Quinoa alone will not make you gain weight. In fact, it offers several qualities that make it a good choice for a weight-loss diet. A serving of quinoa provides at least 10 percent of your daily value of nine vitamins and minerals. One cup has about the same calories as a bowl of breakfast cereal served with fat-free milk. Quinoa is low in fat and a good source of protein and fiber, which both have weight-loss benefits.
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Calories in Quinoa
One cup of cooked quinoa contains 222 nutrient-dense calories. Its potential impact on your weight depends on whether you stay within -- or exceed -- your daily goal for total calories. If you’ve already consumed your maximum number of calories for the day but want a snack in the evening and you have a bowl of quinoa, then you’re adding 222 additional calories that contribute to weight gain. A good way to include quinoa in your diet is to mix it with veggies to make it a complete, one-dish meal.
Carbohydrates for Sustained Energy
One cup of quinoa has 39 grams of total carbohydrates. The carbs in quinoa can help you avoid the diet pitfall of lagging energy when a person consumes a restricted number of calories. Most of quinoa's carbs consist of complex starches that provide sustained energy. These carbs support your basal metabolism, muscles and brain, while also providing the energy you need to get through your busy day. They also help you stick with a regular exercise routine. Carbs should account for at least 45 percent of your daily calories, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Protein Promotes Fullness
Quinoa is special, because it’s one of the few plant-based foods that has complete protein. Protein is a good weight-loss tool because it prevents spikes in blood sugar, which trigger hunger, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. It also helps you feel full and your body uses more calories to digest protein than digesting carbs and fats. Protein also may stimulate the hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied, according to research published in the May 2013 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, or 16 percent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recommended daily value of 50 grams, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your individual protein needs will vary.
Fiber as a Weight-Loss Tool
As the soluble fiber in quinoa absorbs water, it fills up your stomach and makes you feel full. Then, it keeps the food in your stomach longer, so the feeling of satiety lasts for an extended time. Fiber may delay the release of the hormone ghrelin, according to a review published in the June 2012 issue of “Current Obesity Reports.” Since ghrelin makes you feel hungry, slowing down its release helps hold off your hunger a little longer. You’ll get 5 grams of fiber, or about 20 percent of the FDA's suggested daily value of 25 grams, from one cup of cooked quinoa.
- NutritionValue.org: Quinoa, Cooked
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Contribution of Gastroenteropancreatic Appetite Hormones to Protein-Induced Satiety
- Current Obesity Reports: Is There a Place for Dietary Fiber Supplements in Weight Management?
- Colorado State University: Ghrelin
- Iowa State University: Carbohydrate
- University of Michigan: Quinoa