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Which is healthier: Quinoa or couscous?

A spoonful of coucous and a spoonful of quinoa side by side

Dietitian Juliette Kellow compares the nutritional profile of quinoa and couscous to see which is the most nutritious addition to your salads and meals.

Couscous

This is particularly good in salads and ideal when you’re short of time as it takes just 5 min to prepare.

The nutrition lowdown

Couscous has a nutrition profile comparable to other grains, such as pasta and rice. It contains protein and some fibre, but it’s mainly made up of processed carbs. Indeed, since it’s so highly processed, much of the fibre is removed. Like other grains, it provides some vitamins and minerals, but not in nearly the same quantities as quinoa. And if you can’t eat gluten, beware – people often assume it’s gluten-free, but it’s made from wheat!

Quinoa

This grain has the advantage of being gluten free and a complete source of protein. It takes longer to cook than couscous.

The nutrition lowdown

Quinoa contains all the essential amino acids (ones the body can’t make) so, unlike other grains, is a complete source of protein. This makes it a useful staple, especially for vegans. With 7g fibre per 100g, it makes a significant contribution to the recommended 30g a day. It has far more vitamins and minerals than couscous – almost triple the potassium and calcium, and almost four times more iron and magnesium.

The verdict

Quinoa, hands down. The similarities are deceptive… Quinoa is a complete protein, can be part of a gluten-free diet, has more nutrients and double the fibre of couscous. And, when cooked, it has a lower GI, so it should help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

For healthy recipes using couscous head here, or for quinoa recipes head here.

First published: Nov 2016
Last updated: April 20, 2021

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