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How & Why Properly prepare SOAK Quinoa

SUMMARY:   Quinoa is a whole grain substitute that is gluten-free though it actually is a seed, commonly termed pseudograin.  Most simply rinse, drain, then toss quinoa into a pot and simmer for 12 minutes calling that cooked.  Though cooked, it may not be very digestible, and this method may be downright harmful to your gut.  So how do you properly prepare soak quinoa?  Learn here that quinoa is super easy to properly prepare although it does require, as a minimum to reduce anti-nutrients, a 12 to 24 hour acid soak prior to cooking.  I’d do the quinoa soak purely for the culinary taste improvement truth be known as it removes bitterness from quinoa’s anti-nutrients in addition to making it easier on your gut!  For more science, see below the recipe for quinoa’s:  Impact to the microbiome, nutrient (including protein) punch, anti-nutrients and impact on those due to quinoa processing, and label de-coding for a Kind bar containing quinoa! 

Quinoa is a great gluten-free substitute

Obviously though, if you don’t tolerate specific food, don’t eat it,  As an example, read the post and LEARN FROM THE ATHLETES WHY  [they] REDUCE, ELIMINATE GLUTEN.  In summary, you’ll learn that 20% of your calories now comes from wheat, that 41% of athletes in a 910 cohort survey eat gluten-free 50 to 100% of the time, and FIVE reasons why they reduce it’s intake (reduced fatigue and GI distress, improved performance and nutrients — OFTEN FRUITS & VEGETABLES ARE INCREASED WHEN GLUTEN IS DECREASED, and lower toxin loads).  Health improvements can occur because of a gluten intolerance — aka celiac or nonceliac gluten sensitivity NCGS, ATI intolerance to another protein in wheat — aka nonceliac wheat sensitivity NCWS, or wheat instigated gut symptoms when eating it in excess of unique tolerance loads because wheat is also a high FODMAP food — read posts here and here.   Where is gluten?  In wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut matzo, semolina, spelt, triticale and oats (not certified gluten-free) AND it is renamed  and hidden often in processed foods. 

Should you reduce or ditch gluten? If you do, quinoa, properly prepared with acid soak, is a great substitute! 

Relative to the healing diets:

Quinoa (properly prepared) is permitted for some PALEO camps, it is low FODMAP, it is not legal for SCD/GAPS, and it is not listed for UMASS IBD-AID since it has not yet been tested for tolerance acceptability.  Dr. Mark Hyman’s PaleoVegan diet permits 1/2 cup quinoa/meal but for T2D and autoimmunes. For those conditions he recommends reintroduce following a month or two of elimination to ascertain tolerance.  Dr. Mark Hyman’s quinoa recipes do not require the overnight soak.  Soaking is what this post teaches; Soaking would increase  digestibility, and the next level of prep to neutralize even more toxins would be soak then ferment.   —  See details at the bottom of the post.

Anti-nutrients are in most all plant foods including grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes

Without proper preparation to reduce them, they can bind to and inhibit nutrient absorption (calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, etc.) which interferes in the function of certain organs. One example of anti-nutrients in action…  Anyone with a kidney stone?  The anti-nutrient oxalate is behind some of those stones! Check with your doctor if you are on a low oxalate diet for quinoa oxalate levels as I’m not certain where it’s oxalates rank.  Soaking and fermenting will get rid of some of the lectins, phytates, saponins and protease inhibitors but not all of them.   Experiment with the traditional soaking and fermenting methods; see if they work for you. See below the recipe for more in “Antinutrients 101”.

Properly Prepared Soaked Quinoa

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 cups cooked

Serving Size: 1/4 cup

Properly Prepared Soaked Quinoa

Quinoa is a pseudo-grain and low FODMAP food that is rich in protein and fiber. It contains all 9 essential amino acids and is a great gluten alternative. Quinoa is not SCD or GAPS legal, but some PALEO camps permit it provided it is properly prepared which this recipe teaches. See below notes for UMass IBD-AID. Quinoa can be used as a side, in soups, in salad, and even as a nutritious alternative to traditional breakfast cereals. This recipe shows how to properly prepare quinoa which is important not just for best culinary taste, but also to be most gut friendly. Source:


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups warm filtered water, divided
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar


    To soak quinoa:
  1. Stir to combine, in a tall lidded glass container, the quinoa, 1 cup warm filtered water, and apple cider vinegar.
  2. Place a lid on the container and place in a warm spot such as the top of your refrigerator; allow to rest overnight, or while you leave for work, 12 to 24 hours.
  3. Pour solution into a large glass bowl preferably with a spout. I use a large 8 cup glass measuring cup. Add warm water to the top and stir with a large spoon. You'll see lots of foam.
  4. Tilt the bowl left, right, up, and down while pouring and scooping off the foam. Repeat this fill - stir - tilt process till water runs clear and foaming stops. You are removing anti-nutrients and bitterness so don’t slack here.
    To cook soaked quinoa:
  1. Scoop the rinsed quinoa and place it in a small saucepan; add 1 cup of filtered water.
  2. Cover and simmer gently until the quinoa absorbs the fluid, about 12-15 minutes.
  3. Fluff with a fork and enjoy. Store leftover in the refrigerator.


