Which is Healthier: Quinoa or Brown Rice?
What’s healthier to make next time you’re planning a stir fry: quinoa or brown rice? Let’s look at these foods, side-by-side, and find out!
It’s another healthy food face-off! Last week, I looked at chia seeds vs. hemp seeds, and this week, I want to see how brown rice stacks up against quinoa. I turned once again to SELFNutritionData for each food’s Nutrition Facts, and there’s another shareable graphic of the nutritional information, so you can compare nutrients at a glance.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to look only at white quinoa here. It’s the most common quinoa variety out there, and when it comes to taste, it’s the one that’s closest to brown rice. A cup of cooked quinoa contains 222 calories and gives you eight grams of protein.
That same cup delivers 21 percent of your daily fiber needs along with 15 percent of your daily iron. You also get four grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fats in your cup of quinoa and no saturated fat at all.
Quinoa is a great source of vitamins. A serving contains vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate. It’s highest in folate, a B vitamin that protects us from heart attack, stroke and certain cancers. A cup of quinoa has 19 percent of the RDA for folate. It’s also high in thiamin, giving you 13 percent of your needs for that vitamin. Thiamin is another B vitamin, which protects heart and brain health and helps us regulate blood sugar.
When it comes to mineral content, quinoa is an excellent source of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. It’s also a good source. of potassium, zinc, copper and selenium. Quinoa contains 30 percent of your daily magnesium in a serving. Magnesium supports heart and bone health and helps regulate blood sugar. It also contains 28 percent of your daily phosphorus, which helps your body process waste and supports healthy bones and cell repair. You get 58 percent of your manganese from a cup of quinoa. This unsung mineral is an antioxidant that supports a healthy metabolism, bone health and wound healing.
Brown Rice Nutrition
Before we get to brown rice’s nutritional content, we need to talk about arsenic. A 2012 study that looked at a variety of rice found inorganic arsenic in all types researchers tested. According to Food Safety News, brown rice tends to have more arsenic than white rice, with one exception. Brown basmati rice from California, India or Pakistan is the lowest-arsenic rice option available. You can prepare rice to remove most of the arsenic by soaking, rinsing and then cooking in much more water than you’d normally use.
In moderation, though, brown rice—especially the brown basmati that I mention above—can be part of a healthy diet. A cup of medium-grain brown rice contains 218 calories and five grams of protein. It also delivers 14 percent of your daily fiber needs and six percent of your iron.
Brown rice is a good source of the vitamins thiamin, niacin and B6. It delivers 13 percent of your daily thiamin and niacin and 15 percent of your B6. I talked about thiamin above. Niacin helps control cholesterol levels and protects heart health. Vitamin B6 helps prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. It also helps with cognitive function, especially as we age.
Brown rice’s top minerals are manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. A cup of brown rice has 107 percent (that’s not a typo!) of your daily manganese needs, 15 percent of your daily phosphorus, and 21 percent of your daily magnesium.
Quinoa vs. Brown Rice
From the chart below, you’ll see that quinoa is the clear winner when it comes to protein, fiber and vitamins. If you’re looking at mineral content, each of these grains brings some good stuff to the table. Because rice can contain arsenic, though, I’m calling this whole grain face-off in favor of quinoa.