Contains more Fats +700%
Contains more Carbs +14.6%
Contains more Other +126.5%
Equal in Water - 71.61
3% 19% 78%
Protein: 3.08 g
Fats: 0.24 g
Carbs: 18.58 g
Water: 77.76 g
Other: 0.34 g
4% 2% 21% 72%
Protein: 4.4 g
Fats: 1.92 g
Carbs: 21.3 g
Water: 71.61 g
Other: 0.77 g
Contains more Protein +42.9%
Contains more Fats +700%
Contains more Carbs +14.6%
Contains more Other +126.5%
Equal in Water - 71.61

Calories

Quinoa is significantly higher in calories, providing 37 more calories per every 100g serving. In a 100g serving, quinoa and bulgur contain 120 and 83 calories, respectively.

Bulgur can fall in the low-calorie food group, while quinoa may be considered a medium-calorie food.

Carbohydrates

Quinoa is higher in carbohydrates due to 4 more grams of net carbs in each 100g serving, while bulgur is richer in dietary fiber by 1.7g per 100g.

In a 100g serving, quinoa provides 21.3g of carbohydrates, of which 87% are net carbs and 13% is dietary fiber, whereas bulgur has 18.6g of carbs, of which 76% are net carbs, and 24% is dietary fiber.

The net carbs found in quinoa consist entirely of starch.

Bulgur is an excellent source of dietary fiber as a 100g serving of this grain covers 18% of the daily needed fiber value. It falls in the top 20% of foods as a source of this nutrient. Quinoa is also a good source of fiber, covering 11% of the daily needed value. 

Protein

Quinoa is also higher in protein, containing 4.4g per 100g serving, while bulgur has 3.1g. However, while both these grains contain some amounts of all essential amino acids, they are relatively low in protein.

Fats

While bulgur does not contain a notable amount of fats, quinoa provides 2g per 100g serving. Most of these fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Vitamins

Quinoa is richer in most vitamins, providing 4 times more vitamin B2 (riboflavin), 2.3 times more vitamin B9 (folate), and overall more vitamins A, E, B1, and B6.

At the same time, bulgur is 2 times richer in vitamin B3 (niacin). Bulgur also contains small amounts of vitamin K, which quinoa lacks entirely.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Bulgur
3
:
7
Quinoa
Contains more Vitamin B3 +142.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Vitamin A +150%
Contains more Vitamin E +6200%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +87.7%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +292.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +48.2%
Contains more Folate +133.3%
Contains more Choline +233.3%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 1% 0% 0% 15% 7% 19% 21% 20% 14% 0% 4% 2%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 13% 0% 0% 27% 26% 8% 0% 29% 32% 0% 13% 0%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +142.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Vitamin A +150%
Contains more Vitamin E +6200%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +87.7%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +292.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +48.2%
Contains more Folate +133.3%
Contains more Choline +233.3%

Minerals

Quinoa is the absolute winner in the mineral category, being considerably richer in most minerals, including selenium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron.

Bulgur is somewhat lower in sodium.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Bulgur
1
:
9
Quinoa
Contains less Sodium -28.6%
Contains more Calcium +70%
Contains more Iron +55.2%
Contains more Magnesium +100%
Contains more Phosphorus +280%
Contains more Potassium +152.9%
Contains more Zinc +91.2%
Contains more Copper +156%
Contains more Selenium +366.7%
Equal in Manganese - 0.631
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 3% 36% 23% 18% 6% 1% 16% 25% 80% 4%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 56% 46% 66% 16% 1% 30% 64% 83% 16%
Contains less Sodium -28.6%
Contains more Calcium +70%
Contains more Iron +55.2%
Contains more Magnesium +100%
Contains more Phosphorus +280%
Contains more Potassium +152.9%
Contains more Zinc +91.2%
Contains more Copper +156%
Contains more Selenium +366.7%
Equal in Manganese - 0.631

Based on daily value coverage, both grains are excellent sources of iron. Quinoa is also a great choice as a source of magnesium, copper, and phosphorus.

Glycemic Index

Both grains have low glycemic index values, with bulgur being slightly lower.

Cooked bulgur has an average glycemic index (GI) of 47 based on five different samples (1). Thus, bulgur is considered to have a low glycemic index value. If interested, you can read a more in-depth article regarding the glycemic index of bulgur.

According to four measurements, quinoa has an average glycemic index of 53 (1). This also falls into the low glycemic index category.

The glycemic load of quinoa is calculated to be 18.

Health Impact

Cardiovascular Health

Consuming whole grains, such as bulgur and quinoa, is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (2).

Whole grain meals' high dietary fiber content boosts their potential for disease prevention and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (3).

According to research, including quinoa seeds in one's diet can lessen the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing body weight, waist circumference, fat mass, triglyceride levels, and total cholesterol (4).