According to Monash University App, 1 cup cooked quinoa is considered low FODMAP. I suppose we're notching up quinoa tolerance by teaching proper preparation as the #LowFODMAP diet book, "The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders," by Sue Shepherd and Dr. Peter Gibson does not include proper quinoa preparation in the low FODMAP quinoa recipes.

Relative to my conversations directly with UMass IBD-AID researchers, quinoa is not currently permitted on this protocol since it has not yet been tested in the participants using IBD-AID.

Quinoa is a great gluten-free substitute, but How Does Quinoa Impact the Microbiome?

We know many diseases are associated with microbiome dysbiosis. Information on how whole grains impact human gut microbiome composition and host metabolism  is lacking.  An article discussing the health benefits associated with whole grains (that are tolerated by the consumer) and the probable microbiome benefits, is, Whole Grains: Dietary Angel or Demon, by Dr. Gerry Mullin, MD, a board-certified internist, gastroenterologist, nutritionist, associate professor of medicine and director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Generally, if you tolerate quinoa, consuming such would increase whole (pseudo) grain diversity in your diet which should benefit your microbiome by increasing food substrate diversity.  Note though: I failed to find specific literature on ‘human gut microbiome plus quinoa’. No doubt, that science is still too new. Some otherwise relevant studies are:

  • Is quinoa safe for celiacs?  This 2014 study evaluated quinoa for 19 celiac patients since in-vitro data suggested that quinoa prolamins can stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses in celiac patients.  Daily consumption of 50 g of quinoa for 6 weeks in adult celiac patients (they chose their own cooking method) was found to be safely tolerated but long term consumption needed further study.  There was a positive trend toward improved histological and serological parameters, particularly a mild hypocholesterolemic effect.
  • How about barley(contains gluten) and/or rice intake?  The study, Gut microbiome composition is linked to whole grain-induced immunological improvements, was a short-term randomized crossover trial over 17 weeks that found that intake of whole grains in 28 healthy humans, induced compositional alterations of the gut microbiota that coincided with improvements in host physiological measures related to metabolic dysfunctions in humans. Participants consumed a daily dose of 60 g of whole-grain barley, brown rice, or an equal mixture of the two; the impact on fecal microbial ecology and blood markers of inflammation, glucose and lipid metabolism was characterized.
  • The Mullin article also noted that only about 5% of Americans get the recommended minimum amount of whole grains.  This Washington Post article explains a person consuming 2,000 calories per day should have at least 48 grams of whole grains (or three servings) and an equal amount of refined grains. You can get about 16 grams of whole grains from any one of the following: a one-ounce slice of bread, one ounce of pasta or rice (uncooked), a six-inch tortilla, or about one cup of cereal. Interestingly, the studies I cited are close to the 49 gram whole grain limit but it is not known what was the refined grain limit. 

Quinoa’s nutrient punch

A wheat/gluten -free alternative is quinoa.  Quinoa benefits are: Protective Against Cardiovascular Disease,  Controls Blood Sugar, Reduces Cancer Risk, and Inhibits Inflammation.  See Nutritive value of pseudocereals and their increasing use as functional gluten-free ingredients, and this #LifeExtension article which explains: 

  • Functional properties include strong active compounds like minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants:  Riboflavin (vitamin B2),6 quercetin,7 tocopherols,8 polyphenols,3,8 saponins,8 phytosterols,3 minerals,3 vitamins,3 free-radical fighting molecules,7,9fiber,10 and highly potent compounds like hydroxybenzoic acids and arabineans.9  (references are listed below my signature)
  • May inhibit inflammation,9 reduce cholesterol,8,9 quench free radicals,7 improve glucose levels,7-10 promote cellular energy production,10 support weight loss,10 act as a prebiotic,11,12 and potentially help prevent cancer and heart disease.13 (references are listed below my signature)

Looking at protein, quinoa bests legumes and wheat.  The study,  Physicochemical and functional properties of quinoa protein isolate, 2015, notes:

