Quinoa Diabetes Diet: Benefits, Nutrition, Recipes, GI

quinoa diabetes diet

A complete protein superfood, Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), is more than just a whole grain. Full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it is excellent for managing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol levels, and losing weight. It is naturally gluten-free, and makes a perfect food for a vegetarian or vegan.

Quinoa’s ability to help manage blood sugars, lower cholesterol levels, and help lose weight makes it a superfood for the diabetes diet. It is high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and is easy to prepare.

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of South America, this whole grain is known to be a complete protein. Don’t underestimate the value of this excellent food. Want to know more? 

You will discover some of the fantastic benefits of quinoa, not only for people with diabetes but also for people living with other conditions, or those who just want to include more healthful foods into their diet. You will also learn a few quick and easy ways to prepare this superfood.

Quinoa and Fiber

Quinoa has a decent amount of fiber, which contributes to slower digestion of the food and slower blood sugar rise. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 38 g fiber for men, and 25 g fiber for women on a daily basis. One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 5 grams of fiber.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of Quinoa

According to the Mayo Clinic, “The glycemic index is a system of assigning a number to carbohydrate-containing foods according to how much each food increases blood sugar.” The GI ranks foods on a scale of 1 to 100, based on how quickly they are digested and get into the bloodstream. The higher the number, the quicker it raises your blood sugar. A glycemic index of 55 or less is low (good). A GI score of 56-69 is moderate, and a score of 70 or greater is high (not so good).

We should not rely entirely on the glycemic index without taking a look at the glycemic load (GL). The GL measures the rise in blood sugar based on the number of carbohydrates in the food. The GL is more reliable than the GI because it factors in the serving size of a food. Glucose load is calculated by multiplying the GI by the amount of carbohydrates in the food. Therefore, food with a high GI can have a low GL, making GL more accurate. For one serving of any given food, a GL greater than 20 is considered high. A GL of 11 to 19 is considered moderate, and a GL of 10 or less is considered low.

Knowing the glycemic index, the glycemic load, and nutrient information like the total number of carbohydrates per serving will help you monitor your intake of foods that affect your blood sugar. One cup (185 grams) quinoa has a glycemic index of 53, and a glycemic load of 18. (source)

Foods that have a low GL almost always have a low GI in any given serving size.

Quinoa Nutrition Data

One cup (185 grams or 6.5 ounces) of cooked quinoa provides 222 calories, 39 g carbohydrate, 1.6 g sugar, 8.1 g of protein, 3.6 g fat, and 5.2 g fiber.

The following tables include the vitamins and minerals known to be present in the quinoa seed.


Quinoa has over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2, and B6. It has small amounts of vitamin B3 (niacin) and calcium. Different vitamins have different “jobs” in the human body, from keeping your nerves healthy to resisting infections.

Here are the vitamins you’ll find in one cup of cooked quinoa:

Amount Per 1 Cup, CookedAmount%DV
Vitamin A9.3 IU0%
Vitamin E1.2 mg6%
Thiamin0.2 mg13%
Riboflavin0.2 mg12%
Niacin0.8 mg4%
Vitamin B60.2 mg11%
Folate77.7 mcg19%



Both vitamins and minerals are essential in our diets. Minerals help your body function. Some minerals are needed in small quantities, and some are needed in larger amounts. If you are eating a variety of foods on a regular basis, you are likely meeting your daily needs through the food you eat.

Minerals you will find in one cup of cooked quinoa:

Amount Per 1 Cup, CookedAmount%DV
Calcium31.5 mg3%
Iron2.5 mg15%
Magnesium118 mg30%
Phosphorus281 mg28%
Potassium318 mg9%
Sodium13.0 mg1%
Zinc2.0 mg13%
Copper0.4 mg18%
Manganese1.2 mg58%
Selenium5.2 mcg7%


Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?

Quinoa is classified as a whole grain, even though it is a seed.

Quinoa naturally contains no gluten. So, as long as it wasn’t processed on the same equipment as a wheat or one of the other gluten-containing grains, it should be considered safe.

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, always make sure to check the label to ensure that cross-contamination did not occur during processing.

