Quinoa vs Rice - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
Table of contents
- Types & Varieties
- Macronutrients and Calories
- Glycemic Index
- Weight Loss & Diets
- Health Impact
- Health Benefits
- Downsides and Risks
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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
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).
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).
- pH values of foods and food products
- White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Omega-3 - DHA||0.015g||0g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|