Many grains contain gluten, which can give some people digestive trouble or even an allergic reaction. Is quinoa gluten-free?
Quinoa does not contain any gluten. Some quinoa products may have gluten from other ingredients, but there is no gluten in quinoa itself. It is used as an alternative to wheat and barley and is one of the best alternative gluten-free grains.
As someone with gluten sensitivity, I eat a lot of quinoa. It is one of my favorite alternatives to wheat. Quinoa flour is a great wheat substitute for baking.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a name for a few different proteins that you find in wheat, barley, and rye. Bread is the most obvious food that contains gluten, you can also find it in beer and many other foods/drinks made from these grains.
What Foods Contain Gluten?
Many common wheat-based foods contain gluten, and so do foods that contain rye or barley. These foods include:
- Soy sauce (usually contains wheat)
- Gravy (sometimes)
Since there are a lot of gluten-free products available, you can find gluten-free alternatives.
Why Does Gluten Make Some People Sick?
If a person has celiac disease, gluten causes an allergic reaction. Their immune system overreacts to the gluten, affecting their intestines. If this happens repeatedly for a long time, it can lead to many other health problems.
A person may also have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In that case, a protein called zonulin affects the gut and leads to leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut is where bacteria escape from the intestine and enter the bloodstream, making the person tired all the time and sick.
Different people have different levels of gluten sensitivity. In my case, I can eat a limited amount of gluten occasionally without problems. However, symptoms become serious if I regularly eat bread and pasta that contain gluten.
Is Quinoa Gluten-Free in All Cases?
The grain does not naturally contain any gluten. It is gluten-free and not a low-gluten food, so you can eat it on a strict gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is serious, so people with celiac disease are right to strictly avoid eating gluten and look for a gluten-free alternative to cereal.
However, quinoa might be harvested, processed, or packaged alongside wheat or other grains with gluten. There could be a small amount of wheat in your quinoa, enough to give you an immune system reaction.
It depends on how serious your insensitivity is. If you have celiac disease, a small amount of wheat found in your quinoa might trigger celiac symptoms.
Avoiding Quinoa Mixed With Wheat
Usually, your quinoa won't contain any gluten at all. If it does, the gluten could be enough to give you an allergic reaction.
Some cases of celiac disease are serious enough that you can end up in the hospital from an acute reaction. It is usually not as severe as something like a peanut allergy, but acute reactions are dangerous if you have a serious case.
If you want to be on the safe side, get quinoa with a gluten-free label. Anything with a gluten-free label is tested to have no gluten or only a microscopic amount of gluten in it.
Quinoa and Celiac Disease
Research shows that people with celiac disease can eat quinoa without
harm. A recent study called "Gastrointestinal Effects of Eating Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) in Celiac Patients" showed that eating quinoa daily is safe for people with celiac disease.
Is Quinoa Good for You?
Yes, quinoa is a healthy food, in many ways more so than wheat. It is about 14% protein, 6% fat, 64% carbohydrate, and 7% fiber. The protein in quinoa is high-quality because it contains amino acids.
The protein in quinoa is considered a complete protein. This means that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce itself and must get from food. Different amino acids have different functions and different health benefits.
Quinoa Contains Antioxidants
Arguably, quinoa is the best of all gluten-free grains because of its antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage.
Everyone is exposed to free radicals, which are harmful molecules that damage cells. There is no way to avoid exposure to these molecules. However, you can eat foods that contain antioxidants, which protect your cells from free radicals.
What is the Nutritional Value?
Yes, quinoa is a nutritious grain that is popular in South America and starting to become popular elsewhere. It contains B vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, all of which have many nutritional benefits. There are many ways to eat quinoa, such as:
- Eating it as an alternative to rice
- Adding it to soups or salads
- Eating cereal made from quinoa
- Adding it to smoothies
- Using quinoa oil to cook other foods
Quinoa is gluten-free, but it is not only for people with gluten sensitivities. Many people enjoy its nutty flavor and it can be a great part of a balanced diet. It is highly nutritious and tasty even if you are not avoiding wheat and other gluten-containing grains.
What is Quinoa Flour?
Quinoa flour is a great alternative to wheat and other gluten grains. Many people who have a wheat allergy use quinoa flakes as cereal and quinoa flour to bake gluten-free foods.
Is it Safe if You Don't Have Celiac Disease?
Not always. A person can have gluten sensitivity without having celiac disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often less serious, so you might not have to avoid gluten entirely.
People who limit gluten are more common than people who strictly avoid it. If you have moderate gluten sensitivity, some gluten might be ok sometimes. Most of the time, eat quinoa and other gluten-free grains.
For example, I can eat sourdough bread even though I have gluten sensitivity and can't eat regular bread. Sourdough bread is not gluten-free (it is not made from gluten-free grains) but it is low enough in gluten that I can eat it without symptoms.
Is Celiac Disease Related to Diabetes?
The two are certainly different. Type 2 diabetes has nothing to do with diabetes and is not the same type of illness. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, type 2 diabetes is resistance to insulin that is not related to the immune system.
However, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, which makes it somewhat related to celiac disease. Some people have both conditions and should avoid foods with gluten-containing ingredients.
You can have one disease without having the other. Not everyone who has type 1 diabetes needs to avoid gluten. While only 1% of the population has celiac disease, a much larger percentage of people with type 1 diabetes have celiac disease.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker