Quinoa is packed with essential nutrients -- and has a high nutritional value, according to a 2009 review in “Advances in Food and Nutrition Research.” Authors of this review point out that quinoa is a pseudograin that has an impressive protein content of 15 percent, and one of the few plant-based, complete protein foods.
A one-half-cup portion of cooked quinoa contains 111 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. These 111 calories are nutrient-dense, meaning they are filled with a variety of vitamins and minerals for the low number of calories they contain. In comparison, one-half cup of brown rice contains 109 calories and one-half cup of whole-wheat pasta provides 87 calories, reports the USDA.
Carbs and Fiber
Carbs are what fuel your body, giving you a boost of energy. Fiber is a form of carbohydrate that can help lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity, according to a 2009 review in “Nutrition Reviews.” Authors of this review suggest eating 14 grams of dietary fiber for each 1,000 calories you consume, and the Institute of Medicine suggests adults need at least 130 grams of total carbs daily. A one-half-cup portion of cooked quinoa provides about 19.7 grams of total carbs and 2.6 grams of dietary fiber, according to the USDA, which is similar in content to brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.
Fat and Protein
In addition to quinoa being a low-fat food, it is also a great protein source. The USDA reports that one-half cup of cooked quinoa contains about 1.8 grams of dietary fat and 4.1 grams of protein. The 2009 review in “Advances in Food and Nutrition Research” suggests the protein – and dietary fat -- quality in quinoa is high, with an excellent balance of essential amino acids and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Ohio State University notes that quinoa is a complete protein -- meaning, it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians.
Quinoa is packed with numerous essential vitamins and minerals, while being free from dietary cholesterol and low in sodium. According to the USDA, vitamins and minerals abundant in quinoa are vitamin E, folate, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and even a small amount of calcium. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from becoming damaged, and potassium helps offset sodium's negative effects on blood pressure, notes MedlinePlus.