Quinoa Grain: Best Superfood To Replace Rice For Weight Loss 2023

Ellie Busby

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

is quinoa good for weight loss

Quinoa is considered a superfood for more than one reason: it’s the highest in protein of all the whole grains, provides all the essential amino acids you need, and is rich in many essential micronutrients. All this makes quinoa a great addition to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables

Is quinoa good for weight loss, though? In fact, there’s lots of evidence that regularly eating quinoa can help you lose weight – but it’s not for the reasons you think. Here’s the most recent scientific evidence on why quinoa is good for losing weight.

Is Quinoa Good For Losing Weight?

We already know that eating whole grains on a regular basis is good for sustainable weight management. And, due to its unique nutritional value, quinoa is one of the best for weight loss.

Why is quinoa good for weight loss? Here are the main ways quinoa can help you lose – and maintain – weight loss sustainably.

Rich In Protein

For a start, quinoa is high in protein[1]. Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fat, which is why higher-protein diets are usually suggested for weight loss. So, swapping out other lower-protein whole grains such as wheat for quinoa can help you lose weight. 

In one study, older adults with high cholesterol lost weight after consuming quinoa[2] every day for four weeks. On average, the participants lost almost 1 kilogram of body weight after eating biscuits made with quinoa flour daily compared to control biscuits made with wheat flour.

Also, quinoa provides a good balance of all the essential amino acids[3], which is unusual for a grain. Whole grains are usually deficient in lysine, an essential amino acid that quinoa provides in abundance.

Anti-Inflammatory

Quinoa is rich in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients[4], including fatty acids and carotenoids, which lower oxidative stress levels and reduce the risk of metabolic dysfunction and weight gain. 

Obesity is associated with higher levels of inflammation[5] in the body. We know that too much inflammation can trigger metabolic dysfunction, such as blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance, leading to weight gain – especially around the belly. 

Studies show that regularly consuming anti-inflammatory whole grains lowers inflammation[5] in overweight people, which can help with weight loss.

But quinoa is special because it has extra anti-inflammatory properties compared to other whole grains. Quinoa contains anti-inflammatory proteins and peptides (smaller protein chains), with cell-based studies showing that the quinoa protein “chenopodin” inhibits inflammation in intestinal cells[6].

Saponins Inhibit Fat Accumulation

Quinoa provides some healthy fats, so is quinoa fattening? Not at all, and here’s why.

Quinoa also contains antinutrients called saponins – soapy, bitter-tasting compounds that can reduce nutrient absorption and irritate the intestinal lining. Usually, people try to go for foods without antinutrients to increase micronutrient absorption. But, in quinoa, these antinutrients may not be such a bad thing.

New research in animals suggests that the saponins in quinoa might also be good for weight loss. In rats, quinoa saponins inhibited fat accumulation, decreased body weight[7], and even improved blood sugar balance. The study found that saponins seem to prevent obesity by modifying the gut microbiome.

Other studies suggest that quinoa saponins increase protein absorption[8] from the gut by increasing intestinal permeability, which might be another way quinoa can help weight loss. As we talked about earlier, the more protein the better for weight loss.

A Source Of 20-Hydroxyecdysone

This is a naturally occurring hormone in quinoa. Studies in animals suggest it can lead to weight loss by inhibiting fat absorption, reducing the development of fat cells[9], and increasing energy expenditure[10]. Mice given quinoa 20-hydroxyecdysone became more physically active and burned more calories, whilst also absorbing less fat from their food. 

Further studies have found that this compound can also improve insulin sensitivity[11] and regulate metabolism in rats on a high-fat, high-fructose diet, hence reducing the risk of obesity.

Rich In Soluble Fiber

Regularly eating whole grains is associated with lower chronic inflammation levels[12], and scientists think this is because of fiber. 

Quinoa is rich in fiber[13] – especially soluble fiber. Fiber is good for weight loss because it acts as a prebiotic, feeding the health-promoting bacteria in the gut. Your gut bacteria turn fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which are associated with regulating metabolism[5] and reducing appetite[14].

Eating 20-65 grams of quinoa (raw weight) per day provides plenty of fiber to lower blood cholesterol levels[15], balance blood sugar, and promote weight loss.

Low Glycemic Index

Quinoa has a low glycemic index (GI)[13], which means eating it can improve blood sugar regulation and lower the risk of blood sugar dips (and eating more snacks to raise your blood sugar again).

The GI of food measures how quickly it raises your blood sugar. A high GI means the food tends to rapidly spike blood sugar, while a low GI indicates a more steady rise.

Now we know the main reasons quinoa is good for weight loss, but which type of quinoa is best?

Which Quinoa Is Best For Weight Loss?

Quinoa comes in four colors: white, yellow, red, and black. You can buy them separately or pre-mixed white, black, and red as “tricolor” quinoa. 

