ThePaleoList Answers:  Is Quinoa Paleo?

You think a Paleo diet may be the key for you to live a better and healthier life, and you’re right. But, the difficult thing is making sure you get it right and follow the diet strictly. So, let’s get one of the most asked questions out of the way: Is quinoa Paleo?

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What is Quinoa?

To answer the question “is quinoa paleo”, we first have to explain what quinoa is.  Quinoa is a gluten-free which has helped it skyrocket in popularity throughout the food world in the past couple of years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) even declared 2013 to be the International Year of Quinoa. The FAO singled out quinoa as a food with “high nutritive value” and an impressive biodiversity. They also say that it has an important role to play in food security around the world.

Though it is usually thought of as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. It is, however, usually prepared like a grain. Quinoa is a species of the goosefoot genus and is a pseudocereal, much like buckwheat.

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Packing a pretty substantial protein punch has helped quinoa climb the ranks of popular and trendy foods, it has also become a popular gluten-free substitute for rice, pasta and couscous amongst those eating health consciously, which is why it makes sense those looking towards a Paleo diet would have some serious questions about quinoa.

Quinoa also picks up a lot of its popularity because some of the most popular grains like wheat, rice and almost every other main grain are missing one or more essential amino acids, but quinoa is a fully loaded one-stop shop.

It is nearly the perfect power food, or so it would seem. However, if you search across the Internet you will find that there are many varying opinions and theories about the grain … err, seed, and how it affects a person’s body. All of these combating theories can make it really difficult to figure out what is what in the world of quinoa.

So is Quinoa Paleo?

But, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, and with quinoa, it really does get gritty. Many are convinced quinoa is a Paleo-friendly food, however, on its strictest ruling; quinoa does not make the Paleo cut, although there are situations in which the food may find its way into a Paleo diet and it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

The first barrier that comes into play when discussing quinoa’s position within a Paleo diet is that qunioa is, in fact, not a grain, as we mentioned earlier, despite being prepared like a grain, and sharing a lot of qualities of grains, it is a seed, and since many seeds are not only allowed on a Paleo diet but are essential elements in a healthy Paleo meal plan, why would this seed be excluded. A seed that had an entire year named after it, at that.

Well, while quinoa is actually a great alternative to grains which are potentially damaging to you, it does contain some of the same potentially harmful properties. Though it is gluten-free, which is a major bonus, some people are unable to process the seed effectively and because of this it can be harmful to the lining of an individual’s digestive system.

Even for those whose bodies can handle the quinoa just fine, the seed contains a high amount of carbs. So, if you want to shift your body from carb burning to fat burning you will defiantly want to avoid it as qunioa scores a 53 on the Glycemic Index.

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With a rating of 53 on the glycemic index, this item will only cause a temporary spike in energy rather than many paleo diet friendly items which will provide ongoing energy throughout the day. A temporary spike in energy will only work to drain you through a short period which is the exact opposite of what you would be looking for especially in a training scenario. Unless you want to feel drained, it is not a good idea to include quinoa in your diet if you are following paleo principles.

So, to use a not-so friendly phrase: When it comes to quinoa and the Paleo diet, you may not be able to have your cake and eat it, too. It is gluten-free and most defiantly better than the majority of grains out there, but it is far from Paleo friendly. Sorry, kids.

The Silver Lining on Quinoa

Now, it would be unfair to proclaim quinoa to be the worst thing out there for you, it clearly comes with it’s benefits, it is clear that on a Paleo diet it should still be avoided, especially if you are planning on transitioning to a Paleo diet for weight loss purposes.

However, if you are just starting your adventure down the road to a Paleo diet and are finding it difficult to transition, quinoa is a good food to use as an alternative while you begin cutting a lot of foods with much worse qualities and health detraction from your diet. But, once you fully transition and are going full on Paleo, it is important to rid your diet of the food, sorry FAO. Besides, there are much better options that are Paleo friendly for you to gain all the health benefits people would get from quinoa. For example: The protein you would be getting from quinoa can be gathered from eggs or meat and for the carbohydrates sweet potatoes, bananas and Paleo safe starches are the best ways to go.

So, here is the deal, if you are going to be headstrong and insist on keeping qunioa in your diet despite it not being Paleo friendly in the strictest sense, it is probably a prudent practice to get used to washing your quinoa thoroughly, as the outer coating of the seed is where a lot of the wheat-like properties are stored.

So, despite all the praise the pseudo-grain quinoa receives and the glowing quotes and press releases from the FAO and other United Nations governments, the truth of the matter is the food still contains the dangers of a lot of grains while not providing a substantial enough benefit in any other area to qualify it as Paleo friendly.

Besides, in “The Paleo Diet” Loren Cordain does list quinoa as a food to avoid.  So to answer the question “is quinoa paleo?”, the answer is no.

Are you struggling with which foods are Paleo?  Do you need help planning some Paleo meals?  Check out this great Paleo cookbook:

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