Quinoa – A Future Sown a Thousand Years ago – This was the official logo for the International Year of Quinoa in 2013. It shows how important quinoa has become. An entire year was designated to it.
Quinoa, a seed type grain has been a staple for Andean people for that long and more recently has also become the love-grain of people elsewhere. When gluten-free became the rage, quinoa replaced grains containing gluten.
Quinoa’s nutritional profile is very high. It has a complete amino acid picture making it unique among other grains. However, the protein in grains can be toxic to some people, as for example the now familiar gluten in wheat.
Quinoa kernels also have an outer coating of saponin, which is their natural insecticide. Because of this protective layer, quinoa is a low-maintenance grain and can grow virtually unattended high in the Andes. However, saponin is a bitter and toxic component of an otherwise first-rate plant. It has to be washed off before cooking and not just rinsed off as some recipes call for.
Quinoa is not the nutritious, high protein grain for all as I have experienced last week and this is why.
Quinoa was recommended by a pediatric nutritionist as one of the first foods for a seven months old baby, my grandchild. It is perfectly understandable why this grain should be good for growing babies because it has everything a baby could thrive on. But as the saying goes one person’s food is another’s poison.
So the baby was fed quinoa for a week, alternating with vegetables. After one week, she became ill, throwing up and crying. Her tummy made loud sounds and she obviously was very miserable. She had one other feeding of quinoa and an immense vomiting response before it dawned that it could only be the quinoa.
My daughter-in-law checked the Internet and found that many people reported violent reactions to quinoa. It was also surprising that people didn’t react immediately, but after several times eating it.
I personally checked how to handle quinoa and found that author, Rebecca Wood, in The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, says that one should wash the grains by rubbing them between your hands in a bowl of water, to do this several times and then rinse them in a sieve with water again.
If you feed a baby quinoa, start slowly and watch for any reaction, then stop for several days while giving other food and then try quinoa again. Since not everybody has severe allergic reactions to this grain, one should not worry about having to avoid it. Quinoa is too valuable a food to stay away from. It has been many generations mainstay just for that reason.
In general, allergies can be avoided by not eating the same food all the time, but to eat many different vegetables and grains because variety is the key to good health.