Quinoa – A Nutrient Rich Superfood for the Diabetic Diet

Unlike many plant proteins, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. They are essential because our bodies cannot make them on their own. (source)

Essential Amino Acids In Quinoa

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Containing all nine amino acids, quinoa is a protein heavyweight in the whole grain world. With 8 grams of protein in one cup, quinoa comes in at 14% protein by weight. There are also 5 grams of fiber in the same cup of cooked quinoa. High in protein and fiber means that it’s perfect for the diabetes diet. (source)

Not Just For Diabetes

As previously mentioned, those who have celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity will benefit from knowing that quinoa is naturally gluten-free. Remember, you’ll still want to check the label to verify that it wasn’t processed on contaminated equipment.

Quinoa And FODMAP

When you have a digestive problem, whether it’s IBS, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, or another ailment, choosing foods that are low in the FODMAP rating can help keep your system under control. 

FODMAP is a rating system used to rate how upsetting food may be to a person’s digestive system. Foods high on the scale are not recommended for sensitive digestive systems. Conversely, foods low on the FODMAP scale are better for more sensitive eaters.

Quinoa is low on the FODMAP scale, making it perfect for people living with diabetes who may also have digestive issues. (source)

Benefits Of Quinoa For Diabetes

The quinoa seed is referred to as a whole grain. The whole grain is a superfood, jam-packed full of nutrients and an abundance of benefits for almost any diet. Here are some of the benefits of the diabetes diet:

  • Complete protein (contains all nine essential amino acids)
  • Vegan – plant-based protein
  • High in protein (8 grams per cup one cup cooked)
  • High in fiber (5 grams per one cup cooked)
  • Nutrient rich (high in iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper)
  • Low glycemic index (53)
  • Low glycemic load (18)
  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)
  • May assist with weight loss (high protein and high fiber promote satiety to support decreased appetite)
  • Contains antioxidants called flavonoids that neutralize free radicals (anti-cancer, anti-infection, antimicrobial, antiviral). The sprouting of the seed increases antioxidants, as well.
  • Easy to prepare

Quinoa can be used in place of farro, rice, or other grains. It can also be your main entree if you jazz it up with herbs and spices, oils or dressings, nuts, cheese, fruits, or vegetables.

Why Is Quinoa Bitter?

Note that quinoa is coated with naturally occurring insecticides, called saponins.

The saponins give the seed a bitter taste, and can cause problems with digestion. Make sure to rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer before putting it on the stove. Depending which brand or product you purchase, this step may have been done before packaging, so you can skip this step.

Simple Diabetes Diet Quinoa Preparations

When you cook rice, you probably add a pinch of salt to keep it from sticking together. Quinoa requires only water for cooking and nothing more.

The general formula:

1 cup quinoa + 1 ¾ cups water (boiling) + 15-20 minutes = Done

Normal Cooking Procedure

You will find different recommendations for cooking quinoa when searching online. Some people recommend 2 cups water for everyone cup quinoa. Others recommend a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup quinoa. I recommend somewhere in the middle, 1 3/4 cup water to one cup quinoa. Too much water makes the quinoa too mushy. Too little water makes the quinoa too dry.

The basic concept is to boil 1 ¾ cups of water per cup of quinoa. Keep boiling for about 3 minutes, until the quinoa starts fluffing up and soaking all the water. Turn to the low setting for another 15 minutes or so. After the quinoa has soaked up all the water, fluff with a fork, and serve. It’s just the same as rice – effortless to prepare.

Were you looking for some exciting twists on quinoa? Try some of the following combinations for a different different spin on quinoa.

Basic Quinoa

Follow regular cooking but add ½ teaspoon of sea salt per cup along with a sprinkle of olive oil. Quinoa is very plain on its own. If you prefer something other than the salt and oil, you can toss a bit of salt and pepper with lemon or lime juice. To sweeten it up, you can add fruit, or you can drizzle maple syrup on top. To kick it up a little more, stir in chopped herbs, minced garlic, various nuts, crumbled feta cheese, or utilize one of the simple recipes outlined below.

