By comparison with rice, quinoa is a Johnny-come-lately in the US. It exploded onto the market in a welter of hype and press. It was heralded as a superfood which was destined to make you thinner, richer and more attractive to the people to whom you want to be attractive. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, it won’t make you richer. But it did come with a lot of promises.
The humble rice-grain, on the other hand, has been around forever. It’s been the staple of many Asian countries for thousands of years, with a reputation of being reliable and unassuming and at least not actually fattening.
When trying to compare quinoa vs rice there are so many levels that you can look at. Nutrients being an obvious one. But one can also look at the effects on the communities which grow the products. There is a scare that Peruvian peasants who grow quinoa because nothing else will grow there will soon not be able to afford their own staple. (The Economist reports that is not the case – well at least not yet.)
Getting an accurate picture is probably the hardest. Opinions are manifest and differing, who provides an answer that you can rely on? In N. America we’re lucky, both quinoa and rice are widely available though, on the whole rice is less expensive.
Is it possible to reach an answer as to which is ‘better for you’? The only way to do it is to qualify the question. If you ask which is better for you if you want protein, the answer is quinoa. If you ask which has lower cholesterol the answer is brown rice. There’s another rabbit hole, incidentally – white rice, brown rice, long grain rice? Each one stacks up against quinoa differently. But then each one stacks up against itself differently too.
In the end diet is about balance. It is about getting enough nutrients into the body to feed it, keep it healthy and to enable it to continue to repair itself. When we are lucky enough to be able to do that on a daily basis without having to worry where the next bite will come from, then diet begins to come down to choice.
Most of us aren’t faced with an either/or decision – we can usually have both, perhaps not at the same time though.