Oats vs. Quinoa: Which is Better For Your Health?
Published March 27, 2019 (Last Modified December 20th, 2019)
Quinoa vs. oats…
This is the dilemma faced by a lot of people when deciding which makes for a better breakfast. You can’t really blame them. These two “superfoods” are both highly nutritious and make a rather filling breakfast. Plus they make a healthy twist to your first and most important meal of the day.
Is quinoa the same as oats?
Although it’s commonly classified as a grain, quinoas are actually seeds. They are from a plant scientifically known as Chenopodium quinoa. It’s usually pale yellow and has a similar nutritional composition to most grains. Quinoa seeds are also traditionally believed to give more health benefits than other grains. The Incas have cultivated it for years regarding it as a sacred food and the “mother of all grains”.
Oats, on the other hand, is an ancient grain that’s roasted after harvest giving it a distinct flavor. It’s been a staple breakfast in many countries for hundreds of years. No wonder we’ve become quite creative with oatmeal dishes. We put it in cookies, porridge, muffins, pancakes, and even smoothies.
So, is quinoa better than oats? Or is it the other way around? To help you make an informed choice, we’ll compare it side by side to see which is better for your health.
Comparative Nutritional Value of 100 grams of Oats and Quinoa
A 100 gram of oatmeal has a lot more fats than quinoa. But it’s the kind we call the “good fats”. Now you may ask, is there such a thing? Indeed. You see, these fats are made up of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential to our body.
Both foods are also good sources of fiber though oats have a lot more of it than quinoa. But the fiber in quinoa mostly consists of insoluble ones which are associated with reduced risk of diabetes.
The fibers in oatmeal are mostly soluble. Beta-glucan, one of the most important oat fiber is known to reduce cholesterol levels. It also prevents blood sugar and insulin spike after consuming carbohydrate-rich foods.
Though quinoa has less protein than oats, it’s still considered a complete protein source. It provides all the essential amino acids including a good amount of lysine.
Even if oatmeal has more than double the number of carbohydrates than quinoa, it’s still well below the recommended daily serving which means it won’t make you fat. Besides, carbohydrates are beneficial for you. It gives you the energy to go about the rest of your day.
Gluten is a type of protein that’s usually found in most cereal grains. Many people can’t tolerate foods with gluten content. They are especially harmful to those with celiac disease. But since quinoas are technically seeds, they are gluten-free.
By nature, oatmeal doesn’t have gluten too. But they contain avenin, a protein with similar characteristics to gluten. Also, most oats you’ll find in groceries are processed in the same facilities where other gluten-containing cereals go through. Thus there is always a risk of them picking up those gluten components. If you’re allergic to gluten, be sure to look for the gluten-free sign in the label just to be safe.
When you’re diabetic, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is a constant concern. You can’t have it too low or too high. That’s why you can’t be too careful with the foods you take in especially those with a high glycemic index.
Fortunately, both quinoa and oatmeal have a low glycemic index. Quinoa has an index of only around 53 while oats can range from 55 to 79 depending on how it’s processed. Thus whichever you prefer, both are good for diabetics.
Other Health Benefits
Aids in Weightloss
Both oats and quinoa help you reduce weight in their own way. Oatmeals have soluble fibers that make you feel full for longer. Thus you won’t feel the need to grab some bites every few hours. Just like oats, quinoa helps you feel satiated and avoid hunger pangs due to its low-calorie intake. It also helps your body absorb fewer calories and fat so you won’t have to worry about weight gain.
Good for the Heart
Aside from helping you lose weight, these superfoods are also good for the heart. They are both proven to reduce cholesterol. Quinoa even protects your blood vessels from inflammation and helps you fight heart disease. The fiber in oats “clumps” the cholesterol and sweeps it out of the body. People with high cholesterol can reduce it by about 8% to 23% if they eat even just one bowl of oatmeal.
Prevents Childhood Asthma
Infants below six months fed with oats have also shown a decreased risk of developing childhood asthma. Several studies also link beta-glucans to our immune system’s improved ability to fight foreign bodies. Beta-glucan is a type of carbohydrate found in oat bran.
Depending on the brand and kind, there’s not much price difference between quinoa and oats. Unless, of course, if we’re talking about instant oats which only costs about $0.15 to $0.20 per ounce.
At Walmart, gluten-free quinoa and oats are between $0.30 to $0.50 per ounce. The average price range is much more expensive when they’re organic.
If you’re on a tight budget but still want to eat healthily, you can still go for instant oatmeal. But if you’re sensitive to gluten, be prepared to spend a lot more as gluten-free products don’t come cheap.
Most of us are familiar with how oats taste. We basically grew up having it for breakfast. Oat grains are usually boiled until soft and topped with milk, fruits and or nuts. It also makes a great addition to desserts, pastries, and drinks.
Quinoa, however, is something that’s not yet familiar to our tastebuds. This description of how cooked quinoa tastes by Dietriffic.com is probably the most accurate there is:
“The taste and texture of quinoa are a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal. It’s fluffy, creamy, crunchy and somewhat nutty, all rolled into one.”
It can be prepared in a lot of different ways. You can boil it like oats or cook it like black rice (one part grain and two parts liquid). If you’re into something savory, you’ll love the stir-fried quinoa with olive oil. Or if you’re craving for something sweet, a vegan quinoa pancake topped with maple syrup tastes great too.
For a more convenient breakfast, you can just boil quinoa flakes and top it with freshly-sliced fruits to make a healthy breakfast porridge.
Huffpost also recommends toasting it before boiling to release more flavor. Just remember to wash the seeds before cooking it to remove the saponin – a chemical that has a bitter, soapy taste.
Can you replace oats with quinoa?
It depends on the recipe you’re making. Remember that quinoa and oats have different textures and tastes. If it’s just a basic recipe like porridge or breakfast cereal, you can substitute one with the other. But for dishes that call for a particular flavor and texture, it might be best to stick with the recipe.
Baked goods such as oatmeal cookies may taste nuttier and sweeter with quinoa. One blogger also shared her how she replaced oats with quinoa in her baked blueberry oatmeal recipe.
So, which is better: quinoa or oatmeal?
There is really no definite answer. Each of us has different needs, preferences, and priorities. Besides, if it’s hard for you to choose, you can always combine the two. The internet is teeming with easy-to-cook recipes containing both oatmeal and quinoa. Or you can whip up your own. Whatever floats your boat.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.