When it comes to grains, quinoa is considered a super food. This is because not only is this ancient grain high in fiber, but it is also a good source of protein and antioxidants.  It is often used as a protein source for vegans and vegetarians and is a great food to help anyone meet their fiber needs.  In addition, quinoa is often consumed by those who are gluten-free as a pasta substitute. Considered a low FODMAP food in a one cup serving, quinoa can still cause stomach aches in some. Let’s talk about why this may be and how you can safely add quinoa into your daily eating regimen.

All about quinoa

Quinoa is a delicious super food that comes in red, black, and white forms. It is easy to prepare, taking just 15 minutes or so on the stovetop to cook. Each cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for only about 200 calories. You can also gain a lot of iron, potassium, and calcium from quinoa. A one-cup serving is considered low FODMAP according to Monash University.

Quinoa side effects

There are several side effects a person could experience after eating quinoa. If you feel like you are gassy and bloated after eating quinoa, then your body could just be sensitive to the high fiber content of the grain. In this case, try cutting your serving size in half and see if that helps.

Quinoa can also cause allergic reactions with symptoms like stomachaches, itchy skin, and hives. These symptoms are often caused by those who have an allergy to the compound saponin which is found on the quinoa seed and its coating. Other symptoms that a quinoa intolerance or allergy could cause include:

  • Asthma-like symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Eczema
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

Severe symptoms that could reveal a severe allergy to quinoa include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Pale skin
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lowered blood pressure

If you experience any of the above symptoms after eating quinoa, then it is advised to see a qualified healthcare provider as soon as possible to receive allergy testing.  In the meantime, avoid eating quinoa if you experience any symptoms at all after eating the ancient grain.

How to add quinoa safely to your eating regimen

Quinoa can be eaten for just about every meal. For breakfast, consume quinoa with some fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon. For lunch or dinner, try cooked quinoa with vegetables like cooked spinach, tomatoes, and onions. You can also create a fiber-rich quinoa salad with green beans, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and/or pine nuts.

To keep your quinoa intake safe, you should consume in moderation. Be sure that before you create your quinoa recipe, that you measure out your one cup serving. Any more than this could cause digestive symptoms since it would exceed the Monash-certified low FODMAP serving of quinoa.

Also, if you find that you have experienced allergic reactions after eating quinoa in the past, then it may be best to avoid quinoa intake. To receive your fiber intake, instead focus on low FODMAP safe whole foods. Grains like one cup of uncooked gluten-free oatmeal, one cup of brown rice, or very low FODMAP vegetables like carrots, leafy greens, radishes, and tomatoes can provide fiber without digestive distress in those with digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Take home message

Quinoa can be a super food for many. However, not every super food treats everybody the same. If you feel like your digestive symptoms flare up after eating quinoa, then it may be time to start logging in your food diary, visit a qualified healthcare provider, and see if you could be intolerant to quinoa. Visit Casa de Sante for other tips on how to stay safe on a low FODMAP regimen.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

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