  • Quinoa Protein is relatively less than legume seeds, but higher than other cereal grains like rice, wheat and barley... the high protein content (about 15%) has an excellant essential amino acid balance because of a wider amino acid spectrum than cereals and legumes (Ruales and Nair, 1992), with higher lysine (5.1–6.4%) and methionine (0.4–1.0%) contents (Bhargava et al., 2003). Quinoa contains lysine, methionine and cysteine higher than common cereals and legumes making it complementary to these crops. In contrast to quinoa, most grains are low in essential amino acid lysine, while most legumes and quinoa are low in sulfuric amino acids methionine and cysteine (Koziol, 1992).  
  • Quinoa Protein in vitro digestibility was consistent with earlier studies that showed the in vitro digestibility of protein of four quinoa varieties was between 75.3% and 84% ( Repo-Carrasco-Valencia and Serna, 2011 and Zia-Ur-Rehman and Shah, 2001). This is higher than wheat at: 47% ( Booth and Moran, 1946), 54.87% (Căpriţă et al., 2012) and 59% (Chick et al., 1947). The high digestibility of quinoa protein (78.37 ± 1.08%) is supporting its easy digest in the human stomach and consequently its health benefits for the human.  Quinoa protein isolate showed a high solubility at alkaline pH values (10) and digestibility higher than other grains like wheat and rice.
  • Quinoa seeds have high protein content. The nutritional value of quinoa is superior compared with traditional cereals. Its essential amino acid composition is considered next to the ideal, and its quality matches that of milk proteins. Quinoa proteins have an excellent amino acid composition with many essential amino acids. In vitro digestibility evaluation indicated that heat-treated samples showed a more complete digestion than the native state samples-The importance of heat against antinutritional factors from Chenopodium quinoa seeds

For those consuming commercial cereal bars containing quinoa:  The 2012 study, Use of cereal bars with quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa W.) to reduce risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases, fed 22 students, aged 18 to 45-years, two cereal bars  containing quinoa and rice daily for 30 days. [Note: the quinoa was not acid soaked to remove anti-nutrients as is taught in this post]. The  total quinoa concentration was 39%; participants consumed in total 19.5 g of quinoa  (9.75 g of quinoa/bar). Each bar also had a whooping  46% sugar load. Blood samples were collected before and after 30 days of treatment to determine glycemic and biochemical profile of the group. The results indicated that:

  • Quinoa had beneficial effects on part of the population studied since the levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-c showed reduction.  The authors suggested that the study demonstrated that this pseudocereal positively influenced the various risk factors for the development of diabetes and vascular diseases, which are the most frequent diseases today.  Note: The problem with this study is that it is not a randomized control study with placebo; we don’t know what else the cohort ate in the month.  Bar preparation included: The dry ingredients were constantly stirred into wet ingredients  at 203F until completely homogenized, then cooled to 48F for 10 min. This technique seems to use quinoa foaming actions to aid manufacture though nutrient impact due to anti-nutrients is not yet well studied. 
  • The authors noted:  Quinoa contains considerably high vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium contents (RUALES; NAIR, 1992), as well as saponins and phytosteroids (KULJANABHAGAVAD et al., 2008; INSTITUTO…, 1997). These substances have shown hypocholesterolemic effects and increased postprandial sensitivity and release of plasma insulin (KWON et al., 2008; YIN; ZHANG; YE, 2008; CICERO et al., 2007). Abugoch James (2009) found antioxidants capacity compounds such as polyphenols, phytosterols, and flavonoids in grains of quinoa. These substances may be related with the effects of reduction in plasma lipids and glucose levels in the individuals tested. Matsuo (2005) demonstrated that the use of this grain can also be beneficial for increasing the production of liver antioxidant enzymes. The increase of these enzymes is related with the reduction of harmful effects caused by free radicals on the human body, which it leads to a reduced endothelial alterations (endothelial dysfunction) and decreased oxidation of LDL-c molecules, and hence, reduces the risks for vascular diseases (ADLER et al., 2010; NERI et al., 2010; KUSIRISIN et al., 2009; GHIBU et al., 2008; JI et al., 2008). 

Anti-nutrients 101

Anti-nutrients are in most all plant foods. Anti-nutrients are highly biologically active substances that decreases the absorption of nutrients and micronutrients which interferes with the function of certain organs; recall anti-nutrient oxalate and kidney stone formation.  Anti-nutrients are many differing ‘secondary metabolites’ present in many plants and occur in virtually all seeds, nuts, grains, legumes. See here for the nut soak and dehydrate recipe to neutralize nut anti-nutrients.  Anti-nutrients are designed to protect the plant from being consumed. They do this by causing digestive irritation to the consumer. But the damage these little compounds can create goes beyond… their names (along with adverse impact) from, Antinutritional factors in plant foods: Potential health benefits and adverse effects, include:

