“Quinoa is typically lumped in with the other types of ancient grains on the shelf, but it’s technically not even a grain, it’s actually a seed!” says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Quinoa comes in many different colors: white, black or red, or all together, tri-color, which Ehsani notes all provide pretty much the same nutritional breakdown when cooked.
“It’s loaded with good-for-you nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It specifically contains manganese, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, B6, copper and riboflavin,” she says.
One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, eight grams of protein, four grams of total fat, 39 grams of carbs, and five grams of fiber.
Here are six ways that adding quinoa to your diet will help you lose weight, according to dietitians. And for more healthy eating tips, check out People Who Lost 20+ Pounds Swear by These 13 Weight Loss Tips.
Quinoa contains five grams of dietary fiber per one cup cooked. “Consuming a high-fiber diet is often the missing piece when a person is trying to lose weight. Consuming enough fiber will keep a person full for longer, so you are less likely to overeat at meals or snack between meal times,” says Ehsani.
She adds that since fiber is digested a lot slower by the body, it provides a slow and steady release of energy over time, so you won’t get a blood sugar rush (which helps support blood sugar management). Fiber also adds bulk to your stool, so you are able to have more regular bowel movements and not suffer from constipation.
“Finally dietary fiber found in quinoa also promotes healthful bacteria into your gut, which can influence your weight as well,” says Ehsani. “Researchers found that the bacteria in our gut can actually either help or prevent you from losing weight. Plant foods like quinoa can absolutely assist in helping you lose weight.”
“For the bulk of quinoa, it packs not a lot of calories,” says registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “More volume = more satiety, which can help you lose weight.”
Quinoa is also high in protein, and it contains eight grams per cup. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
“This is great news for vegans, vegetarians, or people who are eating meatless meat,” says Ehsani. “Protein is an important component to have at each meal and snack, as it requires extra calories to digest and process the protein. By eating protein, your body uses up calories, which can aid in weight loss. It also provides feelings of satiety, since it is digested at a much slower rate and can keep your blood sugar more stable, which also helps keep your hunger levels in check.”
Quinoa is chock full of vitamins and minerals, and contains an especially high dose of manganese.
“Manganese is an essential nutrient that supports bone health, helps reduce inflammation and risk of disease thanks to its high dose of antioxidant power, and also plays a role in hormone health too, especially your thyroid,” says Ehsani. “If a person is not eating enough manganese, they may be at risk for developing hypothyroidism, which could cause a hormone imbalance and weight gain over time. Sufficient intake of manganese is also linked to lower levels of abdominal obesity too.”
Another plus about quinoa: it’s quick and easy to cook, so anyone can add it into their healthy eating plan.
“You can flavor it up easily by adding dried herbs and spices to the cooking water you use, or cook it in low-sodium veggie or chicken stock for additional flavor,” says Ehsani. “You can make it into a sweet breakfast porridge and add milk and fruit on top. You can even pop quinoa, like you would popcorn, it can be easily popped in a pan. You add a little seasoning and enjoy it as a snack, or even make your own granola using popped quinoa.”