Tomato Basil Quinoa

Who doesn’t love Italian style food? This basil, parsley, and tomato addition to quinoa is a great summertime side favorite. Basil and parsley are both carbohydrate-free and tomato is relatively low. When the quinoa is cooked with these additives, you’ll have to cook for an extra few minutes due to the tomato’s additional water content. (source)

Follow regular cooking, but add:

  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 healthy pinch of parsley
  • 2 pinches of basil
  • 1 diced tomato

Curried Quinoa

Both curry and turmeric are known for their health benefits. Both are safe for people with diabetes and might play a role in managing or preventing type 2 diabetes. (source)

Follow regular cooking, but add:

  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon curry

Costa Rican Quinoa

One of the staples of a Central American diet is rice and black beans. Quinoa, in the place of rice, makes for a Central American style side dish high in protein, fiber, and great for all people, whether you have diabetes or not.

Follow regular cooking, but add:

  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 cup black beans per 2 cups of quinoa

Blue European Bilberry Quinoa

In this European spin on a blueberry and rice dish, the bilberry is even more fragrant with actual blue flesh, unlike the blueberry that retains the bulk within its skin alone. Try adding a pinch of salt with the berry for a sweet and salty appeal. Bilberries have been alleged to contain diabetes-fighting compounds and are very nutrient-dense. (source)

Follow regular cooking, but after cooking (but while still nice and hot) add:

  • 1/4 cup bilberries
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ pinch parsley

Cold Quinoa Salad

Although a hot quinoa side dish, entree, or breakfast bowl is delicious, this superfood Is an excellent source of protein in your cold salad.

To prepare a chilled quinoa dish, cook your quinoa as recommended. Allow your cooked quinoa to cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator. If you place quinoa in the refrigerator while it is still warm, your product will likely get soggy due to the excess moisture.

It is recommended that the quinoa is refrigerated for at least four hours before using it in your salad. Many people cook the product and let it chill overnight in preparation for a salad the following day.

To prepare a salad, choose the fixings that you prefer. Chopped cucumbers, fresh peppers, Or fresh fruit our delicious ideas. Add a vinaigrette or oil based dressing to your vegetable salad, or sprinkle some cinnamon on your fruit salad.

Your leftover quinoa can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to four days.

How Many Types Of Quinoa Are There?

The United Nations (UN) declared 2013 “the international year of quinoa” due to it’s high nutrient value and potential to contribute to widespread food security.

There are over 120 varieties of quinoa. The crop is now grown on multiple continents for hundreds of nations across the globe.

Why Is Quinoa So Expensive?

Do you like Quinoa but wonder why it is so expensive?

The reason why quinoa is so expensive is due to two factors: First, the plant requires very particular growing conditions. Second, the plant often has seed ripen at different rates, even on a single plant. It means that harvesting has to be done mostly by hand.

Some plant variations are now cultivated in the US using mass production techniques. However, the plant is still a long way from being perfected for cultivation with mass production equipment. 

Due to these reasons, quinoa maintains a high selling price. The seed is likely to hold high prices for the foreseeable future until a crop changes for a uniform seed ripening for mass production.

What Color Quinoa Is The Healthiest?

You can find quinoa in a variety of colors, including red, black, white, or a combination.

All quinoa is relatively the same in terms of its nutrient value. Lighter varieties have a milder flavor some variations in taste and texture. For example, white quinoa is less bitter in taste, while red and black quinoa is slightly more chewy in texture.

Is Quinoa Healthier Than Brown Rice For Diabetics?

When it comes to calories, they are nearly identical, with brown rice coming in just shy of quinoa at 216. The fiber in brown rice can vary with up to 5 g, but usually has less.

Quinoa is healthier than brown rice. Quinoa has all nine essential amino acids. Brown rice does not contain the essential amino acid, threonine, and has a very small amount lysine. Most plant foods have incomplete sources of protein; quinoa is an exception.

The Final Word

Quinoa is a complete protein providing superfood. Free from gluten, it is high in nutrients and fiber. The seed, classified as a whole grain, is an incredible addition to the diabetic diet. Due to the natural, gluten-free nature of the seed, it also makes a perfect addition to celiac and non-celiac gluten-sensitive diets, as well as being in and vegetarian diet.

Quinoa is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet. It’s perfect for the diabetic diet in terms of protein, fiber, and nutrient content, as well as helping to manage blood sugars, lowering cholesterol levels, and assisting with potential weight loss.



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