Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? Let’s Compare


Quinoa is a healthy option becoming more popular. For this reason many people wonder if it’s better than brown rice. Let’s answer, is quinoa better than brown rice?

Quinoa is better than brown rice due to its higher percentage of protein and minerals. Quinoa is a complete protein by providing all nine essential amino acids, brown rice does not. Quinoa has a better glycemic index than brown rice which may result in lower blood sugar levels after consumption.

This article will include a complete comparison of both including a side-by-side nutrient comparison. In addition, I’ll examine their prices, tastes, textures, glycemic index, satiety index, health benefits and if one can substitute for the other.

Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: The Differences

Many people are familiar with brown rice, but many may not know much about quinoa. Therefore, a common question asked is, what’s the difference between brown rice and quinoa?

Brown rice is a whole grain rice with the outer hull removed and the bran and germ layer remaining. Quinoa is the seed from a Chenopodium quinoa plant. Quinoa is not a grain but it is cooked in water and consumed like a grain. Brown rice is cooked in water but takes longer to cook than white quinoa.

Other differences between brown rice and quinoa:

  • Brown rice is a light brown color. Common quinoa colors are white, red and black.
  • Quinoa provides a higher percentage of protein and minerals.
  • Brown rice is lower in calories and total fat than quinoa.
  • Quinoa has a better glycemic index than brown rice.
  • Brown rice has a nuttier flavor.
  • Brown rice costs less money than quinoa.

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Nutrient Comparison

Brown rice and quinoa provide many of the same nutrients, although there are some important differences.

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in 100-grams of cooked medium grain brown rice and cooked quinoa.

  Brown Rice (100 g) Quinoa (100 g)
Calories 112 120
Protein 2.32 g 4.40 g
Carbohydrates 23.5 g 21.3 g
Fiber 2.8 g 2.8 g
Fat 0.83 g 1.92 g
Sugar 0.40 g 0.87 g
Vitamin A 0 IU 5 IU
Beta-carotene 0 mcg 0 mcg
Vitamin C 0 mg 0 mg
Vitamin B6 0.14 mg 0.12 mg
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 4 mcg  42 mcg
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 0.10 mg  0.10 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.01 mg  0.11 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1.33 mg  0.41 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 0.39 mg  0.33 mg
Magnesium 44 mg  64 mg
Phosphorous 77 mg  152 mg
Potassium 79 mg 172 mg
Iron 0.53 mg 1.49 mg
Copper 0.08 mg  0.19 mg
Calcium 10 mg 17 mg
Zinc 0.62 mg  1.09 mg

Nutrient Resources 1 2

Brown rice and quinoa contain many of the same nutrients. At first glance it may look like a toss up to determine which one provides a higher percentage of nutrients than the other. This causes many people to ask, which is more healthier brown rice or quinoa?

Quinoa is healthier than brown rice due to its higher percentage of protein and minerals. Quinoa has a better glycemic index which means it raises blood sugar less than brown rice. Quinoa provides a higher percentage of folate, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, calcium and zinc than brown rice.

Quinoa is a complete protein by providing all nine essential amino acids, brown rice doesn’t.

Brown rice is healthy also and provides a higher percentage of B6, niacin and B5. Brown rice has fewer calories, total fat and sugar than quinoa.

They both have equal amounts of fiber and thiamin. A well-balanced nutrition plan would include both foods. Depending on your goals one may be better than the other. Let’s examine some of those next.

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which to Choose?

Quinoa provides more of some nutrients and brown rice some more of others, but both are healthy. Some people may alternate between the two or choose one due to their particular goals. Let’s take a look at some of the popular goals.

Gluten Free

If you have celiac disease or choose to consume a gluten free diet, this can make or break your choice. Between brown rice and quinoa, which is gluten free?

Quinoa and brown rice are naturally gluten free. Therefore, if you require a gluten free diet, quinoa or brown rice are good options.

In addition, quinoa can be made into flour and used as a substitute for regular flour in gluten free recipes.

My Vitamix blender I use at home can make quinoa, almond, cashew or any nut flour in seconds. Check out my blender review here, Vitamix Venturist V1220 Review

Important: Although quinoa and brown rice are gluten free, they may come in contact with gluten-containing grains in storage or during transportation. Always check the label of your quinoa or brown rice product to determine if its gluten free.

Weight Loss

If you want to lose extra pounds from the mid-section, you may ask, which is better for weight loss, brown rice or quinoa?

