What is the difference between quinoa and brown rice? Learn more.

For years, brown rice has been a primary source of clean carbs. But quinoa has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Is quinoa healthier than brown rice?

Rice is a cereal grain. White rice has the husk, bran, and germ removed, which lowers its nutritional value. Brown rice only has the husk removed, so it retains fiber and germ which contain vital nutrients.

Quinoa, on the other hand, is the seed of the goosefoot plant. Because it is prepared and eaten much like a grain, people often substitute quinoa for rice in their diets.

How do these foods stack up against one another? Read on to see which one wins in the quinoa vs. brown rice matchup.

For more information, or to consult with a nutritionist, contact UPMC.

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Comparing Quinoa to Brown Rice


Both brown and white rice have small amounts of protein, clocking in at between four and five grams per cup when cooked. Quinoa, on the other hand, packs 8 grams per cup.

Winner: Quinoa

Amino Acids

Quinoa is one of the few plant sources that is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. Because your body is unable to produce some amino acids, it must get them from food sources.

As a complete protein source, quinoa is a great option for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone else who’s trying to cut down on meat consumption while maintaining a balanced diet.

Neither brown nor white rice is a complete protein. In fact, rice contains only a few amino acids. When it comes to truly fueling your body, quinoa is a better choice.

Winner: Quinoa


Which has fewer calories? Let’s compare one cup each of cooked quinoa and brown rice:

  • Quinoa contains 222 calories
  • Brown rice has 218 calories

They are within a similar range, but brown rice has a slight advantage in this faceoff.

Winner: Brown rice


Fiber has many functions. It helps keep you full longer, increases the amount of good bacteria in your gut, and can help reduce the risk of diabetes. Moreover, if you have diabetes or struggle with blood sugar spikes, fiber can help keep that in check.

One cup of quinoa contains five grams of dietary fiber, but a cup of brown rice has slightly more than six grams of fiber.

Winner: Brown rice


If you track your food, or follow a low-carb diet, carb count can be a key factor in weight loss. Quinoa has 39 grams of carbs in a cup while brown rice weighs in with 45 grams.

Winner: Quinoa


Both brown rice and quinoa contain high levels of different micronutrients. Brown rice is a good source of phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. However, it has lower amounts of copper, calcium, and zinc.

Quinoa is high in iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc, plus it contains high levels of calcium, potassium, and selenium. Overall, quinoa has three to four times more nutrients than brown rice.

Winner: Quinoa


Both quinoa and brown rice are naturally gluten-free, unless cross-contamination occurs during processing. If you’re trying to cut flour out of your diet or if you have Celiac disease, both are great choices to help you stay on track. Be sure to look for brands that are certified gluten free.

Winner: Both

Quinoa vs Brown Rice: Which is Healthier?

So, when it comes to quinoa vs. brown rice, which is the better choice? Quinoa wins in five categories, while brown rice only wins in three.

From a nutritional point of view, quinoa beats brown rice in most categories. It offers more dietary fiber and protein than brown rice, so it should make for a more filling addition to your diet.

However, many people find it difficult, or boring, to stick to eating only one type of food, so you can rest easy including both quinoa and brown rice in your diet. Both have health benefits and are good sources of nutrition.

Last reviewed May 9, 2019

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