Is Quinoa Keto Friendly?
Quinoa is a yearly herbaceous crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. These seeds contain B vitamins, dietary fiber, minerals, and protein.
Quinoa resembles rice and other grains, but it’s a pseudo-cereal. It’s also similar to rice in that there are dozens of different quinoa types, each having different qualities.
Quinoa is an exceptional alternative to bulky grains, but it’s not a seed and is in the same family as beetroots.
Its high protein content makes it common among dieticians, fitness influencers, and vegans. But is quinoa keto-friendly?
Can You Take Quinoa On a Ketogenic Diet?
No, you can’t have quinoa on a ketogenic diet. Quinoa has a GI (glycemic index) score of only 53, but it can still cause a rise in blood sugar due to its high carb count.
On the upside, quinoa is gluten-free, so it won’t adversely affect people who are intolerant to gluten.
But remember that some of the quinoa you find on supermarket shelves is processed by companies that make bread so that it can have trace amounts of gluten.
If you want to incorporate quinoa into a low-carb diet, you can do so but consume tiny portions. Experts recommend you sprinkle a spoonful over salad or stew.
It’s also vital not to eat it often; maybe eat it once a week or every two weeks. This ensures you don’t bump your body off ketosis.
If you’re consuming quinoa, get some keto strips to test if your body is still in ketosis. If you are not, cut the amount of quinoa and other carbs you’re taking in your diet.
Quinoa Net Carb Count
A cup of cooked quinoa comprises 222 total calories. This includes 4g of fat, 5g of fiber, 8g of protein, and 34g of net carbohydrates.
While this net carb count is high, the total carbohydrate count is even higher, at 39g. So, if you plan on adding quinoa to your diet, you must be strategic.
Also, remember that the total and net carb counts are significantly higher than what you get from whole grain bread, which has only 13g of net carbs and is considered off-limits for low-carb regimens such as the ketogenic diet.
Who Can Eat Quinoa on a Ketogenic Diet?
On standard ketogenic diets, experts don’t recommend eating quinoa. Even a small serving can bump you off ketosis. However, there are exceptions to this recommendation.
CKD (Cyclical Keto Diet)
CKD is a relaxed ketogenic diet that cycles between SKD (standard ketogenic diet) and a high-carb diet.
If you’re following this type of keto, there’s no reason not to add quinoa to your diet and use it during your carb reloads.
TKD (Targeted Keto Diet)
TKD comprises eating between 20g and 50g of carbs around workouts.
However, if you’re an endurance athlete, you can eat up to 100g of net carbohydrates without exiting ketosis, which means you can include quinoa around your workout sessions.
Quinoa Keto-Friendly Alternatives
Cauliflower rice is the perfect low-carb alternative for quinoa due to its dietary value. It helps balance hormones, lowers the risk of heart disease, and battles inflammation.
It can also prevent cancer, promote weight loss, and improve eye and skin health. One cup of cauliflower rice contains 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of net carbs, and 0 grams of fat.
Shredded Broccoli Rice
Besides being low-carb, broccoli offers several health benefits, such as boosting metabolic function, improving bone and teeth health, improving hormonal health, and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
One cup of ready-made Broccoli comprises 55 calories. This includes 4g of protein, 5g of fiber, and 6g of total carbohydrates, meaning the new carb count is 1g.
Shredded Water Chestnut Rice
One cup of water chestnuts contains 36 calories and 9g of net carbohydrates. This makes it an excellent substitute for quinoa.
Various foods typically used as substitutes for quinoa, such as legumes, oats, and starchy vegetables, aren’t ideal for a ketogenic diet.
Although gluten-free, they have a very high GI index, so they can’t be added to a keto diet.
Shirataki rice contains zero calories and net carbs. This makes it a perfect quinoa alternative for people on a keto diet and those looking to lose weight.
It’s also the closest thing to rice you can have on a ketogenic diet.
When you buy it, this rice comes in a container full of water.
So the first thing you should do is drain the water. Then, empty the rice into boiling water for roughly a minute and drain the water again. Finally, pan-fry it for a couple of minutes and eat.
Benefits of Quinoa on a Ketogenic Diet
Antioxidants are nutrients and phytochemicals that shield your body against oxidative stress, a condition connected to symptoms of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.
Studies show that quinoa is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals such as ferulic acid, kaempferol, quercetin, and vanillic acid.
Quinoa is a gluten-free and plant-based iron and protein source. This makes it particularly useful to people following gluten-free and vegan diets.
However, even on a special diet such as keto, you can have quinoa once a week and enjoy its fiber, folate, iron, and magnesium.
Quinoa has fibers that research shows can act as prebiotics. These fibers feed bacteria in the colon and are essential for gut and overall well-being.
Some of the bacteria that grow with a higher quinoa intake include Bifidobacterium, Clostridium, etc.
Drawbacks of Quinoa on a Ketogenic Diet
Most of the quinoa’s fiber is indigestible. As a result, it moves through the entire digestive tract without providing any calories (energy).
Quinoa contains phytic acid, a compound found in many plant seeds that binds to iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc and hinders their absorption in the body.
If you’re on a keto diet, avoid grains and pseudo-grains like quinoa because their carb count is high.
However, you can add it to your diet in small amounts and not eat it often. Instead of risking it all, consider having keto-friendly options such as cauliflower or shirataki rice.