  • phytate [inhibits minerals zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and copper — in areas of the world where cereal proteins are a major and predominant dietary factor, the associated phytate intake is a cause for concern, study 2014 and The contents of minerals in which absorption or utilization is affected by anti-nutrients, were analysed for 36 products… the fortification of a number of products did not meet the declared levels of iron, zinc and calcium. Phytate content ranged from 68 to 1536 mg/100 g, confirming a persistent problem of high levels of phytate in processed cereal- and legume-based products -See Screening for anti-nutritional compounds in complementary foods and food aid products for infants and young children, 2013]
  • oxalates [binds to calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium],
  • polyphenols [iron inhibitor],
  • cyanogenic glycosides [The body detoxes cyanide and a byproduct,  thiocyanate, is similar in size to the iodine molecule and interferes with iodine uptake by the thyroid, effectively increasing the dietary requirement for iodine.  Additionally, enzymatic degradation produces hydrogen cyanide which can result in acute cyanide poisoning.See here],
  • protease inhibitors [inhibits protein digestive enzymes such as trypsin and chymotrypsin, thus preventing protein digestion],
  • lectins — There are 119 known lectins many occurring in seeds like cereals, beans, in tubers like potatoes, legumes, and some oil seeds (including soybean). Lectins can strongly interact with the proteins in gut cell membranes increasing intestinal permeability and then pass through the “leaky gut” into the bloodstream. This contributes to systemic inflammation and increases the risk of autoimmune illness. While many foods contain lectins, those that are heat-stable (like the ones found in grains, pseudograins and legumes) appear to have the most harmful effects.  Lectins also combine with carbohydrate membrane receptors and directly binds to the intestinal muscosa, interacting with the enterocytes and interfering with the absorption and transportation of carbohydrates during digestion and causing epithelial lesions within the intestine.   When consumed in excess they can cause 3 primary physiological reactions, 2014 study: 
    1. Severe intestinal damage disrupting digestion and causing nutrient deficiencies;
    2. They can provoke IgG and IgM antibodies causing food allergies and other immune responses; and
    3. They can bind to erythrocytes, simultaneously with immune factors, causing hemagglutination and anemia.
  • tannins [inhibit the activities of digestive enzymes trypsin, chemotrypsin, amylase and lipase, decrease the protein quality of foods and interfere with dietary iron absorption],
  • alkaloids [impacts nervous system by disrupting or inappropriately augmenting electrochemical transmission causing rapid heartbeat, paralysis, staggering gate, and  disrupts cell membrane in the gastrointestinal tract] and
  • saponnins [inhibits protein digestive enzymes such as trypsin and chymotrypsin, thus preventing protein digestion].  

MANY anti-nutrients and preparation techniques to neutralize such, are not well studied and conflict.

  • Some anti-nutrients may possess beneficial health effects if present in small amounts. 
  • Some anti-nutrients, like oxalates, are well studied.  Anyone having a kidney stone knows this pain though most probably do not know the anti-nutrient connection:

Oxalate is a salt formed from oxalic acid.  Strong bonds form between oxalic acid and other minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium.  Many plants contain calcium oxalate.  Calcium oxalate salts are insoluble whereas some oxalate salts, such as sodium and potassium, are soluble. The insoluble calcium oxalate has the tendency to precipitate (or solidify) in the kidneys or in the urinary tract, and forms sharp-edged calcium oxalate crystals when the levels of calcium oxalate are high enough. These crystals play a role to the formation of kidney stones in the kidney and  urinary tract when the acid is excreted in the urine [15].  -Antinutritional factors in plant foods: Potential health benefits and adverse effects Actually, Litholink Corporation kidney stone prevention program measures many dietary factors associated with stone risk; here is one example showing years of #litholink testing for a Division 1 elite athlete to ensure low risk of stone formation. Note the medication reduction resulting from dietary management which included oxalate restrictions.

  • What is known is that proper preparation of food having anti-nutrients does reduce the anti-nutrients for better human digestion and reduces harm to certain organs caused by the anti-nutrients inherent in the food.

This is why real fermented wheat (aka real sourdough) is better tolerated by non-celiac gluten sensitive folks compared to conventionally prepared bread. This is further explained by the celiac and FODMAP experts Drs. Fasano and Gibson in the below YouTube, Gluten: A Gut Feeling, and why you are learning in this post How-To properly prepare quinoa, a gluten-free substitute and low FODMAP food. Some anti-nutrient slides showing gut impact are:

  • To dive into more anti-nutrient research and the chemistry, read the section Why typical claims about anti-nutrients are wrong and the section The real story behind Pseudo grains like Quinoa in Chris Kresser’s RHR: What Science Really Says About the Paleo Diet – With Mat Lalonde.  In summary, you’d learn that for lectins in legumes , cooking (heat) almost completely inactivates the lectins (except for peanuts which is why they are so allergenic), and polypenols are “pro-oxidants” that cause mild oxidative stress which up-regulates our body’s natural defense systems.  This Kresser article further discusses legume lectins.

Now for the dark side of quinoa unless you Properly Prepare SOAK Quinoa in acid to reduce anti-nutrients

What is known about anti-nutrients in quinoa?

