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Quinoa vs Rice - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on December 08, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Quinoa
vs
Rice

Summary

In summary, quinoa is 1.6 times richer in protein, seven times richer in fat and dietary fiber compared to white rice. Quinoa is 16 times richer in vitamin E, over six times richer in vitamin B2, whereas white rice is richer in calories and carbs, as well as vitamins B1, B3, and folate.

Whole grain brown rice has nutritional superiority over refined white rice.

Quinoa and brown rice are associated with more beneficial impacts on health compared to white rice.

Introduction

Quinoa and rice are crops known to humanity for centuries. On the one hand is rice, one of the most consumed staple dishes, and on the other hand is quinoa, which started gaining popularity again in this century. In this article, the two will be compared for their nutritional quality and impact on health.

Classification

Rice is the seed of swamp grass belonging to the Oryza genus and the sativa (Asian rice) or glaberrima (African rice) species. The grass belongs to the Poaceae or Gramineae family, also known as grasses, and includes corn, wheat, millets, rye, barley.

Quinoa belongs to the Chenopodium genus and Amaranthaceae family. Amaranth family includes pseudocereal amaranth, lamb’s quarter, spinach, beets, chard.

Quinoa is classified as a pseudocereal, whereas brown rice is a whole grain and white rice is a refined grain.

Appearance

Rice grains have long, thin seeds. Depending on the variety, rice can be white, red, brown, or black.

Uncooked quinoa looks like birdseed, whereas cooked quinoa pops open and is described to look like worms or tadpoles. Quinoa also comes in different colors, such as white, red, and black.

Types & Varieties

Rice, classified by its kernel size, can be long-grain (jasmine and basmati rice), medium-grain (risotto rice: carnaroli and arborio, japonica rice, forbidden black rice), and short-grain (sushi rice and glutinous rice).

Rice color differs by the degree of milling or hulling. White rice has the hull, bran, and germ removed, while brown, red, and black rice have only their hulls removed. Due to being inedible, the hull is removed in all types of rice.

Wild rice is not directly related to rice species.

The most common types of quinoa are red, white, black, tri-color, or rainbow quinoa, quinoa flakes, and quinoa flour.

Quinoa flakes are mechanically pressed quinoa grains.

Quinoa flour is gluten-free and feels like wheat flour.

Nutrition

Nutritional values in this article are presented for cooked, enriched, long-grained white rice and cooked quinoa.

Macronutrients and Calories

Rice is denser in nutrients compared to quinoa. Quinoa contains 72% water, while brown rice contains 70%, and white rice contains 68% water.

The serving size of these foods is one cup. One cup of quinoa weighs 185g. One cup of white rice is 158g, whereas one cup of brown rice weighs 202g.

Calories

Both of these foods are high-calorie foods. A hundred grams of quinoa contains 120 calories. A hundred grams of brown rice contains 123 calories, and white rice - 130 calories.

Protein and Fats

Quinoa is richer in proteins compared to rice.

Quinoa and rice contain some levels of all essential amino acids. Quinoa is over two times richer in histidine and lysine.

These foods are low in fats. Nonetheless, quinoa contains almost seven times more fats than white rice and almost two times more fats than brown rice.

Quinoa and rice are naturally absent in cholesterol.

Carbohydrates

Rice and quinoa are high in carbohydrates.

The highest level of dietary fiber contains quinoa. It contains 1.75 times more dietary fiber than brown rice. Due to having outer layers removed from white rice, it contains low levels of dietary fiber.

The highest level of digestible or net carbs is contained in white rice.

Vitamins

Vitamin B2 - quinoa is almost 8.5 times richer in vitamin B2 than white rice and 1.5 times richer than brown rice.

Vitamin B3 - brown rice is over six times richer in vitamin B3 than quinoa. Brown rice is richer in this vitamin compared to white rice as well.

Vitamin E - quinoa is almost 16 times richer in vitamin E than white rice and 3.7 times richer than brown rice.

Vitamin B9 or folate - quinoa and enriched white rice are significantly richer in folate. Quinoa is over 4.5 times richer in folate compared to brown rice.

Vitamins B1, B5, B6 - rice is richer in vitamins B1 and B5. Quinoa and brown rice are equal in vitamin B6 and richer in it compared to white rice.

Quinoa and rice are absent in vitamins C, D, and B12. Some vitamin A levels contain only quinoa, and a few amounts of vitamin K can be found only in brown rice.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Quinoa
4
:
4
Rice
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +1475%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +746.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.3%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +52.3%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +258.3%
Contains more Folate +38.1%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 13% 0% 0% 27% 26% 8% 0% 29% 32% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 1% 0% 0% 41% 3% 28% 24% 22% 44% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +1475%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +746.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.3%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +52.3%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +258.3%
Contains more Folate +38.1%

Minerals

Quinoa is richer in all principal minerals compared to white rice: iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and choline. Quinoa is richer in all minerals, except for manganese, compared to brown rice.

On the other hand, brown rice is richer in most minerals, except for iron and calcium, compared to white rice.

