In my view, quinoa is one of the best-of-the-best in gluten free grains and has even been labeled as a “superfood” — filled with protein, fiber and vitamins. On occasion I will make some quinoa. Don’t get me wrong, any day of the week my celiac daughter would choose white or brown rice over quinoa, but when I have made it in the form of a chicken-flavored pilaf, the family didn’t think it was so bad.
But over the last few years, there have been some questions from many folks about whether it really is safe for people who eat gluten free. Even as recently as last week, a study came out looking into quinoa and its “gluten-freeness”.
So, what is the scuttlebutt on quinoa?
Gluten-Free Living reported on this in February of 2013. The magazine interviewed registered dietitian and gluten free nutrition expert Tricia Thompson. She said the concern is whether quinoa is cross-contaminated with another gluten-containing grain.
Quinoa & Gluten Free Diet: Safe or Unsafe?
Last week, the American Journal of Gastroenterology reported a British study that looked into why in-vitro (test-tube or culture-dish) data would suggest that quinoa prolamins may cause an autoimmune response in some people with celiac. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines it as “Any of a class of simple proteins soluble in alcohol and usually having a high proline and glutamine content, found in the grains of cereal crops such as wheat, rye, barley, corn, and rice.”
Researchers gave 19 patients 50 grams of quinoa daily for six weeks. They examined diet, blood, tissue in these patients before and after the six weeks. This study found the patients tolerated the quinoa and it didn’t cause any additional health issues or reactions. They suggested a lengthier study to determine long-term effects.
In April 2012, the American Journal of Nutrition published a study which also investigated whether quinoa was safe for people with celiac disease. Specifically, it looked at the “celiac-toxic prolamins” that might lie in quinoa and whether they are different in other regions in the Andes, where quinoa is grown.
The research found most of the samples of quinoa didn’t have quantifiable amounts of epitopes that would cause an immune response in celiac patients. But there were two that could be problematic. So the study concluded more research is needed.
A 2011 study also tested quinoa (and other grains including amaranth and teff) and found them to be gluten free. The aforementioned Gluten-Free Living article also declared quinoa as a “safe and healthy part of a gluten free diet”. The magazine contacted some quinoa producers about how they keep their products gluten free. You can see their responses in the article.
So what is it? Safe or Not?
Most people will tell you by choosing a quinoa that is labeled gluten free you will be in good hands. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, celiac.com, Gluten Intolerance Group, Registered Dietitian Shelley Case, and the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center all still have quinoa listed as a safe, healthy gluten free option for your diet. I still have it in my pantry….how about you?