Can you eat quinoa on a low carb diet?

In this essay, I will answer the question: “Can you eat quinoa on a low carb diet?” and I will provide benefits and downsides.

Can you eat quinoa on a low carb diet?

Yes, you can eat quinoa on a low carb diet but only in very modest amounts. 

Despite its reputation as a nutritious food, quinoa is high in carbohydrates and should be consumed in moderation on a low-carb or ketogenic diet. If you do decide to eat it, never take it in large quantities. Instead, use it as a garnish on salads, stews, sandwiches, and porridges.

What is a low carb diet?

A low-carb diet restricts carbs, which are found mostly in sweet meals, pasta, and bread. You focus on protein-rich healthy foods and vegetables instead of carbs. There are no formal or universally accepted definitions for low-carbohydrate diets (1).

A definition of a low-carbohydrate diet is one consisting of fewer than 130 grams per day. Because low-carbohydrate diets generally consist of no more than 130 grams per day (520 kcals) and moderate protein, the majority of other calories are derived from dietary fat. Thus, low-carbohydrate diets are often referred to as low-carbohydrate and high fat (1).

Low-carb diets have been shown in studies to help people lose weight and improve their health markers.

These diets have been popular for decades, and many doctors advocate them.

The best part is that you usually don’t have to track calories or use any specific products. All you have to do is eat whole foods to get a balanced, nutritious, and satisfying diet.

When you eliminate sugar and carbs, your blood sugar levels tend to stabilize, and insulin levels fall, making it simpler to burn fat stores in the body.

Metabolically, carbohydrate intake is the most potent stimulant of the secretion of insulin, a lipogenic and anti-lipolytic hormone that promotes fat storage and strongly inhibits a person’s ability to mobilize and oxidize body fat. More specifically, insulin inhibits adipose tissue lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation – with effects that are both potent and immediate. Over time, high carbohydrate consumption above a person’s tolerance overwhelms the body’s compensatory capacity to respond to persistent over-signaling from insulin, and this, coupled with insulin’s role in the development of excess adiposity, can lead to a condition called insulin resistance. This further potentiates hyperinsulinemia, which is strongly linked to metabolic syndrome pathogenesis and a higher risk for cardiovascular disease (1).

Furthermore, a higher protein intake and the presence of ketones (if eating very low carb) may help you feel more full, resulting in naturally reduced food consumption and weight reduction.

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is derived from the quinoa plant, which can grow to be three to nine feet tall. It grows on mountaintops in milder temperatures. Quinoa is a member of the Polygonaceae family of plant species and it has a similar nutrient composition to grass seeds; since the seed is too small to mill to separate the anatomical fractions quinoa is included in the whole grain category. In addition to a high starchy carbohydrate content, quinoa is a good source of gluten-free protein, which compared with other cereals has a well-balanced amino acid profile; lipids which are rich in unsaturated fats; dietary fiber; and micronutrients and phytochemicals. This supports the use of quinoa as a potential gluten-free alternative to common cereals (2).

 Quinoa is recognized as a superfood that dates back thousands of years. The Incas considered it a sacred crop, and ancient civilizations such as the Roman Empire employed it for food purposes.

Quinoa is a favorite among vegetarians and vegans due to its high protein content and healthy carbohydrate content. Quinoa is a complete protein and one of the few plant-based foods that contains nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot manufacture on its own and must be obtained from diet.

Many vegans and vegetarians struggle to obtain enough protein, so quinoa is a good way to supplement their diet. Manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium are among the minerals found in quinoa. Quinoa is a good source of gluten-free protein, which compared with other cereals has a well-balanced amino acid profile; lipids which are rich in unsaturated fats; dietary fiber; and micronutrients and phytochemicals (2).

Quinoa comes in over 120 different varieties. The white, red, and black varieties are the most frequent ones. While white quinoa is the most common variety seen in supermarkets, red and black quinoa are becoming more popular.

Red and black quinoa are excellent additions to whole-grain salads because they keep their shape when cooked.

How many carbs does quinoa have?

Quinoa is a high-carb food, since a cooked 3.5-ounce (100-gram) meal includes 21.2 grams, according to the US Department of Agriculture. This gives it a carb count similar to millet.

A single serving of quinoa may surpass your daily carb intake, depending on the sort of low carb diet you follow.

More than 39 grams of carbs are found in a cup of cooked quinoa. That’s half of the carbs amount of brown rice and nearly as much as white rice.

You should control your carb intake if you have type 2 diabetes or other medical issues. 

However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Quinoa is a whole grain, which is healthier than refined grains such as white flour.

Whole grains contain all three anatomical parts of the grain (the bran, germ and endosperm). There is a growing body of epidemiological studies supporting an inverse association between whole grain consumption and risk of several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity, with similar results found across diverse populations (2).

How to include quinoa on a low carb diet?

When it comes to including quinoa on a low carb diet, serving size is critical. 

If you want to incorporate this grain into your keto diet, do it cautiously – not in full-sized portions.

One whole serving of quinoa 3.5-ounce (100-gram), for example, surpasses your carb limit on a strict keto diet because it contains over 21 grams of carbs.

Even on a more flexible keto diet that allows up to 50 grams of carbs per day, you’d still have to limit all other carbs and eat more protein and fat-dense products.

Quinoa’s overall nutrient value is affected by how it’s prepared, so it’s especially crucial to limit the quantity on a low-carb diet.

Quinoa with sauces or dressings, for example, has more carbs than plain quinoa. 

If you’re on a keto diet, prepare quinoa plain and count the other carbs in your meal.

How to eat quinoa?

Quinoa is a pantry staple that may be used in a variety of ways.  It’s easy to prepare and commonly available. In many dishes, steamed quinoa can be used instead of couscous or bulgur wheat. It can be steamed, baked, or fried. 

You can also:

  • Eat it for breakfast: Add a few bits of fresh fruit or nuts to the mix. A pinch of cinnamon can also help to enhance flavor.
  • Can be a rice substitute: quinoa pilaf works well as a side dish.
  • Add it to soups and salads: This can help to increase the amount of protein and fiber in your diet.
  • Eat it as a snack: Quinoa is a grain that can be prepared in the same way as popcorn.
  • Can be a pasta substitute: replace pasta by quinoa to prepare a pasta-like salad.


In this paper, I answered the question “Can you eat quinoa on a low carb diet?” and I listed the health benefits of this superfood and how to include it in a ketogenic or low-carb diet.


  1. Volek, Jeff S., et al. Alternative Dietary Patterns for Americans: Low-Carbohydrate Diets. Nutrients, 2021, 13, 3299.
  2. Li, Liangkui, et al. Effects of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) consumption on markers of CVD risk. Nutrients, 2018, 10, 777.