White rice contains less sodium compared to brown rice and quinoa.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Quinoa
7
:
1
Rice
Contains more Calcium +70%
Contains more Iron +24.2%
Contains more Magnesium +433.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +253.5%
Contains more Potassium +391.4%
Contains more Zinc +122.4%
Contains more Copper +178.3%
Contains less Sodium -85.7%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 56% 46% 66% 16% 1% 30% 64%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 3% 45% 9% 19% 4% 1% 14% 24%
Contains more Calcium +70%
Contains more Iron +24.2%
Contains more Magnesium +433.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +253.5%
Contains more Potassium +391.4%
Contains more Zinc +122.4%
Contains more Copper +178.3%
Contains less Sodium -85.7%

Glycemic Index

One quinoa variety is studied to be medium glycemic index food. The glycemic index of cooked quinoa ranges from 51.28 to 78.25, with an average of 63.37 (1). However, according to The International Tables of Glycemic Indices, cooked, refrigerated, reheated in the microwave, quinoa has a low glycemic index of 53±5 (2).

The glycemic index of rice varies depending on its variety, dietary fiber content, cooking method, and brand.

The glycemic index of boiled white rice varies from 72±8. The glycemic index of boiled, long-grained white rice is lower.

Boiled white arborio rice has a glycemic index of 69±7. Cooked Jasmine rice has a high glycemic index of 109±10, and cooked Basmati rice has a medium glycemic index of 57±4. Japanese sushi rice has a high glycemic index of 85±10. The glycemic index of Chinese brown rice is 87±2, whereas the glycemic index of steamed American brown rice is 50 (2).

Overall, rice has a wide range of glycemic indices, tending to fall from the medium to high category.

The insulin index of brown rice is 62, whereas the insulin index of white rice is 79. The insulin indices for Basmati and Jasmine rice are 57 and 76, respectively.

Acidity

Rice is considered to be slightly acidic. The pH value of cooked white rice ranges from 6.00 to 6.70. The pH value of cooked brown rice falls from 6.20 to 6.80. On the other hand, rice crispies are more acidic, with a pH value ranging from 5.40 to 5.73 (3).

Quinoa, in particular children’s quinoa, can be from slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH value ranging from 6.22 to 6.98 (4).

The PRAL or potential renal acid load value shows how much base or acid the consumed food produces in the organism.

The PRAL values for quinoa, white and brown rice have been calculated to be 2.3, 1.7, and 2.3, respectively. This means quinoa and brown rice are more acid-producing.

Weight Loss & Diets

Even though these foods are high in calories, they are also rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins, and low in fats. Quinoa is also rich in dietary fiber as well.

Quinoa is a better choice for low-calorie and low-carb diets. On the other hand, rice is a better choice for a low-fat diet.

Both quinoa and rice can be consumed during the DASH diet.

Quinoa and brown rice are consumed during the Mediterranean and anti-inflammatory diets as well. As a refined grain, white rice doesn’t suit these diets.

White rice is part of the BRAT diet, consisting of banana, rice, applesauce, and toast. The BRAT diet was recommended for nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; however, the experts say the diet has not been proven to work and can even lead to malnutrition and prolonged symptoms.

Several studies suggest that white rice consumption, but not brown, mixed, or multi-grain rice, may lead to body weight gain (5, 6). Compared to white rice, a brown rice diet may decrease physical characteristics such as weight, waist and hip circumference, and BMI (7).

Quinoa consumption is associated with body weight loss, reduced appetite, and improved lipid profile (8).

Health Impact

Quinoa is a healthy pseudocereal, rich in dietary fiber, proteins, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, whereas refined or white rice lacks dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins due to having the germ and the bran removed. This section will provide information about the health benefits and risks of these foods.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Daily consumption of 50g quinoa lowers serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels. Reduced triglyceride levels may potentially lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (8). The current evidence suggests quinoa may be effective in preventing and controlling cardiovascular disease in humans; however, more human research needs to be done (9).

Quinoa and brown rice are rich in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is inversely associated with cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis risks. Dietary fiber intake may also reduce arterial blood pressure (10, 11).

Several large studies have concluded that greater white or brown rice consumption is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular or coronary heart disease (12, 13).

White rice is positively associated with several cardiovascular risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome; nonetheless, one study claims it adds no additional risk of cardiovascular disease (12, 14).

Diabetes

Quinoa’s secondary bioactive metabolites are known to have antioxidant, cytotoxic, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Several components, such as dietary fiber, protein, 20HE, and polyphenols, may be protective against type 2 diabetes and metabolic complications of obesity (15, 16).

Substitution of brown rice for white rice may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and positively affect blood glucose levels (17, 18).

Digestive Health

Due to its potential prebiotic effects, quinoa may improve intestinal health by suppressing gut microbiota dysbiosis or enhancing beneficial bacteria growth (19, 20).

One study has demonstrated that differently processed red quinoa seeds revealed gastroprotective potential against alcohol-induced acute stomach injury by reducing ulcer risks (21).

