The Scoop on Quinoa Sensitivity

Written by Lara Jud

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah“) has transformed from a virtually unknown sacred supergrain of the Incas to a supercrop and a common staple food in today’s kitchens. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you must be living under a rock (one on the moon that is).

I, for once, am a big fan of this superfood and use it in many different forms in my kitchen. Some friends have, however, have approached me about how they cannot eat quinoa because they are sensitive to it. Some people report that they don‘t tolerate quinoa well and generally experience a negative reaction after eating it.

While I initially felt somewhat sorry for them, I later decided to write this article to encourage them and others to give it another shot.

Okay, so what’s the quick skinny on this protein powerhouse?

Just like amaranth, buckwheat or wild rice, quinoa is considered a pseudograin, which actually makes it a seed, despite commonly being referred to as “the mother of all grains.“ Quinoa has all nine essential amino acids, thus making it a complete protein, and in addition, it is gluten-free; did you hear that, Lady Gaga?

Though quinoa is generally well tolerated, some people do experience negative reactions after consuming it. However, in a lot of these cases, if not most, improper preparation tends to be the cause of the problem. So, if you haven’t been preparing your quinoa correctly, then you may indeed develop a sensitivity to it.

The first, and perhaps most important step in preparing quinoa correctly, is to rinse the seeds thoroughly. The reason for this is saponin, which is a soapy substance that acts as a protectant from insect and fungal attacks. Because of its possible minor toxic effects, it is very important that you wash out the majority of the saponin before cooking your quinoa. The easiest way to do this is to put the quinoa into a sieve and run it under the faucet, moving the sieve gently from side to side, until the water runs clear.

Once this first step has been completed, you can now go ahead and fire up that stove. You can either create a deliciously sweet breakfast porridge or toss it with some onion, garlic and herbs for a savory and well-balanced meal. Quinoa really is a natural fit to any meal, lending itself to savory or sweet goods alike; if you happen to run into quinoa flour, the possibilities are endless.

If you still experience negative reactions after eating quinoa, give amaranth or buckwheat a try.

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