However, according to another study, there isn't enough proof to suggest eating whole grains to lower cholesterol or blood pressure or lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease (5).

Diabetes

As mentioned above, bulgur and quinoa have low glycemic index values; however, this value tends to be lower for bulgur. These low values demonstrate that the intake of these grains leads to a gradual and not rapid increase in blood sugar levels.

Studies have shown that whole grains, including bulgur and quinoa, have an inverse relationship with the onset of type 2 diabetes. Whole-grain phytochemicals may benefit metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity (2).

Fiber, protein, and polyphenols are components found in quinoa that may act as agents against the metabolic side effects of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Consuming quinoa can lower triglyceride and fasting blood glucose levels (6). 

Digestion

Bulgur wheat is one of the primary sources of protein known as gluten, which is also present in some cereals and grain products, primarily wheat, rye, spelt, etc. Consuming this protein can lead to gluten-related disorders such as celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, resulting in symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, and abdominal pain.

Bulgur is also a source of FODMAPs, poorly absorbed carbs linked to worsened symptoms of IBS. The FODMAP content of bulgur varies according to serving size: a half serving is low in FODMAP, whereas one serving is high in FODMAP. Quinoa, on the other hand, is low in FODMAPs.

Quinoa, unlike bulgur, is gluten-free and low in FODMAPs and can be used instead of wheat or bulgur on gluten-free and low-FODMAP diets.

Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: June 22, 2023
Medically reviewed by Arpi Gasparyan

Infographic

Bulgur vs Quinoa infographic
Infographic link

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Bulgur
1
:
2
Quinoa
Contains less Saturated Fat -81.8%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +1603.2%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +1000%
25% 18% 57%
Saturated Fat: 0.042 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.031 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.098 g
13% 29% 59%
Saturated Fat: 0.231 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.528 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.078 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -81.8%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +1603.2%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +1000%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Bulgur Quinoa
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Bulgur Quinoa Opinion
Net carbs 14.08g 18.5g Quinoa
Protein 3.08g 4.4g Quinoa
Fats 0.24g 1.92g Quinoa
Carbs 18.58g 21.3g Quinoa
Calories 83kcal 120kcal Quinoa
Starch 17.63g Quinoa
Sugar 0.1g 0.87g Bulgur
Fiber 4.5g 2.8g Bulgur
Calcium 10mg 17mg Quinoa
Iron 0.96mg 1.49mg Quinoa
Magnesium 32mg 64mg Quinoa
Phosphorus 40mg 152mg Quinoa
Potassium 68mg 172mg Quinoa
Sodium 5mg 7mg Bulgur
Zinc 0.57mg 1.09mg Quinoa
Copper 0.075mg 0.192mg Quinoa
Manganese 0.609mg 0.631mg Quinoa
Selenium 0.6µg 2.8µg Quinoa
Vitamin A 2IU 5IU Quinoa
Vitamin E 0.01mg 0.63mg Quinoa
Vitamin B1 0.057mg 0.107mg Quinoa
Vitamin B2 0.028mg 0.11mg Quinoa
Vitamin B3 1mg 0.412mg Bulgur
Vitamin B5 0.344mg Bulgur
Vitamin B6 0.083mg 0.123mg Quinoa
Folate 18µg 42µg Quinoa
Choline 6.9mg 23mg Quinoa
Vitamin K 0.5µg 0µg Bulgur
Tryptophan 0.048mg 0.052mg Quinoa
Threonine 0.089mg 0.131mg Quinoa
Isoleucine 0.114mg 0.157mg Quinoa
Leucine 0.208mg 0.261mg Quinoa
Lysine 0.085mg 0.239mg Quinoa
Methionine 0.048mg 0.096mg Quinoa
Phenylalanine 0.145mg 0.185mg Quinoa
Valine 0.139mg 0.185mg Quinoa
Histidine 0.071mg 0.127mg Quinoa
Saturated Fat 0.042g 0.231g Bulgur
Omega-3 - DHA 0g 0.015g Quinoa
Monounsaturated Fat 0.031g 0.528g Quinoa
Polyunsaturated fat 0.098g 1.078g Quinoa

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Bulgur Quinoa
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
8%
Bulgur
11%
Quinoa
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
21%
Bulgur
38%
Quinoa

Comparison summary

Which food is richer in minerals?
Quinoa
Quinoa is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is cheaper?
Quinoa
Quinoa is cheaper (difference - $2)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Quinoa
Quinoa is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Bulgur
Bulgur is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.77g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Bulgur
Bulgur contains less Sodium (difference - 2mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Bulgur
Bulgur is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.189g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Bulgur
Bulgur is lower in glycemic index (difference - 6)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Bulgur - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170287/nutrients
  2. Quinoa - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168917/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.