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Q&A: Is Quinoa Paleo?

By The Paleo Diet Team
November 3, 2012
Q&A: Is Quinoa Paleo? image

Hi Dr. Cordain,

This is Millie, I have a masters in Kin Ex science CSULB, I am a fitness coordinator at Boeing Long Beach, Ca, and teach yoga at CSULB & the LB fitness center. My husband has M.S...I started 'us' on the Paleo diet 5 months ago... We have experienced amazing results!

I've read some of your books (and Robb Wolf's & the Hartwigs), my question is what is the compound in quinoa and its potential harm to the body? Are you aware of any studies showing that quinoa is harmful like other grains. Other sources say it doesn't cause same effects, but they show no research. Is this topic addressed in your new book?

I appreciate your time!

In great gratitude,

Millie

Dr. Cordain's Response:

Hi Millie,

Good to hear from you and congratulations on your successes with The Paleo Diet. In my new book I have devoted part of Chapter 6 to potential adverse health effects of such psuedo grains as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. All of these plant seeds contain a variety of anti-nutrient compounds which potentially have deleterious effects in humans, particularly if they are consumed in high amounts on a regular basis. Quinoa seeds may contain very high concentrations (up to 5,000 mg/kg) of compounds known as saponins, which like the name implies, have soap like properties they may cause a "leaky" gut by breaking down intestinal cell membranes. I believe that a leaky gut promotes chronic low level inflammation and likely represents a necessary step in the development of autoimmune diseases. Quinoa seeds may be "polished" during processing to lower their saponin content, because the highest concentration of these compounds are found in the outer layer of the seed. Fresh fruits and vegetables are superior nutritionally to all whole grains, including the psuedo grains, which I recommend should be consumed infrequently.

Hope this helps

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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