Quinoa contains saponins, phytic acid, tannins and protease inhibitors, which can have a negative effect on performance and survival of  monogastric animals when it is used as the primary dietary energy source.  [Humans are monogastic having a single-chambered stomach whereas ruminant animals, like a cow, goat, or sheep, have a four-chambered complex stomach. An easy way of understanding the significance of this is that the bacterial actions in the four stomachs and intestine of ruminant animals allows digestion of food substrate that differs from that which occurs in the human one stomach and intestinal tract.]  Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.), an ancient Andean grain: a review. J Sci Food Agric and PubMed here

Saponin and protease inhibitor anti-nutrient details (from US Wellness meats, The Wellness Blog The Health-Harming Trifecta in “Paleo-Friendly” Foods unless otherwise noted) are:

  • Saponins. This Purdue document notes that quinoa seed coats (pericarp) are usually covered with bitter saponin compounds that must be removed before human consumption. Saponins may also be toxic to fish. Deresination (removal of the pericarp and the saponins by mechanical or chemical means) does not affect the mineral content of the seed (Johnson and Croissant, 1990).
  • Saponins. Saponins also have a molecular structure similar to detergents. These compounds can interact and combine with cholesterol molecules in the cell membranes. Quinoa’s fiber, saponins or squalene, has cholesterol-lowering effects as they bind to cholesterol and bile acids in the digestive tract and assist in their elimination from the body. This process also creates micro-tears in the gut, allowing a variety of harmful substances to leak into the bloodstream. Saponins can also damage the membrane of red blood cells, causing these cells to break down. What’s more, they act as adjuvants – triggers that can cause a cascading inflammatory and immune response. Small doses of saponins are found in fruits and vegetables and may actually be beneficial, helping to enhance nutrient absorption. However, the large doses found in pseudograins have been shown to compromise the integrity of the human gut.
  • Protease inhibitors are compounds found in pseudograins (as well as grains and legumes) which inhibit the digestion of proteins. But the protease inhibitors don’t just prevent proteins in the seed from being degraded – they also prevent your body from breaking down other proteins consumed at that time. In response, the pancreas secretes more digestive enzymes to facilitate protein digestion. However, because the protein-dissolving enzyme, protease, is being inhibited, the result is an excess of trypsin. While trypsin is essential, an excess in the small intestine can weaken the connections between gut cells. This too can create a leaky gut and set the stage for inflammation and autoimmune illness.  Trypsin inhibitor activity is low in quinoa.

  in this post on The Perfect Health Diet blog   concluded quinoa in moderation is safer than other grains and since “the dose makes the poison” it can probably be eaten in moderation as a way to diversify the diet.  Jaminet considers “safe starches” having safety well attested as: rice, sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, taro, tapioca, sago.  Chris Kresser on September 20, 2010 at 8:22 pm noted on Jaminet’s post: 

I’m also uncertain about quinoa. But whereas millet, oats, maize, rye, wheat and barley (the most toxic grains) are all monocots, quinoa (along with buckwheat and amaranth) are dicots.  A number of people who don’t tolerate other grains seem to be able to eat quinoa without a problem, but I still view it as a “transition” food. It’s good for those going from a grain-based diet to a grain-free diet when they still need that grain texture/taste.  I’m a bit more favorable towards buckwheat. It’s a dicot in the polygonaceae family, which also includes rhubarb and sorrel. It contains all eight essential amino acids, so it’s close to being a “complete” protein. When eaten in the form of sourdough crepes (as suggested by Stephan), it seems very well tolerated by most people.  Is it necessary? No. Is it harmful? Probably not. And it does make some tasty pancakes, which are great carriers for butter, cream and berries!

See also the section titled: The real story behind Pseudo grains like Quinoa of Chris Kresser’s RHR: What Science Really Says About the Paleo Diet – With Mat Lalonde, which explains that proper soak preparation reduces anti-nutrients; adding a fermentation step would reduce the most anti-nutrients.  

While I have never added ferment liquid to the quinoa, some recipes do so to even further increase digestibility. One example is this Quinoa & Cilantro Salad with Lemon & Garlic Recipe.  The process is to first rinse the quinoa in warm water to remove the bitter  natural coating of saponin (this is the bitter taste which repels insects and birds), and then:  Place rinsed quinoa in bowl,  adding several tablespoons of kefir (here young coconut) to the soaking water, and let soak for 12 – 24 hours at room temperature. Adding several tablespoons of probiotics (kefir) to soaking water “pre-digests” the quinoa making it even more digestible. 

Studies showing how various processing techniques for quinoa decreases anti-nutrients:

Incredibly, proper preparation instructions that neutralize quinoa anti-nutrients won’t be found on your bag of quinoa.  Actually, there is not much good information about how much preparation is required for quinoa anti-nutrient neutralization, but here is what my literature search found.

Looking at just phytate reduction:   FIGURE 3: QUINOA PHYTATE REDUCTION,  Food Phytates by N. Rukma Reddy, Shridhar K. Sathe. Also see more at: WAPF, Living With Phytic Acid by Ramiel Nagel.

