Is Quinoa Paleo?
Since building our Is It Paleo app, we’ve had many requests to delve into quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quinoa has become one of the more popular “grain alternatives,” with many people thinking quinoa is fundamentally different than grains. While quinoa isn’t technically a grain (it’s a seed ), it has grain-like properties.
A Pseudo Grain
Quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat are all pseudo grains. All of these plant seeds contain antinutrient compounds which can have harmful effects in humans.
Instead of containing gluten, quinoa is filled with saponins (up to 5,000 mg/kg). Saponins are produced by the plant as a chemical defense, and are similar to soap. Even with washing or “polishing,” not all the saponins are removed and they produce small pores in the lining of the intestinal wall, irritating the immune system (aka leaky gut).
Quinoa also contains phytic acid and lectins
- Phytic acid – binds to magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron in your intestines and removes them from your body. What?! If that sounds bad, it’s because it is. Wonder why so many people are mineral deficient? Look at how many phytates are consumed.
*Zinc is an important mineral in proper immune system function and reproduction.
- Lectins – your body creates antibodies in response to lectins. This is bad because lectins often look like other parts of your body, and the same antibodies that were created in response to the lectins will begin attacking your own body. This is how autoimmune diseases develop.
It’s Not All Bad…
It’s just not paleo. People with finicky immune systems and a sensitive gut should stay away, but some people can eat quinoa without issue. It is claimed as a good source of protein – a cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams and has a low glycemic load of 19.
If quinoa doesn’t upset your system, you certainly could eat it. I would just want to ask you this… why?
Leave your reasons and responses in the comments.
This is just one of many entries in our Is It Paleo app. Get it on the App Store today, and your feedback may be the inspiration for my next post!
Resources for this article:
About Cole Bradburn
I'm a writer and doctor in lifelong pursuit of health, happiness, and adventure. I currently live in Raleigh, NC with the love of my life and our amazing boys.