Quinoa vs Oatmeal: A Comprehensive Comparison

Quinoa and oatmeal are both whole grains that have so many essential components that benefit heart health and beyond. They are a great addition to any heart-focused meal or diet. But does one of these grains outshine the other in terms of health? Which one is best for lowering cholesterol? How about weight loss? Here, I’ll break down quinoa vs oatmeal in a quick yet comprehensive article to see where these grains may benefit YOU!

Nutritional Comparison

Quinoa and oatmeal both provide essential vitamins and minerals to your diet. These whole grains are also a great addition to any heart-healthy meal pattern because they add nutrients and FIBER!

Allow me to take this moment to boast about the benefits of eating more whole grains.

An umbrella review on the benefits of whole grains shows that consuming 2 to 3 servings daily may prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

Whole grains, like quinoa and oatmeal, should be consumed more often than refined grains. Examples of refined grains that you should eat less often include:

  • Some cereals
  • White bread
  • Commercially-prepared pancakes and waffles
  • Crackers
  • Cakes and other pastries
  • White rice
  • Refined pasta

Here are some examples of whole grains to include in your diet more often:

  • Whole grain cereals
  • Whole wheat bread and pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgar
  • Barley
  • Farrow
  • Freekah
  • Millet
  • Popcorn
  • Oatmeal and quinoa!

Okay, now that you know what refined and whole grains are, let’s talk about the nutrient profile of quinoa and oatmeal.

Calorie and Macronutrient Breakdown

When comparing the calorie content of prepared quinoa vs oatmeal, quinoa is more calorie-dense, containing 56 calories per cup.

However, quinoa has more protein (8 grams vs 6 grams per cup) and fiber (5.2 grams vs 4 grams per cup) than oatmeal. This will likely make quinoa more satiating- meaning you will feel full longer after eating it.

Quinoa also has slightly more carbohydrates per cup than oatmeal with 39 grams vs 28 grams of carbohydrates in one cup of oatmeal.

The total fat content is the same for quinoa and oatmeal. Both provide 3.6 grams of total fat per cup. This is mostly unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats are much better for your heart than saturated fats.

Overall, one cup of cooked quinoa has more calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber than one cup of cooked oatmeal.

Micronutrient Breakdown

Next, let’s talk about the micronutrients in quinoa vs oatmeal. Micronutrients include all vitamins and minerals.

For each cup of quinoa, you will get more nutrients compared to the same 1-cup serving of oatmeal.

For example, one cup of cooked quinoa has 47% more magnesium, 36% more phosphorus, 48% more potassium, and 33% more iron than one cup of cooked oatmeal.

Because of this, you may be thinking quinoa is the clear winner in terms of nutrient density. However, some individuals need to limit certain nutrients for health reasons. I’ll explain more about this below in the “Dietary Considerations/Special Diets” section.

Long story short…you need to individualize your nutritional plan of care.

Consulting with a registered dietitian is the BEST way to do this! I do not personally see patients one-on-one however, you can find a dietitian of your own on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website or have your doctor refer you!

Overall, healthy individuals can eat both of these whole grains in a variety of ways. The macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber, and other health-benefitting components they provide can keep your bones, nerves, muscles, gastrointestinal tract, and more working properly.

Keep reading for some wonderful recipe ideas on how to incorporate these grains into your diet.

Quinoa vs oatmeal nutritional comparison

Health Benefits of Quinoa vs Oatmeal

Quinoa and oatmeal both have their own set of health benefits. Many of these benefits are the same! First, let’s talk about the health benefits related to eating more quinoa.

Quinoa is a nutrient-rich pseudo-cereal. This means it is the seed from a non-grass plant species that is used similarly to regular cereal grains.

Research shows that consuming more quinoa may prevent:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Cancer

Yes, you heard that right…this amazing ancient grain contains a phenolic compound, called kaempferol, which may help prevent some forms of cancer.

One meta-analysis on the effects of quinoa on blood lipid levels revealed that eating 50 grams of quinoa (~1/4 cup) or more for more than 6 weeks significantly reduced triglyceride levels. There was no significant change in LDL, HDL, or total cholesterol levels.

In addition, quinoa contains ALL nine essential amino acids which are important for normal human growth and development.

Next, let’s talk about the health benefits of eating more oatmeal.

