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Comparison of Quinoa vs Buckwheat: Which is Better (Healthier)?

Quinoa vs Buckwheat

Both quinoa and buckwheat have been shown to offer some interesting nutritional and health benefits, which has sparked renewed interest in these ancient 'superfoods'. Naturally gluten-free, these two 'pseudograins' are also popular among celiacs and other people who have trouble digesting the gluten found in common grains such as wheat, barley, spelt and rye. But, how do these two pseudograins compare with each other in terms of nutritional value and antioxidant capacity? Can we state that one is better than the other in terms of nutritional and health benefits? Let's find out!

Protein Content (per 100 g or 3.5 oz)

Quinoa: 4.4 grams
Buckwheat: 3.4 grams

Both quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) and buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) are famous for packing a protein punch, and both provide more protein than rice, millet, corn, and a number of other grains. According to USDA's Nutrition Facts data, a 100-gram serving (3.5 oz) of cooked quinoa provides around 4.4 grams of protein, while an equal serving of cooked buckwheat provides 3.4 grams of protein. Furthermore, compared with most other plant-based foods, both quinoa and buckwheat are considered to be relatively complete sources of protein. Nutritionists use the term complete protein to refer to high-quality protein that contains all essential amino acids in adequate amounts. Essential amino acids are amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the human body and that we must therefore obtain through diet.

Antioxidant Capacity (in mgTE / 100 g)

Quinoa: 58 (DPPH) / 92 (FRAP)
Buckwheat: 620 (DPPH) / 436 (FRAP)

A study published in the March 2010 edition of the journal Food Chemistry found that quinoa and buckwheat had much higher antioxidant capacity than wheat and amaranth. Also bread made with quinoa or buckwheat contained significantly more polyphenols and antioxidants than wheat bread and gluten-free breads made with rice, corn and potato flour. However, although both quinoa and buckwheat showed significant antioxidant activity in vitro, buckwheat was the ultimate winner in this comparison, generating values north of 600 and 400 units in DPPH and FRAP assays (expressed in mgTE/100 g, dry weight basis), respectively. Note: When comparing the in-vivo antioxidant activity of different foods, it is important to keep in mind that in-vivo studies only measure antioxidant capacity in test tubes and that the foods may exhibit very different antioxidant effects in actual human beings.

Mineral Content

Minerals are vital nutrients that act both individually and synergistically to perform hundreds of tasks in the human body. According to USDA's Nutrition Data, both quinoa and buckwheat contain significant amounts of minerals. Here's an overview of the most important minerals found in cooked buckwheat and quinoa, including the absolute amounts as well as the Percent Daily Values (shown in brackets) per 100 grams (3.5 oz):

  • Calcium: 17 mg (2%)
  • Iron: 1.5 mg (8%)
  • Magnesium: 64 mg (16%)
  • Phosphorus: 152 mg (15%)
  • Potassium: 172 mg (5%)
  • Zinc: 1.1 mg (7%)
  • Copper: 0.2 mg (10%)
  • Manganese: 0.6 mg (32%)
  • Selenium: 2.8 mcg (4%)
  • Calcium: 7 mg (1%)
  • Iron: 0.8 mg (4%)
  • Magnesium: 51 mg (13%)
  • Phosphorus: 70 mg (7%)
  • Potassium: 88 mg (3%)
  • Zinc: 0.6 mg (4%)
  • Copper: 0.1 mg (7%)
  • Manganese 0.4 mg (20%)
  • Selenium: 2.2 mcg (3%)

Vitamin Content

What about vitamin? Turns out, the vitamin composition of quinoa and buckwheat is quite similar, both being particularly good sources of B vitamins. B vitamins work synergistically in a number of ways to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails, plus they are also important for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism (energy production). In addition, compared with most other grains/pseudograins, quinoa is a relatively good source of vitamin E. Here's a comparison of the vitamin content of quinoa vs buckwheat, including the absolute amounts as well as the Percent Daily Values (shown in brackets) per 100 grams of cooked quinoa/buckwheat:

  • Vitamin A: 5 IU (0%)
  • Vitamin C: 0 mg (0%)
  • Vitamin E: 0.6 mg (3%)
  • Vitamin K: n/a
  • Thiamin (B1): 0.1 mg (7%)
  • Riboflavin (B2): 0.1 mg (6%)
  • Niacin (B3): 0.4 mg (2%)
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 0.1 mg (6%)
  • Folate (B9): 42 mcg (10%)
  • Vitamin A: 0 IU (0%)
  • Vitamin C: 0 mg (0%)
  • Vitamin E: 0.1 mg (0%)
  • Vitamin K: 1.9 mcg (2%)
  • Thiamin (B1): < 1 mg (3%)
  • Riboflavin (B2): < 1 mg (2%)
  • Niacin (B3): 0.9 mg (5%)
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 0.1 mg (4%)
  • Folate (B9): 14 mcg (3%)

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