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I often get asked about the difference between spelt and whole wheat and the benefits of quinoa and what it counts as in a diet.  Here is an easy-to-understand summary

Let’s start with quinoa.  Quinoa has a great reputation in the healthy-eating world.  Many restaurants offer it on their menu, and salad bars have it as a topping option. The main benefits of quinoa include:

* Nutritional benefits since it has a high protein and vitamin E content.* Being able to serve as a dietary aid against type 2 diabetes and hypertension – it is especially rich in an antioxidant called quercetin and has an 86% antioxidant activity.

* Being a very filling food.


A University of Milan study compared buckwheat, oats, and quinoa to see if any of them showed promise in helping with appetite control.  All three grains had a higher satiating efficiency index than wheat or rice.  White bread, not surprisingly, was lowest in appetite satisfaction.

Quinoa vs. pasta and rice

Interestingly, when comparing nutrition information for quinoa vs. pasta or rice, it seems that pasta and rice are better in some categories.  All comparisons are for 1 cup. Calories: Quinoa 223, pasta 174, rice 166. Fat: Pasta has only 0.8 grams and rice 0.6, while quinoa has 3.6. Sodium: Quinoa is much higher at 13mg, while pasta has 4 and rice has 5. Carbohydrates: Quinoa is highest at 39, while pasta has 37 and rice 35.

However, in other areas: Protein: Quinoa has 8 grams, vs. the 7 in pasta and rice. Vitamin A: Quinoa has 9 IU vs. the 4 in pasta and 5 in rice. Calcium: Quinoa has 31 mg vs. 21 in pasta and rice. Iron: Quinoa has 2.8 mg vs. 1.5 in pasta and only 1 in rice. Quinoa is also higher in Vitamin B-6 and magnesium.

Quinoa offers antioxidants for gluten-free diets. Typical gluten-free products made with rice, corn, and potato flour do not offer as many.

Who should use quinoa? People who are on a gluten-free diet, vegetarians looking for a good protein source, and anyone looking for a healthier grain option.

Should I count it as a grain or a protein? Because of the high starch content, you should consider it a grain.

How much quinoa is a serving size? This varies based on the plan you are on. Usually between ½ cup to 1 cup cooked (or half of that raw).

Spelt vs. Whole Wheat: What should I choose? Firstly, spelt is not a gluten-free food as some people mistakenly believe.  People who are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease should not be eating spelt products.

Some facts about spelt:

Easier to digest than wheat. The gluten in spelt behaves differently than the gluten in wheat and is more soluble. This makes it an attractive option for people with food allergies or sensitive stomachs.

What you see is what you get (usually). Whole wheat can mean just 30 or 60 percent whole-wheat flour mixed in with white flour, while spelt is usually fully made of spelt flour.

Spelt products are not a diet food. They are just as high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates as whole-wheat products.

In conclusion, unless you have a sensitive stomach or food allergies, there is no real reason to switch, unless of course you prefer the taste.


Quinoa Salad


2 cups cooked quinoa
1 pkg shelled edamame
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
½ cup craisins


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Tanya Rosen is the co-owner of Shape Fitness in Flatbush. She is a certified nutritionist, Personal Trainer, and aerobics instructor, and is the creator of the SHAPE FITNESS KOSHER WORKOUTS DVD, available in Judaica stores or online at