Brown rice is better for weight loss than quinoa due to its 7% fewer calories per 100 grams cooked. Quinoa contains 120 calories per 100 grams. Brown rice contains 112 calories per 100 grams. Brown rice contains fewer fats and sugar than quinoa.

Fiber, associated with the feeling of fullness and weight loss, is equal between the two foods.

Low-carb or Keto Diet

Carbohydrates may be your number one concern if your goal is a Keto or low-carb diet. If you’re on a low-carb diet, you may ask which has more carbohydrates, brown rice or quinoa?

Quinoa contains 10% less carbohydrates per 100 grams than brown rice making it better for a low-carb diet. Quinoa contains 21.3 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams cooked. Brown rice contains 23.5 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams cooked. 

Another consideration for low-carb diets is the amount of fat and protein. Brown rice provides 2.32 grams of protein and 0.83 grams of fat per 100 grams. Quinoa provides 1.92 grams of fat and 4.40 grams of protein per 100 grams. 

Bodybuilding

If you’re bodybuilding or just have a goal to gain lean muscle mass, there’s a good chance you’re lifting weights at home or the gym. Which is better for bodybuilding, brown rice or quinoa?

Quinoa is better than brown rice for bodybuilding due to its higher percentage of protein and minerals. Quinoa provides 4.40 grams of protein per 100 grams cooked. Brown rice provides 2.32 grams of protein per 100 grams. 

This means quinoa provides 90% more protein than brown rice per 100 grams cooked. The extra amount of protein and minerals help to repair and build new muscle after exercise.

While brown rice contains slightly more carbohydrates, quinoa also provides a good amount. The carbohydrates provide help to fuel energy and increase exercise performance when lifting weights and exercising.

Supplements for bodybuilding are expensive, and the costs add up pretty fast. Considering the price of both, brown rice costs less than quinoa.

You’d have to decide whether the difference in price makes up for for 90% less protein. For more details about the prices check out the cost section of this article.

brown rice vs quinoa nutrient comparison

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Glycemic Index

Avoiding blood sugar spikes is an important part of consuming healthy food. This is true for diabetics or anyone worrying about their health 3. For this reason, the glycemic index of food is important.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 4. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 5

Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:

  • Low-GI foods: 55 or under
  • Medium-GI foods: 56-69
  • High-GI foods: 70 or over

How blood sugars levels are affected:

  • Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
  • Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
  • Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.

Knowing more about the glycemic index of food and how it raises blood sugar, many people ask, does brown rice or quinoa have a better glycemic index?

Quinoa has a better glycemic index than brown rice making it more desirable for diabetics. Quinoa is a low GI food and brown rice is a medium to high GI food.

  • Brown rice boiled for 25 minutes has a glycemic index of 72.
  • Brown rice has a glycemic index of 66.
  • Red quinoa cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 54.
  • White quinoa cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes has a glycemic index of 50.

Brown rice has a glycemic load of 30 to 32. After boiling red quinoa has a glycemic load of 24 and white quinoa 23.

The glycemic index alone shouldn’t be a reason to pick one food over the other. It’s one piece of the puzzle which may be considered. Always check with a physician as many people may require different nutritional needs.

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Satiety Index

Satiety is a term used to explain the feeling of being full and the loss of appetite which occurs after eating food. The satiety index is a scale showing how full a person feels after eating a certain food. 

The satiety index was developed in 1995 from a study which tested 38 foods. The foods were ranked how they satisfied a person’s hunger. Foods scoring under 100 are considered less filling and foods scoring above 100 are considered more filling 6.

The table below shows the satiety scores of brown rice, oatmeal and a few other filling foods.

Food Satiety Index Score
White bread 100%
Brown rice 132%
White rice 138%
Lentils 133%
Wholemeal Bread 157%
Brown pasta 188%
Oatmeal w/milk 209%

In the study, brown rice was included but not quinoa. I researched scientific studies and found the following study which tested the satiety of quinoa to rice.

A study in 2005, by the University of Milan, tested the satiety of quinoa, oats and buckwheat compared to eating rice. All three, including quinoa, had a higher satiating efficiency than rice 7.

Since rice has satiety scores of 132% and 138%, we may be able to assume quinoa has a higher satiety score more than brown rice and 138%.

High satiety foods like quinoa and brown rice are likely to have a high satiety score for the following reasons:

  1. High in protein.
  2. High in fiber.
  3. High in volume (foods containing a lot of water or air).
  4. Low in energy density (foods low in calories for their weight).

