Quinoa has really come on strong in the last decade. From a relative unknown in the mainstream to a highly popular and trendy “superfood” in just a few short years, quinoa has certainly left its mark in the world of nutrition. There are good reasons for this. Quinoa is a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also rich in iron and Vitamin B. And, of course, it is gluten-free! This feature was surely one of the major contributing factors to its explosion in popularity in recent years.
Even better, nutrition isn’t everything with quinoa. It’s also popular because it tastes great and works so well in a wide range of dishes. Its earthy flavor profile pairs well with many seasonings, meats, and dressings.
Despite being commonly referred to as a grain, quinoa is not technically classified as such. Quinoa is similar to other grains in terms of its nutritional value. However, quinoa is technically a pseudocereal because it is harvested from a leafy green plant, rather than grass. But despite all of these great qualities, there is one question on the minds of keto dieters: is quinoa keto? The answer is a little complicated.
Is Quinoa Keto-Friendly?
The simple answer to this question is, “No.” One cup of cooked quinoa contains nearly 40 grams of carbohydrates. This may not be enough to exceed your daily carbohydrate limit on the keto diet, but the carb hit of one full serving of quinoa is difficult to justify. For reference, two slices of white bread contain about 30 carbs, so a full serving of quinoa can be even worse for ketosis than bread. And, of course, many quinoa dishes feature other ingredients and dressings that will often have their own additional carbohydrates. All of this is to say that it is best to avoid quinoa-heavy dishes if you are on the keto diet.
But, while the carbs in quinoa make it unmanageable in full servings, it is not impossible to enjoy it in small portions. Because quinoa seeds are so small, you also have the option of sprinkling a little bit into dishes as a garnish. So a little bit of quinoa over a salad, for example, can add a burst of protein and flavor without upsetting your ketosis, as long as you are careful.
Serving size will ultimately have the biggest impact on how much nutritional value you get out of quinoa; so, if taken in moderation, a little bit of quinoa should not disrupt your ketosis. But, with all foods on the keto diet, it is important to be mindful of your overall carb count throughout the day and how quinoa does or does not fit into your dietary plans.
Keto-Friendly Quinoa Alternatives
If you would like to substitute quinoa for more keto-friendly options, riced vegetables can be good options for you. Riced cauliflower or riced broccoli, for example. Both are nutritional low-carb alternatives to many grains and pseudo-cereals like quinoa.
Riced cauliflower and broccoli have also been emerging—somewhat more quietly than quinoa—in nutrition circles in recent years. Both offer a similar look and texture to rice, as well as familiar mild, earthy tastes that can work well in a number of dishes. Enjoy these benefits without eating high amounts of carbohydrates; this is what makes broccoli and cauliflower perfect options for keto dieters. Shirataki rice is another preferred rice alternative for keto dieters, as it is extremely low in carbs and is becoming much easier to get your hands on as low-carb diets increase in popularity.
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