Quinoa During Pregnancy: Is It Healthy or Safe? Benefits and More

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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With plant-based diets growing in popularity, pregnant women might find themselves asking if it’s okay to eat quinoa. 

Quinoa is safe during pregnancy and is full of nutritional benefits. Pregnant women can benefit from quinoa’s high protein content, among other nutrients – especially if they are following a plant-based diet.

I’ll walk you through what you need to know about serving quinoa during your pregnancy and provide some healthy meal ideas, too!

Is Quinoa Safe During Pregnancy?

Quinoa is generally safe during pregnancy and has many nutrients, too.

There are several different kinds of quinoa; white quinoa, red quinoa, black quinoa, rainbow quinoa, purple quinoa, orange quinoa, pink quinoa, gray quinoa, and green quinoa.

The most common quinoa found in restaurants and grocery stores are white, red, black, and sometimes rainbow. Regardless of the type, as long as your quinoa is prepared and stored properly, it should be safe. 

Quinoa should be rinsed thoroughly before preparing it. This is partially to clean away any dirt. Mostly, quinoa should be rinsed because quinoa is coated in a component called saponin.

Saponin tastes bitter and somewhat soapy and some people notice cramps after eating unrinsed quinoa. It’s not harmful, but it will probably put you off from consuming quinoa again in the future. 

Is Reheated or Raw Quinoa Pregnancy-Safe?

Quinoa is technically safe to eat raw, but it’s not recommended due to the taste.

Quinoa is generally considered safe to eat if it has been reheated. While reheating cooked rice is not recommended because it can cause bacterial poisoning, this doesn’t apply to cooked and cooled quinoa. If you are reheating it, be sure to follow good food safety practices.

If your quinoa has been left a room temperature for more than two hours it should be thrown away. 

quinoa in a wooden bowl

Quinoa is commonly served in salads or buddha bowls with fruit, salad, and vegetables. Pre-made salads, whether they contain quinoa or not, are sometimes not safe during pregnancy. Raw vegetables and salads are the cause of most foodborne illnesses (source: CDC). You can read our dedicated salad article here for more on this. It’s best to make a salad or buddha bowl with quinoa yourself.

Ingredients like hummus or tahini are frequently served alongside quinoa. These ingredients are very susceptible to contamination from pathogens like listeria and salmonella. Pre-made or store-bought quinoa salads with hummus or tahini should be avoided during pregnancy – but these condiments can safely be made at home. 

Is Quinoa Healthy For Pregnancy? The Benefits

Quinoa is full of nutritional benefits for pregnant women.

Quinoa is a great plant-based source of protein (source: Nutrition Data). Quinoa is a complete protein. This means it contains all nine essential amino acids. Generally, plant-based proteins with the exception of soy – are incomplete proteins.

This means that you need to mix and match other plant-based proteins to ensure you’re consuming all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa is an easy way for plant-based mothers to eat more protein. Protein is vital during pregnancy for your baby’s development. It helps ensure that tissues and organs are growing properly. 

Quinoa is also a good source of fiber. It’s not uncommon to experience constipation during pregnancy but fiber can help to combat this (source: USDA).

A serving of quinoa will also provide some manganese. This mineral is important for normal growth and development (source: University of Rochester Medical Center).

quinoa salad in a white bowl

Quinoa is also a source of magnesium. Magnesium helps to regulate body temperature. This mineral has also been linked with reducing the risk of preeclampsia, reducing fetal growth restriction and increased birth weight.

As well as this, magnesium helps to maintain the electrical signals in nerve and muscle cells (source: Advanced Biomedical Research). 

Quinoa is a decent source of iron. Pregnant and menstruating women are susceptible to iron deficiency. Iron is key for growth and development. This mineral is also used to make hemoglobin, which helps to carry oxygen around the body. This is why fatigue is a common symptom of iron deficiency because there is little oxygen moving around. 

There is some folate in quinoa. Folate is also known as vitamin B9. Folate is very important during pregnancy because it has been linked with protecting against pre-term birth and with lowering the risk of complications like preeclampsia and birth defects like spina bifida (source: Plos One).

Folate can also protect expectant mothers against anemia by helping to make red blood cells (source: Obstetrics & Gynecology). 

Quinoa Pregnancy Recipe Suggestions

Quinoa is so versatile, that there are lots of different meals to pair it with! Here are some healthy meal ideas containing quinoa. 

Quinoa makes a delicious alternative to oatmeal if you’re in the mood for a change. It can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave just like a bowl of porridge. It’s delicious topped with almonds for some healthy fats and blueberries for extra vitamins.

Quinoa granola bars are a powerhouse of goodness with oats, chia seeds, and pecans – rich in heart-healthy fats and plant-based protein. They are perfect for providing you with energy on-the-go.

Quinoa makes a hearty and filling homemade salad for lunch. Pair it with greens like spinach, cucumber, and green onion for extra vitamins and some avocado and tomato too. 

If you like spicy food, quinoa is perfect in a one-pot for dinner with korma or madras curry and veggies. You can enjoy this as a protein-rich vegetarian meal as is or add some meat too if that’s what you prefer.  

Quinoa is delicious in stuffed butternut squash with pine nuts, vegetables, and pasteurized feta cheese and seasoned with lemon juice for some extra vitamin C and vitamin A.

I hope this has cleared up any concerns you had about eating quinoa during pregnancy, and given you some inspiration to add more to your pregnancy diet.