Find out how quinoa compared to bulgur in my article, Bulgur vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Taste and Texture

Besides the goals and nutrients, many people choose one food over the other because of its taste. Since there are some similarities between the two, many people wonder and ask, which tastes better quinoa or brown rice?

Brown rice and quinoa have a mild, neutral flavor and can taste slightly nutty. Brown rice is slightly larger and more substantial making its texture better. Quinoa doesn’t haven’t to be chewed which can take away from the eating experience. Quinoa should be rinsed prior to cooking to avoid a bitter taste.

What does quinoa taste like?

Quinoa has a mild flavor and is unsweet and not bitter. It has a slightly nutty flavor, and its texture is fluffy and chewy. Quinoa which isn’t rinsed or pre rinsed prior to cooking may taste bitter. Red and black quinoa is chewier than the white colored quinoa.

I decided to poll my clients, readers and people in food groups I belong to. I asked them, do you prefer the taste of brown rice or quinoa?

  • 59% said they preferred the taste of brown rice.
  • 37% said they preferred the taste of quinoa.
  • 4% said they had no preference or haven’t tasted one of the two.

How to Cook Brown Rice

  • Combine rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cover.
  • Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  • Fluff with a fork and serve.

How to Cook Red Quinoa

Most store bought quinoa is pre-rinsed, if it is not pre-rinsed the red quinoa should be rinsed to avoid a bitter taste.

  • In a pot combine 1 cup of red quinoa with 2 cups of water or broth.
  • Bring to a rolling boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is evaporated (about 15 minutes).
  • Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve.
  • Salt or add spices to taste.

How to Cook White Quinoa

Most store bought quinoa is pre-rinsed, if it is not pre-rinsed the white quinoa should be rinsed to avoid a bitter taste.

  • In a pot combine 1 cup of white quinoa with 2 cups of water or broth.
  • Bring to a rolling boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is evaporated (about 10-15 minutes).
  • Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve.
  • Salt or add spices to taste.

Quinoa cooking tips:

  • Red quinoa takes about 3-5 minutes longer to cook.
  • Quinoa is done when the liquid is absorbed.
  • If it’s properly cooked, you can see little, curled ends.
  • 1 cup of dry quinoa makes about 3 1/2 to 4 cups cooked.
  • Quinoa should be cooked and not eaten raw.
  • For finicky kids, consider adding small amounts of quinoa to cookies, salads, meatballs or even macaroni and cheese.

Find out how white quinoa compared to black quinoa in my article, White Quinoa vs Black Quinoa: What’s The Difference?

Substituting Brown Rice and Quinoa

When someone buys quinoa, a common question asked, is quinoa a good substitute for brown rice?

Quinoa and brown rice can substitute for each other in recipes, side dishes or salads. Although expect a slight change in texture due to the more substantial brown rice. Since both are gluten free they can substitute for each other in gluten free recipes. When substituting use equal amounts called for in the recipe.

Brown rice takes longer to cook which may change the cooking time of the recipe.

The best substitutes for quinoa are:

  • Brown rice
  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Couscous
  • Bulgur
  • Lentils
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat

The best substitutes for brown rice are:

  • White rice
  • Quinoa
  • Farro
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Millet
  • Whole-wheat couscous
  • Riced cauliflower

Find out how white and red quinoa compared to each other in my article, Red Quinoa vs White Quinoa: What’s The Difference?

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Which Costs More?

Every trip to the supermarket seems to result in more money spent. The cost of food certainly matters to most people, especially with the rising costs of everything else.

Therefore, the price may sway your decision about which one to use more often. Let’s examine, which costs more, brown rice or quinoa?

Quinoa costs more per serving than brown rice. The average price for quinoa is $0.57 per 1/4 cup. The average price for brown rice is $0.30 per 1/4 cup.

The prices for both foods vary depending on the store, location and sales offered.

I decided to conduct a search of various different stores to compare the price of brown rice and quinoa.

I checked Shoprite supermarket:

  • Wholesome Pantry White Quinoa
    • $3.99 per 12 oz bag (7 servings) equaling $0.57 per 1/4 cup serving.
  • Wholesome Pantry Tri-Color (White, Red, Black)
    • $3.99 per 12 oz bag (7 servings) equaling $0.57 per 1/4 cup serving.
  • Brown rice
    • $2.99 per 12 oz bag (10 servings) equaling $0.30 per 1/4 cup serving.

