Quinoa Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts & Usage Guidance 2023

Reviewed by Brittany Ferri, PhD

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quinoa health benefit

Quinoa had been a staple in many cultures for hundreds of years before it made its way onto plates in the Western world. More specifically, it was eaten by the Incas in South America for centuries. Technically quinoa is a seed, but it’s prepared the same way we prepare grains, such as rice. The most popular quinoa varieties include white, black, and red, however, there are over 100 varieties[1] of quinoa. Quinoa can be found in whole seed form or as refined flour for baking. Quinoa has more nutrients than many other grains and offers a lot in the way of a gluten-free, protein-rich option for consumers.

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain, the “mother of all grains,” and comes from South America. It has gained popularity in other parts of the world because it’s easy to grow as well as delicious and healthy. What’s more, unlike some other grains, quinoa is gluten-free and contains a substantial amount of protein in addition to just carbohydrates (which we often associate with grains). Quinoa is a pseudocereal[2] grain, which means it’s actually a seed, even though it’s prepared similarly to other grains (the preparation is almost identical to how rice is cooked). Quinoa has been shown to be beneficial for a variety of health conditions, and it is unique in that it is a grain that contains all the nine essential amino acids needed to qualify as a “complete protein.”

quinoa health benefit

8 Benefits Of Quinoa: Nutrition Facts & Recipes

Helps With Weight Loss

Quinoa contains soluble fiber, which has a satiating effect on the body. This means when we eat it, we feel fuller for longer. By including quinoa in meals, we’re less likely to feel hungry and snack in between meals or to overeat. Additionally, eating quinoa alone is very balanced – meaning, it has multiple macronutrients. The fiber in the quinoa, along with the protein and carbs, can increase metabolism and help stabilize blood sugar. This leads to fewer glucose spikes and sugar crashes, which are often behind cravings.

Strengthens The Digestive System

Fiber feeds the beneficial bacteria in our gut which strengthens our microbiome. Quinoa is an unprocessed grain, which means it contains a good amount of soluble fiber to help these good bugs thrive. Additionally, the fiber in quinoa helps the digestive system stay regular, keeping bowels moving as they’re intended to. The fiber in these grains is also said to clean the colon, ensuring no leftover debris or unwanted bacteria stays where it shouldn’t.

Improves Hair Health

To have good hair, one needs adequate protein, and quinoa is an excellent source. The protein helps to protect and strengthen hair follicles, and some companies use extracted protein from quinoa in their hair care products. Quinoa may even be effective in treating dandruff[3]. By adding water to ground quinoa, you can make a paste that can be applied to the scalp – leave it on for 15 minutes then rinse and wash with a natural shampoo.

Improves Skin Health

Quinoa contains lysine, a precursor to collagen (which keeps our skin looking young and tight). Vitamins E and A are excellent for skin health, fighting free radicals, and helping to encourage new skin cell growth. Quinoa contains both of these vitamins. For this reason, quinoa paste may also be applied directly to the skin. In fact, you can mix whole quinoa seeds with honey or organic oil to create a gentle exfoliating scrub. Finally, quinoa, and its abundance of B vitamins, may also be helpful in fighting acne and helping to reduce dark spots and scarring.

Reduces Inflammation

Two phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, that are linked with less inflammation include quercetin and kaempferol, both of which are bioavailable in quinoa. These plant compounds work to reduce inflammation in the body and serve as antioxidants, protecting against cell damage and helping to repair it. Whole grains (and seeds) in general have many anti-inflammatory compounds, which is why they are often included in many anti-inflammatory diets, such as the Mediterranean diet. This is largely due to their fiber, which helps to produce butyrate – essential for “turning off” inflammation.

Helps Regulate Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that regularly eating quinoa can help prevent diabetes by regulating blood sugar. Quinoa as a whole grain is a slow-digesting carb, which means it causes less of a blood sugar spike. People that are watching their blood sugar are advised to eat low-glycemic foods (anything below 55 on the glycemic index). Quinoa has a glycemic index of about 53, thanks to the fiber and protein which slow down the rate of sugar absorption.

Improves Heart Health

Quinoa can lower cholesterol, which is essential for a healthy heart. Research has also indicated that the flavonoids[4] in quinoa may prevent heart disease-related deaths. Additionally, quinoa contains omega-3 “healthy” fats and monounsaturated fats – two more components of heart health. Interestingly, quinoa is one of the few foods that does not lose its fatty acid contents during the cooking process.

Helps Prevent Osteoporosis

Bone health should be a priority at any age – it’s not something we should only be concerned about in our senior years. Thankfully, quinoa has lots of magnesium, which helps to strengthen bones. The protein in quinoa is a building block for bones as well and quinoa has all nine essential amino acids to make it a complete protein (the human body cannot make all these proteins on its own).

Nutrition Facts

Quinoa is nutrient dense[5] and provides adequate vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Because of this, quinoa has a satiating effect that beats out some other grains. One cup of quinoa contains about 220 calories. Looking at macronutrients, one cup of quinoa offers 8 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, and almost 40 grams of carbohydrates. 

Quinoa is also an excellent source of B vitamins, making up 19% of the daily value of folate and 13% of the daily value of B6. But it doesn’t stop there. Quinoa contains vitamins A, C, K and E, copper, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, selenium, sodium, and fiber.

Quinoa is excellent for people who adhere to various dietary restrictions. Because it has more protein than other grains, it can fill in the gaps for vegetarians and vegans who don’t get enough protein in their diet, and the fact that quinoa is gluten-free makes it an ideal choice for those with Celiac disease and those who are gluten-intolerant.

