Is quinoa good for diabetes? Nutrition, preparation, and more


Managing diabetes can require nutritional therapy. One way people with diabetes can control blood sugar is to monitor the number of carbohydrates they consume. They can choose carbohydrates rich in nutrients, such as quinoa.

A person’s diet can play a major role in both preventing and managing diabetes. Eating a healthy diet can also prevent many other conditions and complications, including heart attack and stroke.

For people living with diabetes, self-managing their blood sugar is an important part of their lives.

Quinoa contains many healthy nutrients and is low in sugar and carbohydrates, which is important for someone looking to prevent diabetes or manage it.

This article will explore whether quinoa is a good dietary option for people with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) note that a person should opt for grains with high nutritional values when choosing carbohydrates.

Whole grains, such as quinoa, are rich in vitamins and minerals, including:

Other types of quinoa, such as red and black quinoa, have very similar nutritional profiles. However, uncooked black quinoa has a slightly higher fiber content than uncooked white quinoa.

The following table lists the nutritional values for cooked quinoa. Units are in grams (g), milligrams (mg), and calories (kcal).

There are numerous factors that could help a person manage their blood sugar. Here is how quinoa fits in.

Glycemic index

Many people with diabetes use the glycemic index (GI) to understand by how much a certain food will make their blood sugar rise.

The GI rates food from 1 to 100 in terms of how fast blood sugar rises after a person has eaten that food, with 100 being pure sugar.

The following table shows different ranges of the GI:

Quinoa has a GI rating of 53, which puts it in the low category.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient for bodily functions. They are an important source of energy for body cells, but they also influence blood sugar.

There is no evidence to suggest people living with diabetes should eat more or fewer carbohydrates than people living without it. However, they should monitor their carbohydrate intake and adjust it based on their personal needs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that people with diabetes should get around half of their daily calories from carbohydrates. This can work out at between 225 and 325 g of carbohydrate per day.

Quinoa, with 22.86 g of carbohydrate per 100 g, is lower in carbohydrates than white rice, which contains 33.1 g per 100 g. Therefore, a person looking to reduce their overall carbohydrate intake could swap white rice for quinoa.

Learn how a person with diabetes can count carbs here.

Fiber

The ADA emphasize that people should prioritize nutrient-dense carbohydrates that are high in fiber and minimally processed.

Dietary fibers help adjust a person’s blood sugar, because they ferment in the colon rather than undergo digestion in the small intestine.

Quinoa contains 2.1 g of fiber per 100 g, whereas white rice contains 0 g. Therefore, quinoa is a better option for people with diabetes looking to improve their fiber intake.

Learn about high fiber foods for people with diabetes here.

Compared with 100 g of cooked white rice, 100 g of cooked quinoa contains:

However, when comparing the nutritional value of quinoa and rice, a person should consider the wide variety of rice.

Each type of rice has particular nutritional qualities, and some are healthier options than others. Researchers suggest that substituting white rice with brown rice may lower the risk of diabetes.

Learn about brown vs. white rice here.

Quinoa can be a substitute for oatmeal made with oats.

Oats are high in a specific type of dietary fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan plays an active role in reducing blood sugar after eating and insulin responses. This increases insulin sensitivity and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

However, quick, old-fashioned, and steel-cut oats also have different nutritional profiles.

Steel-cut oats are a less processed form of oats and take longer to digest. This means that they have a lower glycemic index than more processed oats, which are easier to digest. That is why eating steel-cut oats will raise a person’s blood sugar slower than quick oats.

Steel-cut oats and quinoa have a similar nutritional value. Steel-cut oats are slightly higher in fat, carbohydrate, and dietary fiber.

Learn more about the health benefits of oatmeal here.

People can prepare quinoa in a sweet or savory way.

Washing

The first step when cooking quinoa is to thoroughly wash the seeds under running water in a strainer and dry them on a dish towel.

Quinoa contains a coating called saponin. Saponin has a bitter taste and is also mildly toxic. In some people, it can cause stomach problems.

A person can wash off saponin by rinsing the quinoa thoroughly during preparation.

People can also purchase prewashed quinoa, whose texture does not differ from that of traditional quinoa.

Cooking

Toasting quinoa in a pan on the stove makes the seeds fragrant, but this step is optional.

To cook quinoa, add the amount of liquid to a pot with the quinoa according to the package instructions. People can use water, coconut water, stock, or any other liquid.

After 15–20 minutes, the seeds will be tender and will have absorbed the liquid. Let the quinoa sit off the stove in a covered pan and then fluff with a fork.

People can use different add-ins to make quinoa savory or sweet. Quinoa is a good alternative to oatmeal in the morning or rice for lunch or supper.

Some granola recipes may also include quinoa for a healthy option instead of oat-based granola.

A healthy dietary pattern includes whole grains and limits refined grains. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, at least half of a person’s daily amount of grains should be whole grains.

Grains, either refined or whole, should be fortified with folic acid. Also, people should always be aware of the added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium in grain products.

To understand whether a food is fortified with folic acid, a person can read the label and check for folate or folic acid.

According to the National Institutes of Health, as of January 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have required companies to list folate on food labels and state any added folic acid in brackets.

Other whole grain options for people who live with or are at risk of diabetes include the following food products:

People who live with or are at risk of diabetes should avoid refined grains. These include:

  • white bread
  • refined-grain cereals and crackers
  • corn grits
  • cream of rice
  • cream of wheat
  • pearled barley
  • masa
  • pasta
  • white rice

If a person with diabetes wants to eat refined grains, they should choose those enriched with nutrients such as fiber and vitamins. However, the healthier alternative for blood sugar control is whole-wheat grains.

Learn about refined carbs here.

Quinoa is a healthier grain for people living with diabetes and those at risk of developing the condition.

This whole grain is rich in vitamins and minerals. Other whole grains that are good for people living with diabetes include brown rice and steel-cut oats.

People can use quinoa in both sweet and savory dishes, which makes it ideal for eating at breakfast, lunch, or supper.

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