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Is quinoa keto-friendly? If following a keto diet, you always want to make sure anything you bite or drink will not make you fall off the wagon. Back in 2014, quinoa saw a huge sale with the start of vegan and gluten-free trends. Since then, quinoa best known for its gluten-free proteins has continued to become common among many people.
But despite becoming common and having many benefits, there are concerns about adding it when on keto. So, is quinoa keto-friendly? The answer is no. But why no, while it has been praised for its many nutritional benefits? This post takes you through everything you need to know about quinoa.
What Is Quinoa
Although commonly referred to as a cereal, quinoa is actually a pseudocereal. So, what is a pseudocereal?
These are the seeds of some species of flowering plants. A good example of pseudocereal is chia, amaranth, and buckwheat. On the other hand, real cereals are seeds from grasses.
Note that pseudocereals are usually cooked and prepared the same way as cereals. The only difference between them and cereals is that they have a better balance of macronutrients.
Quinoa Nutritional Facts
Quinoa is a nutrient-dense superfood. Here is why it is a superfood:
- Uncooked quinoa has around 60% net carbs, 13% protein, and 6% fat.
- The fat content in quinoa is two times higher than in other cereals and pseudocereals.
- The concentration of some amino acids, mainly cysteine and methionine, is higher than in most cereals
- An excellent source of magnesium and folate which are good for the health of your brain.
- Quinoa is a good source of vital nutrients such as fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and health-protecting compounds like saponins, phytosterols.
See the table below for more information.
|Quinoa: Nutritional Value per 100g|
|Vitamin E||2.4 mg (12% DV)|
|Thiamin||0.4 mg (24% DV)s|
|Riboflavin||0.3 mg (19% DV)|
|Vitamin B6||0.5 mg (24% DV)|
|Folate||184 mg (46% DV)|
|Vitamin B5||0.8 mg (8% DV)|
|Iron||4.6 mg (25% DV)|
|Magnesium||197 mg (49% DV)|
|Potassium||563 mg (16% DV)|
|Zinc||3.1 mg (21% DV)|
|Manganese||2mg (102% DV)|
Health Benefits of Quinoa
- Antioxidant protection: Studies show quinoa is rich in antioxidants phytochemicals such as quercetin, vanillic acid, and kaempferol. Antioxidants protect our body against oxidative stress, a condition linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, among other things.
- Better nutrition: The fact quinoa is a rich source of protein and iron, and it is gluten-free, makes it an excellent option for those on gluten-free diets or vegan. Again, if you are not following a specific diet, including quinoa in your diet will boost your intake of iron, folate, fiber, magnesium, and else that is difficult to obtain from a typical western diet.
- Gut health: Studies have shown fiber in quinoa can act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that feed those bacteria in the large intestine that are essential for gut and overall health. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Clostridium are some of the bacteria that seem to grow with a higher intake of quinoa.
Is Quinoa Good for Keto?
Considering the above information, do you think quinoa is fit for keto? Basically, due to its high-carb nature, quinoa is not a good option. For example, if you serve a half cup of quinoa, it will provide you around 17g of net carbs. This is not good when following a keto diet as a typical meal should have few than 10g net carbs. But if your keto version allows a higher intake of carbs, it is ok to include quinoa.
How to Use Quinoa on Keto
As mentioned above, including quinoa in your diet is not recommended. However, there are two exceptions which we shall discuss below:
- The targeted keto diet (TKD): This involves eating around 20 – 50g carbs around workouts. In fact, endurance athletes may eat up to 100g of net carbs and still maintain ketosis. This means they can add quinoa in their diet during training.
- The cyclical keto diet (CKD): This is a relaxed keto diet where you cycle between a typical high-carb diet and an SKD. If you happen to follow this version, then there is no need to consume quinoa during carb reloads.
Below are some of the best alternatives to quinoa:
- Chia seeds
- Flax meal
- Hemp seeds
- Shredded cauliflower
- Chopped nuts
Not every healthy superfood is a suitable option when following a keto diet. Quinoa happens to be one of them. It may have many health benefits, but because it is high in carbohydrates, it is not the best option unless when following more relaxed versions of keto.