Brown Rice vs. Quinoa

June 17, 2014

Brown Rice, Quinoa and Wild RiceHarmons dietitians are lucky to be able to host talented interns in the summer months. Carmen Ramos wrote this blog and is currently studying at the University of Utah in the nutrition master’s degree program. She plans to become a registered dietitian after graduation and work towards becoming a certified diabetes educator.

Brown Rice vs. Quinoa

Brown rice and quinoa are two grains that are highly recognized for their nutritional value and as a better alternative to refined grains. However, which would be the top choice for optimal nutrition? Let’s take a look.

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When it comes to calories, brown rice and quinoa are about equal, with brown rice taking the slight lead in the race. However, this small difference in calories may be due to fat content. Although quinoa has double the amount of total fat, it has the same amount of saturated fat and triple the amount of polyunsaturated fat, which has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits. The health benefits associated with poly- and monounsaturated fats may outweigh the small difference in calories.

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Quinoa has less carbohydrates and more fiber than brown rice. Fiber can help control blood sugar levels and make you feel fuller for longer, which sets quinoa in the clear lead. On top of quinoa having a higher protein content, it is also one of the only grains that is a complete protein. This means that it has all 9 essential amino acids, which your body cannot make.

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Although brown rice is certainly a good source of multiple vitamins and minerals, quinoa takes the lead again due to its higher content of micronutrients. Potassium, which is important for kidney health and maintaining normal blood pressure, is almost four times as high in quinoa than in brown rice. Quinoa also has ten times the amount of folate, which is needed for fetal growth and development as well as red blood cell production.


In terms of cost, brown rice is generally less expensive than quinoa. Brown rice typically sells for $0.96 per pound, while quinoa sells for about $7.49 per pound or more.  

The Winner?

Although quinoa is clearly in the lead with this one, it is important to recognize that a variety of whole grains is actually the top choice for optimal nutrition. This includes brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, and oats. Also, if the cost of quinoa is a barrier, brown rice is a grain that will ultimately give health benefits as well.

Author – Carmen Ramos