Is quinoa fattening?

Quinoa has quickly become one of the most popular health foods on the market. It’s high in protein and fiber, it’s gluten-free, and it’s a good source of a number of vitamin and minerals. But… is quinoa fattening? Quinoa is relatively high in calories, and it can require a few extra “fixings” to make it taste good, so this is actually not a bad question — especially if you’re trying to lose a few extra pounds.

The answer to the question “Is quinoa fattening?” is a little more nuanced than whether or not quinoa contains fat. With only 4 grams of fat per 1 cup serving, quinoa is actually a low fat food. What really gives quinoa its potential to be fattening is the total amount of calories and carbohydrates it contains. In 1 cup of quinoa there are 222 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrates. 

If you think about it though, 222 calories really isn’t that much. Even if your daily caloric need is low and you’re on a 1,000 calorie diet, 222 calories would only meet about 1/4th of your total caloric need for the day. So far so good. But have you seen 1 cup of quinoa? It isn’t much, and you’re not just going to eat plain quinoa. You’ll need something on it. If you have it for breakfast, you’re going to want to add some milk and honey. For dinner you might cook it up with some olive oil or tomato juice and veggies. The calories can quickly add up. There is some potential that quinoa could become a vehicle for a few extra calories, but overall I’m not convinced that quinoa is a fattening food.

Is quinoa fattening? I’m more inclined to argue just the opposite. Even the 35 gram or carbohydrates isn’t all that problematic. Your body needs some carbohydrates during the day, and the type of carbohydrates found in quinoa are the best kind. Quinoa’s starches make excellent fuel for your brain and muscles. On top of that, 1 cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of high quality protein and a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Quinoa isn’t an empty source of fattening calories — it’s a highly nourishing food for restoring and energizing your body.  

If you’re really trying to lose excess fat, my only recommendation would be to eat quinoa for breakfast instead of for lunch or dinner. Eating quinoa in the morning will give your brain thinking fuel, boost your metabolism, and give you plenty of time to burn off those carbohydrates. For more information about quinoa, including how to cook it, read our more in-depth article on quinoa.

Sources: USDA Food Database
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Originally posted 2013-12-04 10:11:29.

2 Replies to “Is quinoa fattening?”

  1. Interesting facts about quinoa. Really any type of food can be “fattening” because fat is added to the body when the calories aren’t used up. I do think quinoa is a good grain to incorporate into the diet though.

    PS Who would have a caloric need of only 1000 calories a day?? Yikes!!

    1. I agree, most foods are fattening not because of their fat content, but because they’re high in calories but low in other nutrients.

      Haha, the “1,000 calorie” mention was a bit rhetorical. But amazingly some people’s actual energy needs aren’t a whole lot more than that and probably should be — a a sad consequence of how sedentary many of us have become!

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