Quinoa – Fad or Food

Quinoa seems to be the fad of the last decade or so. The super grain that is a rich source of plant protein, full of vitamins and minerals and supposedly eaten by the South Americans for centuries. So it sounds pretty good right? Well, yeah it is, but like everything else in this world, us Westerners decide to go and ruin a good thing with our impatience!

You’ve probably seen the instructions on the side of the box saying rinse the quinoa before boiling it, or even frying it off in a pan for a few minutes first so you can have your quinoa and eat it within half hour or so. But what if I told you that the South Americans took a little bit longer to cook it, like up to a few days!

Our little super grain, just like any other grain or legume is actually quite toxic when raw. It’s loaded with phytic acid and lectins which are a class of anti nutrients. This basically means that they have a natural defence against digestion because like many seeds in nature, they really just want to be eaten by an animal, pass through the digestive system and deposited out the other end in a nice pile of fertiliser so they can continue to grow in a new location. These anti nutrients can have disastrous effects on our health with damage occurring to all parts of our digestive system, especially the lining on our gut wall.

The bad news is that boiling it for 15 minutes or so does nothing to break down these anti-nutrients. So back to our South American friends whose wisdom can save us and our beloved quinoa. They knew this issue many years ago and have been using the following method since who knows when. But if you treat your quinoa in this fashion, it will serve you far better than before and make it a far more nutritious food than previously. It does take some prior planning as you need at least 2 days to do it right and break down these horrible anti nutrients.

  • Start by rinsing it off under cold water for a couple of minutes to remove a substance on the outside of the grain called saponin which can leave a bitter taste in it.
  • Once rinsed, it’s time to get your mason jar out, place a cup of quinoa in there, fill with water then let it soak for 6 hours or so.
  • Rinse it all off, strain it thoroughly and continue to rinse every 6-8 hrs for up to 2 days or until you see the grain start to sprout. You have probably seen these sprouts before when you cook it normally as they grow a little tail.
  • Finally, cook your quinoa on the stove in equal parts water to grain and let it simmer lightly for 20-30 minutes.

I have heard that you can get the same results from doing your quinoa in a pressure cooker, but as I do not own one of these and have never tried it, I’m not going to say if it works or not. If it doesn’t do it properly, your gut will let you know soon enough.

Quinoa is not the only grain to have this issue. In fact, I can’t think of a grain, legume or seed that doesn’t have this issue and couldn’t benefit from some soaking. This is one of the reasons that bread is such a poor form of food these days. Traditional breads were made with the sourdough method which allows the yeast and cultures to ferment the flour over a period of time before it was baked. This too broke down many of the anti-nutrients present just like soaking does. But with today’s manufacturing being more about time is money, they use chemicals to artificially make the bread rise meaning it’s no better than eating a raw grain, which is just crazy and completely unpalatable.

These traditionally made breads area out there, it just may take some searching to find a good supplier and you may have to spend a little more money, but it is worth it. So be kind and patient if you want to eat these foods and your stomach will thank you.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

Leave A Reply (1 comment so far)

  1. Deano Cox
    3 months ago

    Thanks for that valuable info, Chris. I usually rinse it to within an inch of its life, then cook in rice cooker. Turns out great and my Wife, who’s tummy reacts to anything even slightly weird, loves it as it doesn’t react adversely on her. We use it more than rice now.

    Thanks again,


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