Oats are known to have cardiovascular benefits, especially in terms of lowering cholesterol. You know those claims you see on your box of Cheerios? There’s something to it after all.

Much of the LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol-lowering power of oats comes from oat phytochemicals and a viscous fiber, called beta-glucan.

Other studies show that oats may help prevent:

  • Stroke
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Premature aging
  • Skin disorders (in the form of topical colloidal oatmeal)

Dietary Considerations/Special Diets

Those with heart issues and kidney disease may need to limit the amount of potassium or phosphorus in their diet. If this is the case, oatmeal or other kidney-friendly grains may be a better option for you compared to quinoa which is higher in potassium and phosphorus.

Oats and quinoa are both high-fiber foods. For individuals needing to limit dietary fiber, neither oats nor quinoa would be a great choice. However, BOTH would be a wonderful addition to a high-fiber diet.

Research also shows that oats and quinoa are suitable for those following a diabetic diet as well since both are shown to regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

Additionally, other individuals may need to avoid gluten due to an allergy or intolerance. While quinoa and oats are naturally gluten-free, you still need to purchase grains that are certified gluten-free to be sure there is no contamination from wheat, barley, or rye.

Lastly, for those with a history of kidney stones or high oxalate levels in their urine, quinoa may need to be avoided or limited. Quinoa contains around 184 mg of oxalates per 100 grams. Oats on the other hand do not have any oxalates.

Culinary Uses of Quinoa vs Oatmeal

Oatmeal and quinoa are both extremely versatile foods. They can be used in similar ways; in both sweet and savory dishes.

You can use oats or quinoa at literally any meal of the day from breakfast bowls to fiber-rich add-ins for burgers, meatloaf, and more.

Quinoa comes in a variety of colors; white, red, black, and purple. It can be cooked easily in 10-12 minutes to make a uniquely fluffy stand-alone side dish or as an ingredient in many other recipes.

Quinoa is most often seen in its whole form but you can also find quinoa flakes and quinoa flour.

Expert Tip: Make sure to wash quinoa before cooking to rinse away bitter saponins (a natural plant-based defense to ward off insects).

In contrast, oatmeal comes in many different forms. There are steel-cut, oat groats, old-fashioned oats, quick oats, oat flour, and a few others. As a refresher, my Mediterranean Diet Oatmeal recipe post reviews each of these oat forms.

These different forms make oats a true culinary chameleon that adds versatility (and added nutrients) to many recipes.

The smaller your oats are, the faster they will cook. For example, quick oats can be cooked in as little as 90 seconds in the microwave!

Recipes Using Oats

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that feature the goodness of oats.

Recipes Using Quinoa

Here are some healthy and addicting recipes that feature the pseudo-cereal quinoa.

You can find more heart-healthy and delicious recipes on my RECIPES page.

Greek quinoa salad
Pictured: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Best for Lowering Cholesterol

Very little research exists on the cholesterol-lowering effects of quinoa and many are conducted on mice, not humans. However, one study shows that quinoa protein hydrolysates are responsible for quinoa’s cholesterol-lowering ability. These hydrolysates can inhibit an enzyme that prevents us from absorbing cholesterol.

Because of this, the study’s researchers suggest that quinoa protein hydrolysates be considered as an alternative therapy for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Additionally, a review of research shows that consuming quinoa may not only lower total cholesterol but also reduce:

  • body weight
  • weight circumference
  • fat mass
  • triglycerides
  • LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)

As you can see, quinoa may benefit those with metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of conditions that can increase your risk of heart disease.

One study shows that eating 50 grams of quinoa each day for 12 weeks may lower metabolic syndrome by 70%! Pretty impressive, right?

But we cannot forget about oats and their special fiber, beta-glucan.

Many studies exist on oat fiber and its ability to lower total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Plus, with adjustments in the dosage and duration of oats you consume, you may be able to improve your cholesterol even MORE!

Oats also have phenolic components that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. These include avenanthramides and ferulic acid. Mice studies show that avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory benefits that may prevent plaque build-up in arteries, reduce total cholesterol, and prevent heart disease.

And finally, oatmeal may have the power to reduce cholesterol by altering your gut bacteria. Eating just 80 grams of oatmeal each day for 45 days can alter your gut microbiota and reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B.