Cooked for 25 minutes at 212 degrees F 15-20
Soaked for 12-14 hours at 68 degrees F, then cooked 60-77
Fermented with whey 16-18 hours at 86 degrees F, then cooked 82-88
Soaked 12-14 hours, germinated 30 hours, lacto-fermented 16-18 hours, then cooked at 212 degrees F for 25 minutes 97-98
Soaking, sprouting and lactic acid fermentation can reduce the phytic acid content of quinoa seeds by 98%.   Quinoa flour was processed by cooking, soaking, and fermentation using Lactobacillus plantarum as starter [they are fermenting the flour using a probiotic common in real sauerkraut]. Phytate was reduced by cooking 4–8%, germination 35–39%, soaking 61–76% and by fermentation 82–98%. The highest reduction, 98%, was obtained after fermentation of the germinated flour. Cooking had no effect on the amount of soluble iron. Iron solubility increased however 2–4 times after soaking and germination, 3–5 times after fermentation and 5–8 times after fermentation of the germinated flour samples and was highly correlated to the reduction of phytates. Processing of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Willd): effects on in vitro iron availability and phytate hydrolysis. 
Additionally, a quinoa bio-availability study due to raw, boiling and roasting can be found here.  Quinoa is a very good sources of iron, calcium and zinc. Boiling enhanced zinc dialyzability and exhibited high calcium dialyzability. Iron dialyzability was relatively low. In order to increase the potential contribution of minerals in Andean crops, it would be important to study the effect of different ways of processing, for example extrusion, and the use of enhancers on mineral availability.

How does quinoa fit into the healing diets?

Maybe it is the fruits and vegetables you increase eating when reducing or eliminating gluten that is the benefit!

This survey showed that athletes eating gluten-free actually increased consciousness of nutrition intake which increased micronutrients from fruits and vegetables as well as gluten-free whole grains [such as quinoa] and decreased processed food consumption.

What trumps?  They all are significant as Dr Fasano explains in the below YouTube, Gluten: A Gut Feeling.  He says to go “natural” gluten-free using whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetable, meat, fish, nuts… this will be nutritionally sufficient and you will lose weight coming off the Standard American Diet. But eat gluten-free pasta, cookies, cakes, and beer… and you will gain weight since these foods are a lot of fat and sugar. He’s seen it time and again in clinic.

Often it is what you are NOT eating that effects health benefit

Healing diets generally eliminate gluten, unfermented dairy, and processed foods and instead include whole foods that increase plant based vegetables and fruits along with some (albeit properly prepared and quality sourced) nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, eggs, meat, fish, and healthy fats. But it is much more complicated since moving to a healing diet arguably increases nutrient sufficiency since awareness of nutrient sourcing increases (see it happen here for athletes).

Additionally, some foods eliminated actually contain other substrates that cause gut dysfunction (casein, lactose, FODMAPs, nightshades, glutamates, oxalates, salicylates, amines...) which the healing diets elliminate.

Eating SCD/GAPS, PALEO, or low FODMAP?
  • SCD/GAPS:  Quinoa is not legal.
  • PALEO: Some camps say, “Yes,” to quinoa providing it is properly prepared which this post teaches! Dr. Mark Hyman’s PaleoVegan diet permits 1/2 cup quinoa/meal but for T2D and autoimmunes. For those conditions he recommends reintroduce following a month or two of elimination to ascertain tolerance.  Dr. Mark Hyman’s quinoa recipes do not require the overnight.  Soaking is what this post teaches.  Soaking would increase  digestibility, and the next level of prep to neutralize even more toxins would be soak then ferment.
  • FODMAPs:  Quinoa is a low FODMAP food.  FODMAPs are those pesky indigestible food substrates that our microbiome noshes on producing metabolites and emitting gas. FODMAPS however aren’t bad; infact, many are rich in prebiotics and actually promote good gut bacteria.  That is one reason why the is NOT for life and why so many are trying to increase consumption of FODMAPs understanding their critical role as they are fuel for our microbiome blooming beneficial bacteria…    According to this blogger the Monash University App lists one low FODMAP serving of quinoa as 50g which is about 1 cup of cooked quinoa. I suppose we’re notching up quinoa tolerance by teaching proper preparation as the  book, The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders, by Sue Shepherd and Dr. Peter Gibson does not include proper quinoa preparation in the low FODMAP recipes.
Eating UMass IBD-AID for management of IBD?  

I recently spoke with UMass IBD-AID researchers about why quinoa is not listed on the UMass IBD-AID food list. I learned that quinoa is not listed as they have not yet evaluated quinoa for IBD tolerance.  Thus, it may be a tolerable food for IBD, but the studies aren’t there yet.  What this means practically is to consider N=1 to test guinoa sensitivity using the gold standard of elimination followed by a week of washout, followed by inclusion to ascertain your unique symptom impact.  Definitely properly prepare guinoa if you are going to introduce it! On a side note:  The length of time for cooking quinoa may need increased. I mention this only because the researcher stressed that the gluten-free oats permitted on this diet are cooked twice as long as the package directs for easier digestibility.

