We often hear it’s the new “Superfood” and can be on a par with any gluten-free foods. Quinoa has paved its way to the tables of health enthusiasts and people suffering from gluten sensitivity. But what is quinoa? Should it be labeled as a grain or a seed? Can quinoa be included as part of your Paleo food list?
There are several foods in the world that are mislabeled as something else, just like tomatoes are fruits, but more people know it as a vegetable. There are other processed foods, such as grains and seeds, that are mistaken for something else and be excluded from Paleo recipes. Because it places the food into the wrong group, they add it to unhealthy or unwanted food lists. One familiar seed that is labeled and known as a grain by most people is Quinoa.
Quinoa is usually cooked like rice, before being added to salads, or made into bread, energy bars or added to smoothies. This crop was grown for domestic use about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, but it has been in use during the last 5,200 to 7,000 years but not during the Paleolithic era. We know this new superfood to have originated from the Andean region of South America and is still highly produced in this region.
For many years, the debate about whether quinoa is a grain or seed has confused many people who enjoy it but do not want to have any gluten in their system. So what is quinoa? Is it a grain or seed? And if it is a seed with significant benefits, should you include it on your Paleo diet food list?
Unfortunately, there are many who will classify quinoa as not being Paleo. However, the information that we provide below may just make you a little more willing to bend the rules.
If you’ve read Loren Cordain’s book on “The Paleo Diet” then you know that grains and pseud-grains (seeds that are like grains) must be avoided. You already know that wheat, corn, and rice aren’t allowed as part of this diet.
But why is there so much controversy around Quinoa?
Quinoa is a SEED, and it has been cleared by many experts. Perhaps the reason quinoa is labeled as a “grain” is that they grow it from a grain crop genus called goosefoot. It still should not be mistaken as a grain, as it has distinct features from a grain.
Grains grow in clusters on top of the crop, just like wheat and oats, just the way quinoa grows. However, a grain is a merging of the seed coat and the fruit, which differs from quinoa. Quinoa grows like that of an ovule with an embryo inside. In the same way, those seeds grow.
Instead of being labeled under cereals where grains are to be found, they should label quinoa as a pseudo-cereal. We use pseudo-cereals just like cereals but are in seed form. Still not convinced? According to Wikipedia, quinoa “is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium Quinoa), a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.”
So it is proper to call it a seed instead of a grain. This seed has over 120 varieties, but it is more commonly known for three types: white, red, and black. The leaf of quinoa can also a vegetable but is not produced or used as widely as the seeds.
As a result of this unusual categorization, there are many who are still confused about what quinoa is, and how it can affect one’s health if you were to eat it regularly.
You could find yourself reading several articles regarding this food and be bombarded with several answers about it.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to this particular food. We’re sorry our answer is a little vague, but when it comes to including Quinoa in your Paleo diet, it is really up to you if you include it or not.
As already mentioned above, technically quinoa isn’t a grain, and this is why so many people immediately jump to the conclusion that it is a Paleo food. As it is a seed, why do some say it isn’t allowed as other seeds are?
That’s quite a good point. For anyone looking for an alternative to grains, many would consider quinoa as a suitable alternative. But you need to know that this food actually contains some harmful properties that grains contain.
As you will be aware, grains are a food that you need to avoid as part of the Paleo diet as they have been heavily processed in order for our bodies to be able to consume them.
Plus another reason for avoiding them is that they contain such anti-nutrients as lectins, saponins, and gluten. They have shown these to be harmful to the lining of your digestive system and have an adverse effect on your immune system.
Also like grains, quinoa contains a sizeable amount of carbohydrates in it. In fact, if your aim when following the Paleo diet is to burn fat rather than carbs, this is certainly one food you need to avoid. Quinoa unlike say tomatoes has a Glycemic Index number of 53.
They label quinoa as a Superfood for several reasons. Quinoa has a lot of nutrients that help maintain a healthy body. The main nutrients that you’ll find in this food are:-
Plus, you’ll also find quinoa is an excellent source of the following nutrients:-
One serving of quinoa will provide you with at least 10% of your daily requirement of the primary source of nutrients that your body needs. It will also provide you with 20% of the daily requirement of nutrients your body needs from an excellent source.
In an article published in 2009, it was stated that because of its unusual composition and exceptional balance of oil, fat, and protein. Along with various minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants, they consider it to be a highly nutritious food.
|Total Fat 2g = 3% DV
Cholesterol 0mg = 0% DV
Sodium 7mg = 0% DV
Potassium 172mg = 5% DV
|Total Carbohydrate 21g
Dietary Fiber 3g = 11% DV
Sugars 0.9g = 7% DV
Here are some of the best health benefits to be gained from including the Quinoa seed into some of your Paleo meals.
Need to lose weight and concerned with your heart? Quinoa is rich in fiber and contains no saturated fat. It can help you maintain a healthy heart by maintaining good levels of cholesterol in your body.
Fiber is also known to eliminate unwanted fat deposits, which can help to reduce weight. Plus, fiber aids digestion and can provide relief from constipation.
As well as helping to reduce your cholesterol levels, which is important to keeping your heart in good working order. Quinoa also can provide you with several monounsaturated fats that are helpful to keep your heart healthy.
The key components in this food that help provide your body with monounsaturated fats are oleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. Even when cooked, quinoa maintains large amounts of these within the seeds.
Quinoa is renowned for being a plant food that can provide us with complete proteins.
Protein in food helps the body fill fuller for a longer time. This helps the body produce energy that is better for it compared to the energy produced by carbohydrates.
If you want healthier muscles when eating Paleo food, quinoa can help because of its rich amino acid content. We know amino acids to help prevent damage to muscle tissue and help with the growth of healthy tissue.
The only problem is that our bodies aren’t actually able to produce essential amino acids that it needs. But as a complete protein, quinoa contains these essential items in pretty much equal measure.
Perhaps this is the best part of quinoa for many who have celiac disease. Quinoa does not contain gluten but contains essential nutrients and minerals those who follow a gluten-free diet will need that they won’t get from other foods.
The most essential nutrients that you can get from eating quinoa if you follow a gluten-free diet are as follows:- Iron, Fiber, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, and Calcium. Plus, it also contains polyphenol which our bodies need to help protect cells and our body as a whole against free radicals.
Possibly the worst part of quinoa is its high saponin content. Perhaps the hint you get it has saponin is the bitterness if not rinsed or processed properly. Saponin is an anti-nutrient and can cause leaky guts if eaten in large quantities. Leaky guts usually cause chronic inflammation and can cause autoimmune diseases.
Saponins are often found mostly in the outer covering of the quinoa seed, but choosing to eat processed or polished quinoa helps to reduce the amount of saponin. You could wash the quinoa which is a good idea as it will also help to remove other anti-nutrients.
In just 100g of cooked quinoa, you will find it contains 21g of carbohydrates, of which only 3g is fiber. This is on pretty much the same ratio as if you were to eat 100g of raw bananas.
The problem with foods that have a high anti-nutrient content is that they will prevent your body from being able to absorb any nutrients that the food also contains. The main anti-nutrients that are contained in this food include tannins, phytic acid, and trypsin inhibitors.
You need to decide what type of Paleo diet follower you are. Then you need to make your own decisions that are based on listening to your body. You’ll soon be able to tell what makes you feel good and what foods that simply don’t agree with you.
For anyone who follows a strict Paleo diet, then including quinoa in their diet is strictly off-limits. But with so many positive attributes, this is a food that many feel is far better than any true grains. What you may want to do is think about using the 80/20 rule in order to help you so you don’t feel so restricted. If you want, you can include quinoa in the 20% of the time part of this diet.
Quinoa can be part of your Paleo plan but is not highly recommended, just like starchy veggies. Although quinoa is not a grain and is naturally gluten-free, they still recommend it if you consume it in moderation when following a Paleolithic diet.
You need to make sure it is processed properly to reduce the levels of saponin. This healthy seed is a great alternative for you, but remember that it must be consumed occasionally. Why not grind some seeds down into flour and bake your own Paleo bread?