As previously mentioned, quinoa and brown rice are rich in dietary fiber, which is well known for having protective effects against certain gastrointestinal diseases: constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, diverticulitis, duodenal ulcer, irritable bowel disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Dietary fiber has prebiotic effects as well (22, 23, 24, 25).

Cancer

Several isoflavones and other bioactive compounds found in quinoa are studied to have cytotoxic, anticancer, antiproliferative, or chemoprotective activity on hormone-independent cervical, breast, prostate cancer cells, leukemia, and potentially colon cancer cells (15).

A multi-grain rice diet may be inversely associated with the risk of breast cancer (26).

Rice by-products contain phytochemicals acting as chemopreventive dietary agents (27).

One study has concluded that long-term consumption of white or brown rice has not been associated with a higher risk of developing cancer (28).

Downsides and Risks

Diabetes

Higher regular consumption of white rice is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The risks are more significant in South Asian countries (29, 30).

Replacing refined grains, such as white rice and white bread with whole grains, such as brown rice, dark bread, and bran, may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (31).

Metal poisoning

Brown and white rice have been reported to have high median concentrations of toxic heavy metals: arsenic, cadmium, lead, chromium. However, only arsenic concentrations have been reported to exceed the codex standard.

The germ layer in brown rice has been shown to retain inorganic arsenic, leading to a higher arsenic concentration level compared to white rice (32).

According to the World Health Organization, long-term exposure to arsenic can cause bladder and lung cancers, as well as skin lesions. It has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and neurocognitive defects in children (33).

Alternating or coupling rice with other grains, such as wheat, barley, lentils, oats, beans, or peas, may reduce the exposure to toxic metals and provide more essential nutrients to the rice diet (32).

References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323555199
  2. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2008/09/18/dc08-1239.DC1/TableA1_1.pdf
  3. pH values of foods and food products
  4. http://www.nphsystem.guide/grain_food_values.htm
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0271531707002874
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30312545/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4018597/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5998774/
  9. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.6901
  10. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/5/1155/htm
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26923351/
  12. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/100/1/199/4576494
  13. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/101/1/164/4564257
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4530655/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6651730/
  16. https://www.mdpi.com/2673-4540/2/2/7/htm
  17. White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6948352/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175902/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8498072/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7275209/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24876314/
  23. https://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/fulltext/S1931-3128(18)30266-X
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26811635/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28731144/
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468941/
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292171/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4919813/
  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22422870/
  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32873587/
  31. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/76/3/535/4677418
  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7663342/
  33. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187853521400032X
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: December 08, 2021

Infographic

Quinoa vs Rice infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Quinoa Rice
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Quinoa Rice Opinion
Net carbs 18.5g 27.77g Rice
Protein 4.4g 2.69g Quinoa
Fats 1.92g 0.28g Quinoa
Carbs 21.3g 28.17g Rice
Calories 120kcal 130kcal Rice
Starch 17.63g g Quinoa
Fructose g g
Sugar 0.87g 0.05g Rice
Fiber 2.8g 0.4g Quinoa
Calcium 17mg 10mg Quinoa
Iron 1.49mg 1.2mg Quinoa
Magnesium 64mg 12mg Quinoa
Phosphorus 152mg 43mg Quinoa
Potassium 172mg 35mg Quinoa
Sodium 7mg 1mg Rice
Zinc 1.09mg 0.49mg Quinoa
Copper 0.192mg 0.069mg Quinoa
Vitamin A 5IU 0IU Quinoa
Vitamin E 0.63mg 0.04mg Quinoa
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0.107mg 0.163mg Rice
Vitamin B2 0.11mg 0.013mg Quinoa
Vitamin B3 0.412mg 1.476mg Rice
Vitamin B5 mg 0.39mg Rice
Vitamin B6 0.123mg 0.093mg Quinoa
Folate 42µg 58µg Rice
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0µg 0µg
Tryptophan 0.052mg 0.031mg Quinoa
Threonine 0.131mg 0.096mg Quinoa
Isoleucine 0.157mg 0.116mg Quinoa
Leucine 0.261mg 0.222mg Quinoa
Lysine 0.239mg 0.097mg Quinoa
Methionine 0.096mg 0.063mg Quinoa
Phenylalanine 0.185mg 0.144mg Quinoa
Valine 0.185mg 0.164mg Quinoa
Histidine 0.127mg 0.063mg Quinoa
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 0.231g 0.077g Rice
Monounsaturated Fat 0.528g 0.088g Quinoa
Polyunsaturated fat 1.078g 0.076g Quinoa

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Quinoa Rice
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
11
Quinoa
13
Rice
Mineral Summary Score
35
Quinoa
14
Rice

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
26%
Quinoa
16%
Rice
Carbohydrates
21%
Quinoa
28%
Rice
Fats
9%
Quinoa
1%
Rice

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rice
Rice is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.82g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Rice
Rice contains less Sodium (difference - 6mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rice
Rice is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.154g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Quinoa
Quinoa is lower in glycemic index (difference - 7)
Which food is cheaper?
Quinoa
Quinoa is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Quinoa
Quinoa is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Quinoa - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168917/nutrients
  2. Rice - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168878/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.