Overall Winner: Oats. This is only because there is a larger body of evidence. Quinoa is also high in fiber and other components that may lower cholesterol.

Best for Blood Sugar Control

Oatmeal and quinoa both contain carbohydrates. However, these are complex carbohydrates that prevent extreme highs or lows in blood sugar levels. Complex carbs have more fiber and are better for blood sugar control than refined carbohydrates (white bread, sugary beverages, and sweets).

Many of us consider the glycemic index (GI index) of foods to help determine how they are going to impact blood sugar levels.

The glycemic index is a number that measures how quickly our blood sugar rises after eating food. The number can range from 0 to 100. Foods with a high GI are quickly digested and absorbed, causing a rapid rise in blood sugars while lower GI foods are digested at a slower rate, causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels.

Foods that are higher in fiber, protein, and fat will have a lower GI index than high-carbohydrate foods, resulting in more controlled blood sugars.

Quinoa contains fiber and protein and has a glycemic index of around 53. Evidence shows that consuming quinoa in place of white wheat bread can improve glucose tolerance after meals in both healthy adults and those with diabetes.

In addition to this, another study found that making quinoa a staple food in your diet may help reduce hemoglobin A1c levels and possibly delay or prevent the progression of diabetes!

Oats may also improve blood sugar control with the help of its special viscous fiber, beta-glucan.

The glycemic index of oatmeal is around 55, meaning it has a moderate effect on increasing blood sugar. Keep in mind that the glycemic load will differ slightly depending on the form of oats you choose (steel-cut vs oat groats vs instant oats).

Overall the evidence shows that oats can improve fasting blood glucose levels. However, improvements to hemoglobin A1c and blood sugar levels 2 hours after eating are only minimal.

Other research shows that the fiber in oats helps to slow down digestion. This can help control blood sugars after eating and reduce insulin secretions, both of which are beneficial.

Overall Winner: Both! Both quinoa and oats have a similar glycemic load and will not cause sudden spikes in blood sugars, making either of these great for controlling blood sugars.

Best for Weight Loss

Yet again, the fiber present in quinoa and oats shows benefits for those wanting to shed some pounds. You may have heard that fiber is filling, leading you to eat less. This is true! And it has to do with the quality of carbohydrates!

Choosing whole-grain, high-quality carbs like oats and quinoa are associated with weight loss.

Most research on quinoa and weight loss involves mice studies, not human studies. However, quinoa is a low-calorie and low-fat food that makes a wonderful addition to any weight loss diet plan.

The high fiber and protein content of quinoa can also promote weight loss by keeping you full. For most folks, more satiety equals more weight loss over time!

Oats are also a great choice for weight loss. The beta-glucan fiber in oats leads to an increased feeling of fullness and reduces hunger. Research shows this can reduce body weight, body fat, body mass index (BMI), and central adiposity.

In addition, oats are also beneficial for maintaining weight and have a positive impact on appetite hormones. Research encourages us to eat more oats in place of processed forms of carbohydrates to decrease our risk of metabolic disorders– this includes obesity.

Overall Winner: Both! Oats and quinoa are high in carbohydrates, but that’s not a bad thing. These high-quality carbohydrates have special mechanisms of action to aid in weight loss by keeping you full and satisfied. Just be mindful of the high-calorie ingredients you add during the cooking process and follow the correct serving sizes to avoid weight gain.

Conclusion

Overall, quinoa and oatmeal are both excellent and very healthy food choices.

They both contain essential nutrients and fiber to promote heart health. However, the slight differences between quinoa and oats may be worth looking into if you have certain health conditions or are following a special diet.

Both of these whole grains can be cooked and eaten in similar ways. The possibilities are endless in terms of culinary uses.

I have my professional opinion on quinoa vs oatmeal and which is best for weight loss, blood sugar, and reducing cholesterol. Above all, one key similarity exists for all three of these areas- FIBER!

I recommend getting a variety of whole grains in your diet, including both oatmeal and quinoa. This will ensure a variety of nutrients and adequate amounts of fiber (which most of us lack).

๐Ÿ“ŒFor more on reducing your risk of heart disease, check out 5 Things You Can Do to Support Heart Health NOW.

๐Ÿ“ŒOr check out my recipe page for more heart-healthy recipes.

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