Is quinoa paleo friendly is a popular question that I keep getting asked. In this article, I take a look at some of the important facts about this popular ingredient.
As you probably already know Quinoa is a yet another ingredient that is confused about whether it is allowed on the Paleo diet or not. In this article, we take a look at all the factors that may influence its paleo friendly status.
Quinoa has recently entered the spotlight as a popular new super food. It’s a completely vegetarian source of protein that is also packed full of fiber, iron, magnesium and other essential nutrients. While quinoa may look like a grain, it’s a seed harvested from goosefoot plants grown in the Andes region.
Quinoa was not widely eaten in the Paleolithic era, but was domesticated by civilizations in the areas now known as Peru and Bolivia as early as 5,000 years BCE and cultivated as a primary food source.
It seems logical that, being a type of seed, quinoa will be permitted on the Paleo diet. Grains are strictly prohibited, but nuts and seeds fit right into the Paleo lifestyle. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is much more complex. While Quinoa is gluten-free and contains many vital nutrients, excessive consumption can lead to a variety of serious health issues. In fact, quinoa contains many of the same harmful anti-nutrients found in common grains.
Saponins, Lectins and Other Antinutrients
Quinoa may be a grain, but it evolved in an ecological niche very similar to grains. Both quinoa and most grains produce saponins, lectins, and protease inhibitors as a defense mechanism against their natural predators namely, us. These chemical compounds are designed to make grains and quinoa seeds tough on the digestive tract. This intestinal discomfort is the plant’s not-so-subtle way of telling us that it doesn’t appreciate being eaten.
Lectins agglutinate blood cells while saponins lyse them, irritating our gut lining by and resulting in reduced nutrient absorption rates. Quinoa also contains high levels of phytic acid, which blocks our gut from absorbing important minerals and leads to easily avoidable nutrient deficiencies.
Protease inhibitors in quinoa prevent digestive enzymes from working altogether so that seeds can pass through our bodies unscathed. From the plant’s point of view, animals are simply a vehicle to get their seed from point A to point B.
Quinoa seeds, along with other seeds, evolved to withstand being eaten, so that plant species can harness the mobility of their predators to spread and propagate. While this strategy works well for the plants, excessive ingestion of foods containing protease inhibitors can eventually lead to a host of health complications for humans.
The highest concentration of saponin can be found in the outermost layer of a quinoa seed. Removing this outer layer in a process called “polishing” helps to reduce saponin levels, making your bowl of quinoa healthier and easier to digest.
To polish quinoa, simply soak the seeds overnight and then rub the moist coats off using a fine mesh strainer in the morning. Polishing cuts back on the level of phytic acid and saponin that you’re ingesting with each bite of quinoa. While this process improves the quality of quinoa, polishing still doesn’t render it completely Paleo-friendly. Instead of getting your nutrients from quinoa, you should try to get the majority of your carbs from vegetables and your protein from meats and egg.
So is Quinoa Paleo Friendly?
To answer the question of whether or not Quinoa is paleo friendly. The answer is yes it is, but it shouldn’t become a major part of your diet due to the issues above. If you want to keep to a strict version of the paleo diet, then it might be worth not including quinoa in your diet at all.
If you’re wondering where you can buy some quinoa, then you will find it at most supermarkets but can be a tad expensive. Amazon has a good range of quinoa and for a pretty affordable price. If you’re interested, then head over to Amazon and take a look at their range.
That’s all we have on the question is quinoa paleo friendly. Hopefully, we have answered the question. If you have more ingredients that you would like to know whether they are paleo friendly or not then please check out the is it paleo page.
If you’re after something to cook up then check out our some of our fantastic paleo recipes. We have recipes for any time of the day and also paleo friendly condiments to replace those you would find at the supermarket.
If I have missed something or you have a question regarding quinoa on the paleo diet, then please leave us a comment below!