Is quinoa keto? This question likely crossed your mind at some point when looking for suitable food options on keto.
Many persons think that since quinoa is a superfood, it must have a place on the keto diet. In fact, it is very popular on the vegetarian diet where high protein intake is required.
Quinoa is usually grown for its edible seeds. It resembles a cereal grain, and hence it is often referred to as a pseudocereal. Quinoa is also referred to as a superfood since it contains proteins, fiber, vitamins, potassium and a good amount of all the nine essential amino acids. It is one of the few foods that contain these amino acids that are required by the body.
Since quinoa resembles a cereal grain, it is commonly used as a replacement for other grains including rice. However, because of its high carb count, quinoa may not be a suitable low carb option after all. There are certain cases where this may not hold true and these are discussed in this article.
The Macronutrients in Quinoa
The nutritional value per 100 grams of uncooked quinoa is given below:
-Calories – 268 kcal
-Carbohydrates – 64.2 grams
-Fat – 6 grams
-Proteins – 14 grams
-Fiber – 7 grams
These values are slightly different for 100 grams of cooked quinoa.
Quinoa Keto Diet Benefits
Most of the health benefits of quinoa that may make it suitable for the ketogenic diet is actually because of its high fiber content. A few of these health benefits are discussed below
- It may help lower cholesterol levels: recall that there are about 7 grams of fiber in every 100 grams of quinao. This fiber may be able to lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, thus maintaining heart health.
- May help promote satiety: this property of quinoa is also attributed to its high fiber content. If the keto diet is used for weight loss, eating foods rich in fiber can promote the feeling of satisfaction for longer periods. This, in turn, can promote weight loss.
- Quinoa is a bodybuilding food: As one loses weight on the keto diet, it is also important to build muscle mass and eating foods rich in proteins can be of great help. Remember that not only is quinoa rich in proteins, but it also contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own.
- May help maintain blood sugar level: In general, foods with a high glycemic index of greater than 55 can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Quinoa has a glycemic index of 52 which is considered low. This means that although it may cause a rise in blood sugar levels, it will do so at a slower rate compared to foods with a high glycemic score.
- May improve gut health: maintaining gut health is an important aspect of the keto diet. Although consumption of high-carb foods has been contraindicated for maintaining gut health, eating foods rich in fiber is beneficial for the gut. Quinoa contains fibers that may act as prebiotics and feed bacteria that dwell in the gut. In one study, quinoa and another superfood were shown to increase the number of gut bacteria including Bifidobacteria spp, Lactobacillus-Enterococcus, Roseburia intestinalis, amongst others.
The Place of Quinoa on the Ketogenic Diet
Although quinoa is a high-carb pseudocereal, it can still be used on the keto diet by some individuals. Using quinoa on keto thus depends on the type of ketogenic diet a person chooses to achieve weight loss and balance blood sugar levels. Each of the various forms of the ketogenic diet have their own objectives that must be followed to achieve the best results.
Quinoa cannot be used on the standard ketogenic diet because a person on this type of keto diet is expected to consume more fats and fewer carbs. However, it may be used on the cyclical keto diet, especially during the carb-loading phase that allows the consumption of more carbohydrates to get 70% calories, 20 to 25% calories from proteins and only 5 to 10% of calories from fat.
Another type of ketogenic diet where a high-carb food like quinoa can be included is the targeted ketogenic diet. In this type of keto diet, high-carb food can be consumed 0 minutes to 1 hour before starting any form of exercise. The carbohydrates usually help to replenish glycogen stores and provide glucose to muscles before a workout session.
On the standard ketogenic diet, carb consumption is limited to 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates a day. Eating a high-carb food like quinoa which gives about 17 grams of carbs in a half-cup of quinoa does not really exceed the daily carb allowance. The disadvantage is that by including quinoa on this type of keto diet, it becomes difficult to add more carbs to diet so as not to exceed the daily carb allowance.
Alternatives to Quinoa on Keto
If an individual follows the standard ketogenic diet, quinoa definitely should be avoided. There are, however, several alternatives to this superfood that can be included on keto.
- Cauliflower rice: Just like quinoa, the cauliflower rice can be used to replace rice in a low-carb diet. It is made from the cruciferous vegetable cauliflower and it is a good source of fiber. It is also a low-calorie food and is packed with many beneficial vitamins and minerals necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Compared to quinoa, cauliflower can also be incorporated into the keto diet because it is a low-carb vegetable. In about 100 grams of riced cauliflower, there are 2 grams net carbs, 2 grams of proteins, 25 calories and zero fat. The vegetable can easily be shredded to make cauliflower rice or can be bought as prepackaged cauliflower rice from a supermarket or online and refrigerated until needed.
- Shredded Broccoli Rice: just like the cauliflower rice, the broccoli rice is gotten from broccoli, another cruciferous vegetable. With only a gram of net carbs and 55 calories, a cup of cooked broccoli has been associated with numerous health benefits. Although a one-cup serving of broccoli contains zero fat, it can easily be paired with a high-fat meal while following a standard ketogenic diet.
Another great substitute for quinoa on the standard keto diet is Shredded Japanese Radish which is low in carbs and calories. It is important to point out that most of these quinoa alternatives are vegetables that can be shredded to achieve the texture of quinoa. Since these shredded vegetables like quinoa resemble other cereal or grains like rice, they can be used as a good replacement for such high-carb foods.
Quinoa is a high-carb, low-fat food that is not suitable for all types of ketogenic diets. It is best used by those who follow the cyclical keto diet or the targeted ketogenic diet. In these types of the keto diet, there is usually a period where a high-carb meal can be consumed. Athletes or those who engage in regular exercise that follow these forms of keto diet will benefit more by including quinoa on keto. When added to the diet, there are many health benefits that can be gotten from quinoa including promoting satiety, building muscle mass and improving gut health. There are other substitutes that can be used on keto including cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.