Quinoa is a grain that in recent years grew massively in popularity. It has a soft, creamy, but still a little crunchy texture and a slightly nutty taste.
It is a healthy and very variable food that can be used in many ways. You can eat it on its own, simply boiled and seasoned, or you can use it in soups or as a side dish. It can even be used in some salads with fresh vegetables.
But, can you eat quinoa on the low carb diet and keto diet? Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the family of amaranths. It is a herbaceous plant that blooms once a year, and it is grown as a crop mainly for its seeds, which are edible.
Even though it might seem like the quinoa is a grass, it is actually a pseudocereal that botanically is related to spinach and amaranth (Amaranthus spp.).
The quinoa plant has broad, hairy, generally powdery, lobed leaves, normally arranged alternately. It has a woody central stem that is branched or unbranched depending on its variety. The color also may vary and can be green, red, or purple.
The flowering panicles arise from leaf axils along the stem or the top of the plant. One pinnacle has a central axis, and out of that axis, a secondary axis emerges. It can emerge either with flowers (amaranth form) or with a tertiary axis carrying the flowers (glomeruli form).
The fruits or the seeds are about 2 mm or 1⁄16 in” in diameter and they can vary in color- from red to white to black, depending on the cultivar. Today, when we say “quinoa” most often we refer to the quinoa’s seeds (fruit). The seeds are very nutritious and are rich in dietary fiber, protein, B vitamins, and dietary minerals.
It is thought that the plant originates in the Andean region of northwestern South America and its initial use was to feed livestock, about 5.2-7 thousand years ago, and about 2-3 thousand years ago in the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia, it was used for human consumption.
|Calories||368 kcal||120 kcal|
|Fat||6.07 grams||1.92 grams|
|Protein||14.12 grams||4.4 grams|
|Total Carbs||64.14 gram||21.3 grams|
|Fiber||7 grams||2.8 grams|
|Net Carbs||57.14 grams||18.5 grams|
Is Quinoa Good For You?
Even though quinoa is used mostly for its taste, it also has many beneficial nutrients that positively affect health.
Quinoa is very high in antioxidants, so much, that it contains more of certain antioxidants than some high-antioxidant foods. It contains mainly two types of flavonoids (types of antioxidants). Those are quercetin and kaempferol.
But, what are antioxidants? Antioxidants are chemical compounds that can react and neutralize the free radicals in the body. Free radicals are the products of metabolic activity in the body and they can cause oxidative stress to cells, and therefore cause cell damage.
Antioxidants, specifically flavonoids, like quercetin and kaempferol have been linked to the prevention of certain conditions such as inflammation, some forms of cancers, depression, and viral infections. (*), (*), (*).
Quinoa is also high in fiber, but most of it is insoluble fiber. Still, it can absorb water and slow digestion. Some of the fiber in quinoa is soluble. Soluble fiber has been linked as beneficial in several conditions such as management and prevention of diabetes and hyperlipidemia. (*)
Quinoa can be an excellent source of protein as it contains the 9 essential amino acids. But, what does that mean? Amino acids are chemical compounds of amine and carboxyl functional groups, plus they have a side chain that is specific to each amino acid. (*)
All proteins are made of amino acids, but only 9 are essential. Essential amino acids can not be produced by the body, therefore they are essential and must be consumed in the diet.
A plant-based food rarely has all 9 essential amino acids, but quinoa is one of those foods that does have all 9 of them, therefore making it a great protein source as a plant-based food.
It is also high in magnesium and iron, along with other minerals.
Can You Eat Quinoa On The Keto Diet?
When you look at the nutritional information table, you will see that per 100 grams quinoa has 368 calories and 57.14 grams of net carbs when uncooked and 120 calories and 18.5 grams of net carbs. It also has a glycemic index of 53.
Meaning that even though it has many health benefits, quinoa isn’t ketogenic and it will absolutely affect your ketosis. So, quinoa is not recommended on the keto diet and it should be avoided.
While quinoa has many health benefits and it is very nutritious, it is not a good choice for someone who is on a keto diet, as it contains 18.5 grams of net carbs per 100 grams of cooked quinoa and a GI of 53.
*Photo by gdolgikh/depositphotos