Momentum in the Mountains 2024


Can I Eat Quinoa on Keto

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/04/2023

Quinoa is one of the foods that at first glance should be acceptable on a low-carb keto diet.

Though its texture and appearance is similar to a grain, it's truly a seed, not a grain. Quinoa comes from a tall, leafy plant that grows up to nine feet in height.

Originally found in the Andes Mountains thousands of years ago, quinoa is an excellent source of protein, making it the perfect option for vegetarians needing a little protein boost. In fact, you might already be familiar with it if you’re vegetarian or have at least checked out the vegetarian or vegan way of eating before deciding to go keto.

Quinoa is a rarity among edible plants; it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that aren’t produced by your body yet are necessary to form protein.

Because these nine amino acids, which include phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, leucine and histidine, can’t be produced by your body, getting them from your diet is extremely important. Quinoa is also high in iron, lysine, and B vitamins, all of which are important nutrients to support your health.

If you're counting calories, it's low at just 222 per cup.

Rounding out its beneficial qualities, quinoa is usually easily digested and provides a solid gluten-free option. With all these health benefits, what's not to love?

red, white, and black quinoa seeds in wooden bowls

Sounds perfect for keto.

But there's a catch.

In This Article:

  1. Quinoa Seems Keto-Friendly, But..

  2. quinoa Substitutes For The Ketogenic Diet

  3. Keep On Your Keto Diet Without Quinoa


Quinoa Seems Keto-Friendly, But…

Quinoa is gluten-free - an important component of keto - but the kind you buy in a store is usually processed by manufacturing companies that also process wheat, so there’s a possibility of cross-contamination.

Plus, quinoa has a similar compound to gluten called prolamins. Prolamins are types of proteins found in many cereal grains, and they can cause an inflammatory reaction in your gut. Research has shown that quinoa, therefore, can be problematic for people who have celiac disease or even are sensitive to gluten.

On the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly a food will raise your blood sugar, quinoa scores 53, which is fairly low. However, it can still spike your blood sugar too high for when you're on keto and want to stay in ketosis.

Here’s why.

One cup of cooked quinoa contains a total of 34 grams of net carbs. If you’re following strict keto and adhering to a daily limit of 20 grams of carbohydrates, just one cup is too high.

Even one-half cup of quinoa would bring you close to your daily limit of 20 grams of carbohydrates on a strict low-carb keto diet.

Or, if you find you can stay in ketosis with up to 40 or 50 grams of carbs per day, half a cup still uses up a significant amount of your allotment.

The feedback I get from people who eat quinoa is that it bumps them out of ketosis because it spikes their blood sugar.

The short answer is: no. Quinoa has too many carbs and isn’t suitable for a ketogenic diet.

But don’t worry! There are several delicious alternatives for a low-carb way of eating.

Let’s take a look.


Quinoa Substitutes For The Ketogenic Diet

These substitutes might surprise you, but I promise - they’re delicious and completely allowed on a ketogenic diet.

#1 Broccoli Rice

Besides being far more low-carb, broccoli is nutrient-dense and provides many benefits can support your health. It’s been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve the health of bones and teeth, and boost hormonal health.

One cup of cooked broccoli has one - just one - gram of net carbs. Quite an impressive improvement over the 34 grams of net carbs a cup of quinoa contains. As well, broccoli contains important vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C and K, along with iron and potassium.

#2 Roasted Chopped Nuts

Try substituting roasted chopped almonds, cashews, or walnuts in place of cooked quinoa in your favorite recipe. Nuts, of course, are keto staples that are high in fat, moderate in protein, and low-carb. Though they're more crunchy than quinoa, their texture will make up for whatever is lost by ditching the quinoa with its high carbohydrate load.

#3 Daikon Radish

Daikon radishes aren't an obvious choice, because they're a root vegetable. On keto, root vegetables are usually not permitted. But because daikons are low-carb and won't spike your blood sugar, they're good.

Daikons contain vitamins A and C, as well as beta-carotene, sodium, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. They can help prevent inflammation, improve digestive health, and boost the immune system.

A one-cup serving of this super root vegetable has a measly two grams of net carbs, so you can see why they're an excellent substitute on the ketogenic diet.

two daikon radishes on a wooden board

#4 Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower rice is the best known of these quinoa alternatives. Riced cauliflower is widely available in many supermarkets, and its nutritional content makes it a perfect low-carb substitute for quinoa.

Cauliflower has been shown to help decrease inflammation and the risk of heart disease, balance hormones, and improve weight loss. Amazingly enough, it's anti-cancer too because it contains cancer-preventive agents that have the ability to turn off tumor growth.

And a one-cup serving of cauliflower rice contains only two grams of net carbs. It’s an exceptionally nutritious and highly keto-friendly vegetable. (Plus, check out my amazing cauliflower pizza crust recipe - you won’t even miss the traditional crust once you make this.)

#5 Shredded Water Chestnuts

Crunchy, slightly sweet water chestnuts are a great alternative to quinoa. Cooking with them is simple, and they stay crispy no matter how you cook them, making them ideal if you're just learning about using them.

Water chestnuts contain vitamin B6, as well as the minerals potassium, manganese, riboflavin and copper. They're also full of anti-oxidants.

Best of all for a keto diet, a three-ounce serving of water chestnuts is a mere nine net carbs.

two water chestnuts, one sliced open

If you love quinoa and hate the thought of giving it up, give these four substitutes a chance to grow on you (see what I did there!).


Keep On Your Keto Diet Without Quinoa

If you’re just starting a low-carb ketogenic diet, there’s no need to toss out all of your favorite quinoa dishes.

Instead, give one of these low-carb substitutes a try. With their appealing consistency and taste, you won’t even miss the quinoa.

Being on the keto diet will open up whole new culinary worlds, in addition to its weight loss, health, and energy benefits.

So go ahead and start exploring these new taste treats.

Up Next:

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan