Quinoa is a popular food item these days and many people seem to be convinced that it falls into the category of paleo-friendly foods. We decided to take an in-depth look at this food to determine whether or not it fits into the paleo diet plan.
What Is Quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced “keenwah”) is a seed that is harvested from a species of a plant called goosefoot. It is officially a seed and part of a group of pseudocereals, making it neither a cereal nor a grain, and more closely related to spinach and beets than to cereals or grains.
It is because of this unusual categorization that many people are confused as to what quinoa actually is and how it affects the health of people who eat it regularly. A person could read ten different articles about quinoa and get nearly as many different theories about it and where it belongs in a healthy diet.
So, Is Quinoa Paleo?
Well, yes and no. This is a vague answer but that’s because the position of quinoa in a paleo diet depends on the individual whose diet it is. Let’s explore this a bit.
How Does Quinoa Fit in The Paleo Diet?
Quinoa is technically not a grain, which makes many people jump to the immediate conclusion that it is paleo. It is a seed and many other seeds are allowed, so why not quinoa?
This is a good point and, for those looking for a grain alternative that has much less potential for damage than regular grains, quinoa is often a good choice. With that being said, quinoa actually does contain some of the same potentially harmful properties as grains.
How Doesn’t Quinoa Fit in The Paleo Diet?
Wheat products are avoided on the paleo diet because they need to be heavily processed to be consumed. This goes against the very basis of the paleo way of thinking and eating.
Beyond that, they are avoided because they contain gluten, saponins, and lectins, among other anti-nutrients, which have been shown to be harmful to the lining of a person’s digestive system as well as their immune system. Many people don’t process quinoa effectively and, because of that, they should avoid it.
If you’re a fan of Portlandia, this clip highlights this in a humorous way:
Even if you don’t have issues processing quinoa, quinoa still contains quite a few carbs. If your goal is to become a fat burner rather than a carb-burner, you’ll want to avoid quinoa as it’s a 53 on the Glycemic Index – quite high for a food that you don’t have to be eating.
The Verdict on Quinoa
So, quinoa, while it is technically gluten-free and better for you than most grains, is definitely NOT paleo. You’ll want to avoid quinoa for a few reasons – namely because of the digestive issues it can cause and because of its high carbohydrate content. If you’re transitioning to paleo for the weight loss benefits, you’ll definitely want to avoid quinoa. Essentially, quinoa is okay in principle but it’s not as okay in practice. If you follow a paleo diet plan, know that quinoa is not paleo (under the strictest requirements). While it’s not the worst thing in the world, many people simply can’t handle the negative impact of quinoa on their digestive system.
Please note: If you feel rebellious and do choose to eat quinoa, it is generally a good idea to wash it thoroughly, as its outer coating is responsible for some of its wheat-like properties.
Also, if you really feel the need the include quinoa in your diet, the best question to ask yourself is “why?” While quinoa might be best used as a stop-gap while you’re transitioning from a standard American diet to a full paleo lifestyle, once you’ve made the transition, there’s really no reason to incorporate it into your regular diet as there’s a bunch of much better food options available – both proteins (eggs, meats, etc) and carbohydrates (safe starches, sweet potatoes, bananas, etc).
Verdict: NOT PALEO
photo credit: SweetOnVeg