Brown rice and quinoa are nutritious grains that go well with lots of other foods. Adding either of them to your diet can boost your vitamin and mineral intake and give you extra energy. According to Purdue University, the Incas stayed energized during long marches by eating "war balls," a mixture of quinoa and fat. Quinoa is higher in protein and better for you overall than brown rice, but brown rice also has its virtues.
Calories, Protein and Fiber
If you're trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, quinoa may be the grain for you. Although a cup of either quinoa or brown rice provides about 220 calories, quinoa has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, nearly doubling the protein and fiber content of brown rice. Quinoa has twice the fat of brown rice, with 3.5 grams per cooked cup, but is still low in fat overall. A serving of quinoa will help keep you feeling full longer than brown rice, without piling on the calories.
Brown rice and quinoa have B-complex vitamins, which rev up your metabolism by helping your body use the protein, carbohydrates and fats you take in. A cup of either type of grain gives you about one-fifth of the thiamine and vitamin B-6 you need each day. Brown rice has more niacin than quinoa, with one-fifth of your daily requirement for that nutrient, while quinoa provides about 5 percent. Quinoa towers over brown rice in terms of folate and riboflavin, with one-fourth of the folate and one-fifth of the riboflavin you need daily. Brown rice gives you about 2 percent of your daily requirement for each.
Quinoa wins the essential mineral contest, as well. Each cup of cooked quinoa gives you almost half the phosphorus and magnesium you need daily, as well as one-fourth and one-seventh of your daily requirements for zinc and iron. These minerals help keep your bones, blood and nervous system in prime condition. A cup of cooked brown rice has about half as much magnesium and phosphorus as quinoa and less than half as much iron, but it is rich in zinc, giving you about one-seventh of your recommended daily intake for that antioxidant mineral.
Another perk of eating quinoa is its lysine content. Lysine is an amino acid that keeps your organs and muscles healthy and helps your body burn fat. According to the Institute of Medicine, the average woman should take in about 2.3 grams of lysine per day. A cup of cooked quinoa has nearly 0.5 gram of lysine, more than doubling the amount of lysine in a cup of cooked brown rice. If you are a vegetarian, adding quinoa to your diet can help you get enough amino acids, including lysine.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Quinoa, cooked
- U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Rice, Brown, Medium Grain
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes - Vitamins and Minerals
- Purdue University: Quinoa
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes - Macronutrients
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lysine
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.