What Are the Different Types of Low-Carb Grains?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2019
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Many low-carb grains are mostly low in digestible carbohydrates or net carbohydrates, which are high in fiber and contribute to the management of healthy blood sugar levels. Grains like quinoa, buckwheat and barley are popular grains that can be used often in low-carb diets in small amounts, as they are generally lower in carbohydrates than most grains like wheat or rye. Most of these grains can be used as a substitute for rice or oats in recipes, and all contribute a significant amount of whole grain to any diet. Since these grains can contribute a large number of carbohydrates if eaten in excess, most low-carb dieters tend to only incorporate these lower-glycemic foods in small amounts.

Quinoa is one of the most popular low-carb grains, and often replaces rice in dishes to reduce glycemic load and to increase nutrition content of the meal. The high fiber content of quinoa contributes to its low levels of digestible carbohydrates, or the carbohydrates that influence blood sugar levels. These carbohydrates are often called net carbohydrates, which are simply the total carbohydrates minus the fiber content. Nutritional analysis and studies of quinoa show that it is the most nutritious of the low-carb grains, containing all essential amino acids needed for human and animal health.


Buckwheat is also popular among the low-carb grains, and is often used in low-carb and gluten-free pastas, as a rice or oat substitute and as an addition to low-carb trail mixes and cereals. The glycemic index of buckwheat is similar to quinoa, and is considered to have a slower effect on blood sugar levels than other grains. Brown rice, although higher in total carbohydrates than quinoa, contains less net carbohydrates than refined white rice, making it slightly better for blood sugar levels. Rice in general is often avoided in low-carb diets; however, brown rice does make its way into some low-carbohydrate meals in small and moderate amounts.

Unhulled barley is another popular grain used by some low-carb dieters, as it contains a lower level of carbohydrates than most cereal grains like rye or wheat. Many of these low-carb grains can replace foods such as oats or rice, making a perfect low-glycemic and energy addition to any recipe. Although most of these grains are lower in carbohydrates than other grain sources, they should not necessarily be considered low-carb foods on a low-carb diet. Most nutritionists do believe that these foods are healthy additions to any diet that includes a wide variety of food and physical activity.


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