Quinoa – the revenge of the saponins

My plant-based diet experiments have led me to try a number of different grains, including the wonder-seed quinoa. Last night I made myself a HUGE bowl of quinoa with vegetables and spices, and made a bit of a pig of myself.

Unfortunately it all came out again in the early hours of the morning. My body definitely wasn’t having any of it, and I was wracked with stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting until every little bit was gone. As I fell into a troubled sleep at about 4.0 am, I could almost hear my body saying ‘..and don’t do that AGAIN!’

A quick session with Google this morning showed that this isn’t an unknown problem with quinoa. Apparently the seeds are naturally coated with bitter ‘saponins’ that have to be washed off. Very THOROUGHLY washed off, too; putting the seeds in a sieve and vaguely waving them about under some running water definitely wasn’t thorough enough. I even read that they should be soaked for 7 hours in acidified water.

So, I’m never eating it again. It might be worth a try if I ever find myself wandering around the Andes in a state of extreme malnourishment, but apart from that I’m sticking to rice and pearl barley.

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