what exactly is couscous

What is couscous made from, whats a healthy portion size and how can you buy the best? Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook explains its nutritional profile

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Easy to store, quick to prepare and super-versatile, couscous is a great addition to any midweek menu. But, is it a healthy ingredient? Read on to discover which nutrients it contains and how to choose the healthiest variety.

Although couscous looks like a grain, its technically a pasta – its made with semolina flour from durum wheat, mixed with water. There are three different types of couscous: Moroccan, which is the smallest; Israeli or pearl couscous, about the size of peppercorns; and Lebanese, the largest of the three.

It’s easy to make by simply pouring boiling water over the dried couscous and leaving to stand for 5-15 minutes.

Discover our full range of health benefit guides and check out some of our delicious couscous recipes, from our quick turkey couscous to grilled aubergine tabbouleh.

what exactly is couscous

Source of fibre

Couscous is a source of fibre, but to optimise levels, its worth looking for wholemeal couscous, which is made from the whole grain. Fibre supports digestive health and alleviates constipation, and research suggests it may help improve levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Wholemeal couscous is also more filling, as the fibre slows down the breakdown of sugar into the bloodstream, providing a more stable source of energy.

Nutritional profile of couscous

An 80g portion (cooked weight) of couscous provides:

  • 142Kcal / 607KJ
  • 5.8g Protein
  • 0.8g Fat
  • 30.0g Carbohydrate
  • 1.8g Fibre
  • 123mg Potassium
  • 2.4mcg Selenium
  • 103mg Phosphorus

How Its Made: Couscous


Is couscous better for you than rice?

Couscous is packed with nutrients and has better selenium per serving than white rice when it comes to selenium and other elements. It is light and filling, making it a good choice for busy professionals, families and people who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen to prepare a healthy, delicious meal.

Is couscous a grain or pasta?

While many believe that it is a type of grain, such as rice or barley, it is actually a type of pasta. (Hint: some grocery stores may stock couscous in the pasta section, but most will often stock it in the grain section, next to the rice). Couscous is pasta made from semolina flour mixed with water.

Is couscous a good or bad carb?

Though couscous contains limited amounts of blood-sugar-lowering protein, it’s fairly high in carbs, with 36 grams per cup (157 grams) (1). Those with blood sugar issues or diabetes should be cautious when consuming moderate- to high-carb foods.

What the heck is couscous?

Contrary to popular belief, couscous is neither a grain nor a seed; it’s a form of pasta made from a dry mixture of semolina and water that’s rolled in very tiny irregular pieces. When couscous was made daily by hand, a bowl of semolina was mixed and tossed while water was gradually added and rubbed into the mixture.

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