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 issue and 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, which is part of a group of pseudocereals, making it neither cereal nor grain, and more closely related to spinach and beets.
It is because of this unusual categorization from the typical groups of foods that many people are confused as to what quinoa actually is and how it affects the health of people who eat it regularly. Essentially, a person could read 10 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 clearly a vague answer, but the true place of quinoa in a paleo diet really depends on the decision of each individual person. 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 of grains.
How Doesn’t Quinoa Fit In The Paleo Diet?
Wheat products are avoided in the paleo diet because they need to be heavily processed to be consumed, which 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, they highlight that quite humorously in this clip.
For those that don’t have issues processing quinoa, it’s 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 might technically be gluten free and better than most grains – quinoa is definitely NOT paleo. You’ll want to avoid this for a few reasons – namely the digestive issues & the high carbohydrate content (So if you’re transitioning to paleo for the weight loss benefits, you’ll want to avoid quinoa). Essentially, it’s ok in principle, but not as ok in practice. If you follow a paleo diet plan, it’s not paleo (under the stictest requirements). While it’s not the worst thing in the world – many people simply can’t handle the possible negative effects on your digestive system.
Please note: if you feel rebellious & 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 is “why?” While quinoa might be best used as a “stop-gap” while 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 are a bunch of other much better food options both for proteins (eggs, meats, etc) and carbohydrates (safe starches, sweet potatoes, bananas, etc).
Verdict: NOT PALEO
For one more fun video – remember – no matter whether or not you choose to eat it, “queen-o” definitely isn’t gameday ready.
photo credit: SweetOnVeg