How is quinoa different from other grains?

Quinoa is technically a seed, even though it’s prepared as a grain. Unlike other grains, it contains all nine amino acids that make it a complete protein, it has an abundance of nutrients that are not found in such quantities in other grains, and it’s gluten-free, which not all grains are.

Can I eat quinoa instead of other protein?

Quinoa has more protein than most grains, and even though it is a “complete” protein, it may not be enough for everyone, especially if it’s your only source of protein. If you are a vegan or vegetarian and only eat plant protein, you may need additional sources of protein such as beans, nuts, or tofu.


As with any food, if you are sensitive or allergic to quinoa, it’s advised to avoid it. Additionally, while it may not qualify as a “sensitivity” or “allergy,” some people don’t tolerate grains (including seeds) as well as others. If your body says no to quinoa, it may be better to avoid it or eat it in moderation.

Quinoa also naturally contains saponins[6], a built-in bug repellent. This can create a bitter taste and may be difficult for some people to digest. Saponins are abundant on the outer layer of the seeds. For this reason, it’s best to soak and rinse quinoa before cooking. 

Finally, while quinoa is a healthy plant food, “healthy” is always a relative term. Specific medical conditions or medications may preclude an individual from benefiting from quinoa. If you are unsure whether to add quinoa to your diet, consult your medical provider.

How To Consume Quinoa?

Quinoa is prepared and consumed similarly to rice. The most traditional way to eat quinoa is to first soak it, then rinse it. From there, for every cup of quinoa, add two cups of water to a pot and cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally and let the quinoa soak up the water. Cook until the quinoa is fluffy and soft (this should take about 15-20 minutes). Season to taste.

Cooked quinoa can be eaten as a side dish, as a base for a veggie bowl, or in place of oatmeal (you can “season” quinoa with cinnamon and honey and cook it in plant-based milk instead of water). Quinoa is great served warm or cooled.

Quinoa is also sold in flakes or as flour – ground into a fine powder and used as baking flour. This can be found in most grocery stores and is a great alternative for those who need to avoid gluten. Quinoa flour also offers more in the way of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein than wheat flour. Quinoa seeds may also be added to packaged goods including cereals, granolas, cookies, and chips. 


Quinoa is known as “the mother of all grains” for good reason, even though it’s technically a seed. Unlike other grains, quinoa contains higher amounts of protein (it is a complete protein), and it is low on the glycemic index scale. Quinoa is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other plant compounds that fight inflammation, protect against chronic disease, can help stabilize appetite and blood sugar, and may even prove beneficial for skin and hair. Quinoa is gluten-free, making it an ideal choice for those who need to avoid gluten, and if well-tolerated, is a great addition to any diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

For better skin and hair, should I eat quinoa or apply it topically?

Either! Our external appearance is heavily influenced by what we eat, so the compounds in quinoa that make it great for skin and hair can work their magic by ingesting them. However, you can also use ground quinoa to make a paste that can be applied topically – to the scalp to help improve hair follicles and dandruff, and to the skin to exfoliate and repair damaged skin.

What muscles should I target for bigger hips?

The gluteus muscles should be targeted if you want to get wider hips.

Are there exercises I should avoid if I want wide hips?

Yes, they are exercises you should avoid if you want wide hips, some of them are woodchopped, and weighted crunch.

How to Get Bigger Hips Naturally to Improve Your Waist-To-Hip Ratio

Keep your midsection lean and your hips muscular to get a better waist-to-hip ratio (butt and thighs). Gaining muscular mass in the shoulders is another helpful strategy for achieving an hourglass figure. Building up your upper body strength, especially your shoulders might make your waist look smaller.

Do your hips get wider as you age?

Recent research published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research found that despite the fact that most people stop growing physically taller after the age of 20, the pelvis (i.e., the hip bones) continues to widen in both men and women up to about age 80.

Why is my waist wider than my hips?

You may have “intra-abdominal obesity” (extra belly fat in the abdominal cavity) if your waist circumference exceeds your hip circumference.

+ 6 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. The Nutrition Source. (2017). Quinoa. [online] Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/quinoa/ [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
  2. Kubala, J. (2022). 8 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Quinoa. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-quinoa#1.-Packed-with-nutrients [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
  3. Krishna, K. (2020). Quinoa: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Uses for Skin & Hair, Recipes. [online] Netmeds. Available at: https://www.netmeds.com/health-library/post/quinoa-nutrition-health-benefits-uses-for-skin-hair-recipes [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
  4. Marshall, T. (2015). Five reasons to eat quinoa. [online] Nutritionist-resource.org.uk. Available at: https://www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/blog/2015/04/16/reasons-to-eat-quinoa [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
  5. Kubala, J. (2022). 8 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Quinoa. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-quinoa#1.-Packed-with-nutrients [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
  6. Ware, M. (2019). Health benefits of quinoa. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274745#diet [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].


Heather Freudenthal, Health Coach
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Wellness Writer
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Wellness Writer with a holistic and functional medicine/root cause mindset. My writing style is engaging, relatable, and educational, designed to help readers digest and relate to complex topics in nutrition, gut health, hormone health, mental health, and spiritual health, then inspire them to take action.


Brittany Ferri, PhD
Occupational Therapist, Medical Reviewer
Brittany is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has written over 350 pieces of patient-facing content, published 4 books, created over 30 continuing education courses, and medically reviewed countless pieces of content for accuracy. Her media appearances include being quoted as a health expert in WebMD, Healthline, NBCNews, and Forbes.