I then checked Walmart:

  • Food to Live White Quinoa
    • $10.99 per 1 pound bag
  • Food to Live Organic Red Quinoa
    • $13.48 per 1 pound bag 
  • Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Rice
    • $8.01 per 1 pound
  • Food to Live Organic Brown Rice
    • $11.49 per 1 pound bag

Check out Amazon for quinoa and brown rice products. Their prices are often more affordable depending on the seller and the sales.

Brown Rice vs Quinoa: Health Benefits

The nutrients in both foods are similar just in different percentages. Therefore, the benefits contained in both are similar but also in different degrees of effectiveness. The following describes how each nutrient may benefit health and which food provides the greater percentage.

Minerals

Quinoa has a significantly higher percentage of every mineral listed in the table above. Let’s take a closer look at some of these minerals and how they benefit health.

Potassium

  • Cooked quinoa contains 172 mg of potassium per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice contains 79 mg of potassium per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa provides 117% more potassium than cooked brown rice per 100 grams.

Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 8.

Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 9.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 10. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.

Check out 13 healthy substitutes for quinoa in my article, Quinoa Replacements: 13 Healthy Substitutes.

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Calcium

  • Cooked quinoa contains 17 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice contains 10 mg of calcium per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa provides 70% more calcium than cooked brown rice per 100 grams.

Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 11.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Help the muscles to function properly.
  • Maintain and build strong bones.
  • Helps nerve function.

Magnesium

  • Cooked quinoa contains 64 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice contains 44 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa provides 45% more magnesium than cooked brown rice per 100 grams.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 12.

Magnesium helps control the following:

  • Blood pressure
  • Nerve function
  • Blood sugar
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle

In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 13.

One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.

Iron

  • Cooked quinoa contains 1.49 mg of iron per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice contains 0.53 mg of iron per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa provides 180% more iron than cooked brown rice per 100 grams.

Iron is essential in the creation of red blood cells and is a necessary part of any healthy diet. Iron is also vital for growth and development, as some hormones need iron to be appropriately balanced 14.

Phosphorus

  • Cooked quinoa contains 152 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice contains 77 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa provides 97% more phosphorus than cooked brown rice per 100 grams.

Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:

  • Promote healthy nerve conduction.
  • Promote bone and teeth health.
  • Help the kidneys remove waste.
  • Muscle contraction and recovery.
  • Help the body manage and store energy.

Find out how quinoa compared to lentils in my article, Quinoa vs Lentils: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.

Vitamins

B Vitamins

Quinoa provides a higher percentage of folate and riboflavin. Brown rice provides a higher percentage of niacin, B5 and B6. Both contain equal amounts of thiamin. The B vitamins provided include the following:

  1. B1 (thiamin) (Quinoa and brown rice provide equal amounts)
  2. B2 (riboflavin) (Quinoa provides more riboflavin than brown rice)
  3. B3 (niacin) (Brown rice provides more niacin than quinoa)
  4. B5 (Brown rice provides more B5 than quinoa)
  5. B6 (Brown rice provides more B6 than quinoa)
  6. B9 (folate) (Quinoa provides more folate than brown rice)

B vitamins help support the following:

  • Brain function.
  • Red blood cells.
  • Nerve function.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Energy levels.
  • Digestion.

A lack of B vitamins has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation.

In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 15.

brown rice with beans in a bowl
Cooked brown rice with beans

Protein & Fiber

Protein

  • Cooked quinoa provides 4.40 grams of protein per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice provides 2.32 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa provides 90% more protein than cooked brown rice per 100 grams.

Both foods are a good source of protein. Protein may help benefit the following:

  • Reduce appetite
  • Build and repair muscle
  • Boost metabolism
  • Weight loss

As noted earlier in the nutrition section of the article, quinoa is a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids.

Fiber

  • Cooked quinoa contains 2.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
  • Cooked brown rice contains 2.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

Cooked quinoa and brown rice provide equal amounts of fiber per 100 grams.

Soluble fiber is helpful for many reasons 16. What makes fiber soluble is it dissolves in water. 

Soluble fiber is known for the following:

  • Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
  • Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less. 
  • Help overall digestive health.
  • Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.

Additional Resources 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45

Read Next – More Quinoa vs Food Articles!

Couscous vs Rice vs Quinoa: Which is Better? Let’s Compare

Couscous vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

Barley vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

Millet vs Quinoa: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison

Quinoa Vs Oatmeal: Which is Better? Let’s Compare

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
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  14. National Institutes of Health: Iron[]
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  39. Oregon State University Extension: Discovering the Ancient Grain Quinoa[]
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Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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