Quinoa vs. Rice: Nutrition, Taste, and Uses

Quinoa and brown rice are both delicious and nutritious additions to most diets. However, quinoa has slightly more protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients than rice.

When it comes to the Great Pantheon of the grain gods, rice has historically reigned supreme. But in recent years, a new contender has been climbing up the superfood ranks. We’re talking about quinoa, of course!

But is one really better than the other? Read on to find out if quinoa or rice is healthier for you.

Quinoa and rice can both be a healthy addition to a balanced diet. However, quinoa is slightly higher in nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Here’s what 1 cup of cooked quinoa, brown rice, and white rice has to offer.

Pros

  • Gluten-free food. Rejoice, gluten-free, fam! Brown rice makes a top-notch substitute for gluten-y grains like barley, rye, and farina. Just keep in mind that some easy-cook rice brands might have some gluten lurking in the mix. So be sure to check the ingredients label before you chow down.
  • Fast energy. When you need that zig but you’re doing nothing but zagging, white rice can give you a quick burst of energy. It’s very easy to digest and can help you replenish depleted glycogen stores, making it a great post-workout meal.
  • Full of fiber. Brown rice can help things move in your colon. Fiber has also been shown to keep you feeling full for longer which can help aid weight loss.
  • Solid source of nutrients. Brown rice contains vital nutrients like magnesium, selenium, manganese, and phosphorus. It also contains small amounts of calcium, copper, and zinc. Big win.
  • Rice is easy on the tummy. White rice is uber easy to digest, making it a great food if you’re feeling funky.

Cons

  • Rice contains trace amounts of arsenic. Rice can contain a potentially dangerous heavy metal called arsenic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to arsenic can increase your risk of cancer. To play it safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that kids under 6 shouldn’t eat rice. You may also want to avoid eating a ton of rice if you’re preggo.
  • Food poisoning. Rice can contain a bacteria (Bacillus cereus) that can cause food poisoning. The longer you leave rice out at room temp, the more you up your chances. So be sure to heat your rice thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to toss that leftover carton of rice that’s been chilling in the back of your fridge for weeks.
  • White rice might increase diabetes risk. According to a review of studies of over 350,000 people, researchers found that the folks who ate the most white rice had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who ate the least.

Pros

  • Complete protein source. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
  • Gluten-free. Like rice, quinoa is a gluten-free food. But again, you should double-check a product’s label to make sure no gluten was added in the production process.
  • High in fiber. Quinoa has more fiber than brown or white rice which helps control blood sugar. Woot!
  • Good for your gut. Fiber-rich foods like quinoa can promote beneficial bacteria in your gut. It can also promote healthy, regular bowel movements.
  • It’s got those good-good minerals. Quinoa is a great source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc.

Cons

  • Raw quinoa isn’t good for human consumption. In order for the plant to protect itself against natural threats, the grain shells are coated with saponins which are incredibly bitter. Those can be harmful to the intestines and blood cells if digested, especially for children and those with tummy issues.

OK, now that we’ve gotten all of that out the way we can get to the important stuff. How do these magical little pellets taste and what can you use them for? Here’s the scoop.

Quinoa

When cooked correctly, quinoa should be fluffy and slightly chewy with an almost nutty flavor. Think brown rice but more flavorful. In other words, it’s delightful.

Varieties of quinoa are usually divided by color and all taste slightly different. Some of the most common types that you’re likely to come across are:

  • red quinoa
  • white quinoa
  • black quinoa
  • tricolor quinoa

Rice

Rice can take many forms — thousands, in fact! Although most taste mild, some, like brown rice, have an earthy flavor. The texture can be soft and fluffy or chewy depending on how you cook it.

Apart from the ubiquitous white and brown rice, these are some of the kinds you’re most likely to find at your local grocery store:

  • black rice
  • sticky rice
  • yellow rice
  • arborio rice
  • jasmine rice
  • basmati rice
  • parboiled rice

Offerings like Spanish rice and rice pilaf are not actually varieties of rice per se. They’re actually rice dishes made from white rice. And they’re both delicious.

P.S. You’ll often notice terms like long-grain or short-grain rice. This indicates (surprise!) the length of the individual grains of rice. The length of the grain doesn’t make a big difference, but you might have a personal preference.

The judges have tallied up their scorecards and the decision is about to be announced. Ladies and gentlemen, we have … a draw? A little anticlimactic. But here’s the thing — rice and quinoa are both great. They have similar nutritional profiles, they’re both delicious, and they both can be served in a myriad of delightful ways.

Due to its stronger flavor quinoa is probably less suitable for desserts and sweet offerings (think rice pudding or sticky rice). But, you know, you could still try? Bon appetit!

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