Each type of quinoa has a similar amount of protein and micronutrients[16], meaning that any color can support weight loss. However, each variety has a different antioxidant profile[17], so going for a mixed bag might provide more health benefits overall.

Quinoa Nutrition

Nowadays, quinoa is one of the most popular foods in the world because it contains more protein, B vitamins, and minerals than any other grain. The different nutrient levels are partly because quinoa isn’t a grain: it’s a seed

In fact, quinoa is so rich in diverse nutrients that NASA chose quinoa[18] to feed astronauts on long-haul space flights.

One serving of quinoa[19] (one cup, 185 grams cooked) can provide a significant part of the recommended daily amounts of several micronutrients[20], including zinc, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium:

  • Calories: 222 kcal
  • Protein: 8.14 grams
  • Fiber: 5.18 grams
  • Calcium: 31.4 milligrams
  • Iron: 2.76 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 118 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 281 milligrams
  • Potassium: 318 milligrams
  • Zinc: 2.02 milligrams
  • Selenium: 5.18 micrograms
  • Folate: 77.7 micrograms
  • Beta-carotene: 5.55 micrograms

Other Health Benefits Of Quinoa

Quinoa is considered a “superfood”[21] by some and, as such, has many health benefits[22] in addition to weight loss, such as its role in

  • Lowering blood cholesterol levels
  • Protecting against oxidative stress
  • Improving insulin sensitivity
  • Supporting blood sugar balance
  • Lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Optimizing heart health

Most of these health benefits are thought to be due to the saponins, proteins, and 20-hydroxyecdysone present in quinoa.

Ways To Add Quinoa To Your Diet

So, now we know why we should eat more quinoa – but how can you eat quinoa a few times a week without getting bored?

Luckily, quinoa is a versatile ingredient you can use in a variety of dishes and even eat without knowing you’re eating it. 

Here are a few ideas for how to eat quinoa daily.

As A Substitute For Rice

is quinoa good for weight loss

The easiest way to eat more quinoa is to cook it and eat it on the side of various dishes as you would normally eat rice.

In Soups And Stews

is quinoa good for weight loss

Quinoa is also delicious when added directly to the pot when making soups and stews. It adds protein and thickens up soups to make a hearty meal.

In Salads And Buddha Bowls

is quinoa good for weight loss

This is a great way to eat quinoa in the summer. 

Batch-cook a large amount of quinoa and add it cold to salads and buddha bowls. You can keep it in the fridge for up to three days or store portions in the freezer for up to three months.

Puffed Quinoa

is quinoa good for weight loss

What happens when you heat raw quinoa as you do with popping corn? Popped (or puffed) quinoa! 

You can eat puffed quinoa without further cooking, making a very tasty breakfast when added to muesli. You can also try making no-bake puffed quinoa cakes by combining them with melted chocolate and leaving them to set.

Use Quinoa Flour In Baking

is quinoa good for weight loss

If you can find quinoa flour, you can try replacing some wheat flour with quinoa flour[23] in baked goods, such as cakes and bread. 

Replacing other grain flour with quinoa flour can improve the nutritional value[24] of baked goods by increasing the content of protein, minerals, and essential amino acids. Using quinoa flour can even improve the texture of gluten-free baked items[25].

One study provided participants with biscuits made with 60% quinoa flour, while another study suggests replacing 30% rice flour with whole or malted quinoa flour[24] in gluten-free muffins.

How To Prepare Quinoa

is quinoa good for weight loss

Some people don’t like quinoa because it can taste bitter. However, if your quinoa tastes bitter, you’re not preparing it correctly.

You should rinse raw quinoa well before cooking to reduce the level of saponins, which have a strong bitter taste. The seeds produce saponins to stop birds from eating them.

Having said that, the saponin content of most quinoa varieties has been reduced by selective breeding, and most quinoa sold in the shops has already been commercially washed.

The Bottom Line: Is Quinoa Good For You?

Quinoa is one of the healthiest whole grains (or seeds, to be scientifically correct) you can eat. It’s so high in nutrients that NASA feeds quinoa to their astronauts on long-haul space flights. And when it comes to the question “is quinoa good for weight loss?” the answer is a definitive “yes!”

Its unique balance of nutrients and anti-inflammatory, bioactive compounds means that quinoa can help you lose weight when eaten regularly as part of a healthy, balanced diet. What’s more, quinoa is a versatile ingredient that you can eat in many different ways, from baking bread to adding it to your muesli.


+ 25 sources

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Ellie Busby

Written by:

Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Ellie Busby is a Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT) and nutrition writer. She holds a bachelor's in Chemistry and a Masters in Nutrition. Ellie specializes in plant-based nutrition for health and fitness. She is also the Founder of Vojo Health, a personalized nutrition service based on genetic testing.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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