Friday, October 15, 2010

Quinoa: Calories Don't Tell the Whole Story

There's a tweet circulating today from @EatThisNotThat. I trust they are trying to teach us to make educated decisions about the food we eat.

I suppose they mean well.

However, having appointed myself defender of all things quinoa, I felt I must respond to this tweet. You can see I needed more than 140 characters.

This tweet lists quinoa in the top position and with an exclamation point. One might infer that all other things being equal, quinoa would be the worst choice on the list.


all things are not equal, not all calories are created equal.

red quinoa on scale
Yes, it is true you must eat fewer calories than your body uses each day if you want to lose weight. You have to be aware of the calories in the food you eat and you have to make choices.

Once you start counting calories it becomes even more important to consider the whole package you get with your calories. If you eat fewer calories, you have to be more careful about filling those calories with the nutrition you need.

Quinoa Calories and Nutrition

I went to the USDA nutrition database to make a few comparisons. You might think from the list in the tweet that brown rice (216 calories) and quinoa (222 calories) are interchangeable, but quinoa has 80% more protein and nearly 50% more fiber for about the same calories. Plus the quinoa cooks in less than half the time of brown rice, making it a better choice for many households.

Yes, a cup of bulgur has about 2/3 the calories of a cup of quinoa, but it also has about 2/3 the protein, 1/2 the magnesium, and 1/4 the phosphorus. When I look at quinoa's total nutritional profile, I know that the more quinoa I include in my diet, the more calories I can safely cut without making nutritional sacrifices.

I could point out that oatmeal has significantly less protein, calcium, iron, but you get the point. Besides, when was the last time you served beans and oatmeal?

Quinoa Afternoon Snack

My son got off work a little early today and came home hungry. Knowing it was too early to expect supper, he asked how to make more Salsa Quinoa Con Queso. (No, he doesn't read the blog, just eats the food.)

I told him he would have to make the quinoa from scratch because I didn't have any leftover quinoa. He was game (this stuff is that good) and twenty minutes later we all had a tasty snack that will tide us over until dinner. He did not bother putting it in the oven, just mixed all the ingredients together once the quinoa was cooked. He was light on the salsa because we didn't have much left in the jar.

I can't think of anything more nutritious that would go over so well with teenagers. So easy they can make it themselves.

Remember when you are counting calories, you need to make those calories count.

Quinoa calories are packed with the nutrition that helps me make the most of the carbs I consume.

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  1. I love this.
    All calories are certainly not created equal!
    Take avocados are instance. Lots of fat.
    But the healthy kind!


  2. Now you have me thinking Quinoa Guacamole. :-)

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  3. I love the blog concept! Quinoa is one of my favorite grains. Re: the Eat This Not That Tweet, quinoa is also smaller and more dense. Eating one cup of is is going to make you much more full than eating a cup of bulgar wheat.

  4. Good point about the density of quinoa - those seeds are tiny. I counted 210 seeds in a level 1/4 teaspoon of quinoa.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.