A lot of Paleo practicioners get tripped up on whether or not quinoa is considered a Paleo-friendly food. Technically, quinoa is neither a grain nor a grass, but a pseudocereal, and the part that we eat as traditional quinoa is the seed part of that plant. So at the end of the day, quinoa is a seed, by definition alone, it could be considered Paleo. But keep reading to get the full 411…
Quinoa is praised for it’s high in protein and fiber, and rates a 53 on the Paleo Food Glycemic Index Guide, which is low in sugar. The American Diabetes/Dietetic Associations (even talking about non-Paleo diets), recommend about 150g of carbohydrates a day. A one-cup serving of cooked quinoa has 39g of carbohydrates, which is pretty carb intensive compared to broccoli at 6g, so it needs to be treated like a starchy food in your Paleo diet (much like sweet potatoes or cauliflower, which should be eaten earlier in the day and/or before workouts).
Here’s the big rub for people with gastrointestinal distress: quinoa is coated in saponins, which is bitter-tasting, but more importantly, has a toxicity to it that can cause eye, respiratory, and low gastrointestinal irritation. It is this natural defense mechanism that makes it not an ideal Paleo food. So, if you have digestive issues, you’ll want to try a small amount of it to see if you experience any sensitivities before integrating it into your diet…that is, if you do at all. Angel and I do not eat quinoa more than a couple of times a year at most, but we also have Paleo friends that have it monthly. It can be a great stepping-stone if you have issues weaning away from the rice, corn, and other grains (even though Angel and I would recommend that you rip that Band-aid off – see our Getting Started Paleo guide).
Overall Synopsis? We wouldn’t recommend that you eat Quinoa every day, but eating a little quinoa in moderation should be find in your Paleo diet… just as long as you don’t suffer any digestive distress.