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While walking down the rice aisle in your local grocery store, you’ll find whole shelves dedicated to different foods one may put in the rice category — and one of those foods is quinoa. While many are familiar with this superfood, to others it may be so foreign that they are struggling to say it correctly.

Pronounced “keen-whah”, quinoa comes in many different colors and sizes, but they all resemble a brown, white or red rice. In fact, there are an estimated 120 known varieties of quinoa that exist today. The most common types being white, black and red.

Quinoa has been acknowledged for its nutritional value for quite some time. Back in 1955 quinoa was given the credit of coming as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom in providing (almost) all of the essential life sustaining nutrients needed.

What is Quinoa and Why isn’t it Low Carb Friendly?

Sure, quinoa’s texture and appearance may resemble that of brown or basmati rice, but don’t be mistake. This makeshift grain is actually not really a grain at all.

So what is quinoa?

With its seed-like qualities, it’s no surprise it actually is a seed, originally found in the Andes Mountains thousands of years ago. Not only is it a seed, but it’s considered a great source of protein as well, making it the perfect option for vegetarians needing a little protein boost. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

These amino acids, which include phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, leucine and histidine, cannot be produced by the body. That means that getting them via your diet and the foods you eat is extremely important. Quinoa is also high in iron, lysine, and B vitamins, all while being easily digested and providing a solid gluten-free option.

Quinoa is similar to rice in that there are over a hundred different kinds out there today. However, each type does have a purpose, believe it or not. If you’ve ever walked down the salad bar and seen red quinoa, it’s for good reason. Red quinoa is used more often than other quinoa due to its ability to keep and hold shape better after cooking. White quinoa and black quinoa are other common types you’re more likely to see at your local grocery store.

When it comes to macronutrients, one cup of cooked quinoa contains a total of 222 calories, 39 grams of carbs, 34 grams of net carbs, five grams of fiber, four grams of fat and eiht grams of protein.

So, we know quinoa can be beneficial for your health, but that still leaves us with the question — is quinoa low carb or keto friendly?

With it’s high carb count, even if you were to only have a half cup serving with your meal, that leaves with you a serving of 17 grams of net carbs in one dish. For individuals following a low carb or ketogenic diet, this amount of carbs in one sitting may push them over the edge depending on how high their carb intake is for the day.

4 Low Carb Substitutes for Quinoa

Quinoa can be found in thousands of different dishes around the world. With all of the different options out there today, it can be an overwhelming thought that you may have to deprive yourself of some of your favorite foods. No need to worry. In fact, one of the easiest ways to transition to a low carb or keto diet is to simply replace your favorite high carb foods with some easy, low carb alternatives.  

So, what are some low carb substitutes for quinoa?

  1. Shredded broccoli rice
  2. Grated daikon radish
  3. Cauliflower rice
  4. Shredded water chestnut rice

#1: Shredded Broccoli Rice

Low Carb Quinoa Substitutes

Image: Easy Cheesy Broccoli Rice

The green veggie you were forced to eat as a childis back and coming in all different forms. For a quinoa substitute, shredded broccoli rice provides a great alternative due to its similar, earth taste and consistency.

Broccoli dates back as far as the Roman Empire. It’s a member of the cruciferous vegetable family along with kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Besides being low carb, broccoli provides many benefits that are key for optimal health.

Broccoli has been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, slow aging, improve bone and teeth health, increase metabolic function and even improve hormonal health.

One cup of cooked broccoli is a total of only 55 calories, including five grams of fiber, around one gram of net carbs, four grams of protein and zero fats. It’s macronutrients aren’t the only positive to this green superfood — as it has some killer micronutrients as well. Broccoli contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and folate, as well as vitamins A, C, B6 and K.

Want to make your own shredded broccoli rice? Getting it to the same consistency as quinoa is no problem. Simply shred it or grate it to the texture of your preference and you’re ready to go.

#2: Shredded Daikon Radish

Low Carb Quinoa Substitutes

Image: Grain Free Bacon and Shrimp Risotto

Ever wonder what those weird white vegetables at your local grocery store are called?

You may hear it called by its multiple names including mooli, satsumi radish or japanese radish. Unlike other vegetables, radish is actually highly valued for its root. This is because of its ability to absorb moisture, which in turn prevents soil compaction from large amounts of rainfall.

It’s absorbing capabilities allow it to be great for cooking with other ingredients, taking on the flavor of whatever you pair it with. It most resembles the taste and texture of turnips.

Along with its versatile taste, daikon radishes contain some amazing health benefits. These radishes are packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as being abundant in beta-carotene, sodium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. It also prevents inflammation, improves digestive health, boosts the immune system and improves skin and bone health.

While there are several ways you can prepare daikon radish, shredding them or grating them is a great way to create more flavor and volume throughout your meal.

A 100-gram serving of this super root vegetable includes a total of ten calories, zero grams of fat, two grams of net carbs and only one gram of protein.

#3: Cauliflower Rice

Low Carb Quinoa Substitutes

Image: Creamy Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Cauliflower rice has become widely popular among health meals all over the world. With it’s volume and fibrous content, it’s no secret that this cruciferous vegetable is good for more than just steaming and blanching . Riced cauliflower is the perfect low carb substitute for quinoa with it’s amazing nutritional value.

Consuming cauliflower has been shown to help fight off inflammation, decrease the risk of heart disease, help balance hormones, improve weight loss, improve skin and eye health and perhaps the most significant benefit of all — help in the prevention of cancer formation.

How can this nutritious vegetable prevent cancer?

As it turns out, cauliflower contains cancer-preventive agents that have the ability to actually turn off the growth of tumors.

Pretty crazy, huh?

With all of these amazing health benefits, cauliflower rice packs a small punch in the calorie department. Creating a total of only 25 calories, a one cup serving (or around 100 grams) of this low carb rice contains only two grams of net carbs, two grams of protein and zero grams of fat.

#4: Shredded Water Chestnut Rice

Low Carb Quinoa Substitutes

Image: Water Chestnut Sushi Rolls

Ever wonder what those white, fresh, crunchy veggies in your chinese food are? Although one of the more uncommon low carb veggies used in most American cuisines, water chestnuts are a great alternative to a classic starch or grain (or in the case of quinoa — a seed).

Water chestnuts are considered an aquatic vegetable belonging to the cyperaceae family. Cooking with water chestnuts is quick and easy with their ability to be prepared in numerous ways. No matter how you cook them, water chestnuts remain crispy and crunchy.

It’s cooking capabilities aren’t the only positives of this water veggie. Water chestnuts provide up to ten percent of the daily value of vitamin B6, as well as potassium, manganese, riboflavin and copper. It also also abundant amounts of different antioxidants including catechins and epicatechins. A three ounce serving of water chestnuts is about 36 total calories, with it’s main macronutrient being nine grams of net carbs.

Are you just starting a low carb or ketogenic diet? No worries. Before you cross out all of your favorite quinoa dishes, give one of these low carb alternatives a try. With their consistency and taste, you will have the perfect low carb quinoa substitute in no time.

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