Watch the 26 minute YouTube, Gluten: A Gut Feeling, for the latest on gluten, celiac, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, FODMAPs & PALEO

Mandatory gluten elimination is necessary for celiac, but improvements realized on the other diets may be due to carbohydrate restrictions which eliminate many FODMAPs.  Quinoa is low FODMAP.  The YouTube includes:

  • Interviews by Drs. Fasano and Gibson, celiac & FODMAP experts.
  • Bread preparation: bread fermented overnight has sufficient enzyme degradation of the “toxic” gluten whereas bread today is quick rise lacking sufficient degradation of the gluten protein.
  • Or maybe it is the added chemicals used in wheat grain milling.
  • Lastly, it is great to know if you lack the genes for celiac since that means you may be able to be a bit lax on total gluten elimination.

Summary of YouTube Gluten: A Gut Feeling, Published on Nov 24, 2015:
  • Is the surge in popularity of the gluten-free diet just a fad?  Gluten is the new dietary enemy. Millions of people around the world are giving up gluten in pursuit of better health. With celebrity endorsements and best selling books there is ground swell of support for gluten-free diet.
  • The believers say it can cure a wide range of diseases like arthritis, depression, even autism. But is this unprecedented uptake of the diet justified? Many doctors say that if you don’t have coeliac disease, you don’t need to avoid gluten. But emerging evidence is challenging this belief.
  • In this special investigation, Dr Maryanne Demasi cuts through the hype of the gluten free diet. Should we all get on board or is it just another fad? #ABCcatalyst

Label de-coding a KIND bar containing quinoa

Commercial cereal bars seem to skip the quinoa soak step entirely, not that that is the best thing for your gut.

This KIND bar contains: Whole grain blend (oats, brown rice, millet, oat flour, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa), tapioca syrup, dried cane syrup, honey, canola oil, coconut, chocolate liquor, sugar, brown rice syrup, molasses, gum acacia, sea salt, vanilla extract, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, Vitamin E (to maintain freshness).

When I label read, I see the colored ingredients as improperly prepared grains including rice with arsenic, the net sugar load, and emulsifier gum ingredients now shown to adversely alter gut microbiome (see Dr. Andrew Gerwirtz March 2016 Emulsifier presentation here, )…  #kindbar seems like a gut nightmare.  Even the FDA called out Kind bars for mislabeling  but their reasons were that in labeling the bars “healthy”,  some @KINDSnacks failed to meet the FDA’s “healthy claims definition” pertaining to saturated fat: The FDA says a food can make a “healthy” claim only if it has 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving and gets no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat.  Not much bite in that FDA  healthy claims labeling definition.  Then again, not many commercially prepared bars are what I’d term healthy, meaning truly gut friendly. Even the That’s It bars (only ingredients are an apple with fruit) throws at you non-organic apples and berries, both which are on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. At least the phytonutrients you’d get in these bars, which most are deficient in, may help offset the toxin loads.  Seems too that many eating the healing diets seem to tolerate the @ThatsItFruit bars, .

In conclusion,

lightbulb2Generally, there is little scientific study on anti-nutrient impact due to preparation for quinoa (ditto though for many other anti-nutrients and other pseudograins and grains).lightbulb2Soaking and fermenting will get rid of some of the lectins, phytates, saponins and protease inhibitors but not all of them. lightbulb2

Experiment with traditional soaking and fermenting methods; see if they work for you. lightbulb2


lightbulb2Regardless of what diet you are following, if any at all, I’d recommend proper preparation of quinoa ALWAYS not just for culinary taste but to be kind to your gut too.  

Best of health through awareness,


Last updated: December 3, 2017 at 10:23 am to add links to ATI and FODMAP posts here and here.  Last update Feb 9, 2017 added “but wheat is also a high FODMAP food meaning many have gut symptoms eating it in excess of your unique tolerance load.”  The previous update added in the related link: LEARN FROM THE ATHLETES WHY REDUCE, ELIMINATE GLUTEN

REFERENCES from #LifeExtension article,  Life Extension Magazine July 2015  SUPERFOODS, Quinoa A Complete, Gluten-Free Protein, By Michael Downey:

