Should I Be Eating Pseudograins?

Jars of Psuedograins

Making a drastic change in the way that you eat can be quite a shock. People who have made the decision to limit or get rid of grains altogether to avoid gluten, high carbs and other drawbacks may struggle. But, grains are a huge part of the American diet, and many of the foods that people love most such as pasta, breads and cereals are often the hardest to let go of.

In an attempt to recreate some of these comfort foods, "pseudograins" have become kind of a big deal. These are seeds from flowering plants and three main types are: Amaranth, Buckwheat and Quinoa. Quinoa, in particular, has been all over the health and fitness news, and has become synonymous with the healthy eating of "raw food." Many deli counters and health food cafes now offer quinoa in salads and soups. But is it really good for you?

Let's start with the Pros. Pseudograins like quinoa are not grains. This means they have no gluten. For someone who is striving to eliminate gluten from their diet, it seems like a safe bet. The next positive is that quinoa contains complete proteins, which is great. Amaranth and buckwheat are also gluten-free choices that are high in proteins, although not to the degree that quinoa is. It is important to note that while psuedograins do contain important nutrients and proteins, they are not as high in nutrition as meats and vegetable. Grains in general are not required by the body. However, if you feel the need for grains but don't want the gluten, pseudograins fit the bill. Sounds perfect, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. While these pseudograins are certainly a healthier alternative to the often refined and preservative-laden grains that line the store shelves these days, they are not without their drawbacks. Here are the Cons. Amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa contain a variety of chemical compounds that the plants produce  —  essentially to protect themselves. This tough outer layer is their defense mechanism.

Some of the compounds in psuedograins can cause irritation and inflammation, including lectins, saponins and protease inhibitors. Unless prepared properly, digestive problems can occur when psuedograins are consumed in large quantities. So, although they may be an attractive alternative to traditional grains, such as rice or barley, there is no reason for these to become a major part of your diet. Instead, eat them as an alternative to less healthy options.


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