  1. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  2. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  3. Abugoch JLE. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.): composition, chemistry, nutritional, and functional properties. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2009;58:1-31.
  4. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  5. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  6. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  7. Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Genovese MI, Lajolo FM, Shetty K. Evaluation of indigenous grains from the Peruvian Andean region for antidiabetes and antihypertension potential using in vitro methods. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):704-13.
  8. Paśko P, Zagrodzki P, Bartoń H, Chłopicka J, Gorinstein S. Effect of quinoa seeds (Chenopodium quinoa) in diet on some biochemical parameters and essential elements in blood of high fructose-fed rats. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 December;65(4):333-8.  Also see Metabolic parameters of postmenopausal women after quinoa or corn flakes intake–a prospective and double-blind study.
  9. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  10. Available at: Accessed August 4, 2014.
  11. Bianchi F, Rossi E2, Gomes R3, Sivieri K2. Potentially synbiotic fermented beverage with aqueous extracts of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) and soy. Food Sci Technol Int. 2014 Jun 23.
  12. Carrion R, Murphy K, Ganjyal G, Kowalski R, Noratto G. Quinoa as source of bioactive compounds with potential for intestinal health. FASEB J. 2014 April;28(1):18.
  13. Gawlik-Dziki U, wieca M, Sułkowski M, Dziki D, Baraniak B, Czy J. Antioxidant and anticancer activities of Chenopodium quinoa leaves extracts – in vitro study. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jul;57:154-60.
1. Tommy Jönsson,Stefan Olsson, Bo Ahrén, Thorkild C Bøg-Hansen, Anita Dole, and Staffan Lindeberg. Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence – Do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance?BMC Endocr Disord. 2005; 5:10.
2. Gee JM, et al. Effects of saponins and glycoalkaloids on the permeability and viability of mammalian intestinal cells and on the integrity of tissue preparations in vitro. Toxicol In Vitro. 1996 Apr;10(2):117-28.
 3. The Paleo Mom. How Do Grains, Legumes and Dairy Cause a Leaky Gut? Part 2: Saponins and Protease Inhibitors
4. Van Damme JME. Handbook of plant lectins : properties and biomedical applications. Chichester, John Wiley; 1998. p. xiv, 452p : ill ; 26cm. [Ref list]
5. Freed DLJ. Lectins in food: Their importance in health and disease. Journal of Nutritional Medicine. 1991;2:45–65. [Ref list]
6. Freed DL. Do dietary lectins cause disease? Bmj. 1999;318:1023–1024.
 7. Johnson IT, Gee JM, Price K, Curl C, Fenwick GR. Influence of saponins on gut permeability and active nutrient transport in vitro. J Nutr. 1986 Nov;116(11):2270-7.
Cumulative food toxin load UC Davis study (currently the EPA looks only at individual toxin risk):

The study, Cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures for children and adults in California: a risk assessment also discussed in this article,  Kids may risk cancer from toxins in food looked at cumulative toxin load in children for 11 food based toxins in 44 foods and found that all of the 364 children exceeded cancer benchmark levels for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE (a DDT metabolite), and dioxins. Over 95% of preschool aged children 2-4 years exceeded levels for acrylamide (a cooking byproduct found in processed foods like potato, tortilla chip and processed grains) and 10% exceeded mercury levels. The preschool age group also had significantly higher estimated intakes of 6 of 11 compounds compared to school-age children age 5-7. Even relatively low exposures can greatly increase the risk of cancer or neurological impairment. Pesticide exposure was particularly high in tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans, and celery. The results of this study demonstrate a need to prevent exposure to multiple toxins in young children to lower their cancer risk. The 11 toxin compounds looked at were:  metals, arsenic, lead, and mercury; pesticides chlorpyrifos, permethrin, and endosulfan; persistent organic pollutants dioxin, DDT, dieldrin, and chlordane; and the food processing byproduct acrylamide.  The cohort was 207 preschool-age children (2–4 years), 157 school-age children (5–7 years), parents of young children (n=446), and older adults (n=149). young children.

To mitigate the toxins load, the researchers recommend: Vary diet to help protect us from accumulating too much of any one toxin since different toxins are applied to different fruit and vegetables.  Also reduce consumption of animal meat and fats, which may contain high levels of pesticide DDE and other persistent organic pollutants, and switch to organic milk. Despite the DDT ban 40 years ago, the study showed significant persistence and risk of legacy DDE exposure. While mercury is most often found in fish, accumulation varies greatly by species. Smaller fish, lower on the food chain, generally have lower mercury levels. In addition, acrylamides are relatively easy to remove from the diet. They form in chips and processed grains.

11 thoughts on “How & Why Properly prepare SOAK Quinoa”

    1. Hi! Great question! The water won’t run perfectly clear as in when you first draw your water. But the cloudiness should diminish significantly and stabilize, then I rinse a few more times especially to the point where the bubbling suds are gone. Hope this helps explain the process a bit better. It does seem like it takes a bit of time, but the mild nutty redic delic taste is so worth it. I hope your soaked quinoa was great. LMK how it turned out! Txs!

  1. Twenty percent of children with Celiac disease do not heal on a gluten-free diet, 2016,

    TROUBLING DATA: 20% celiac don’t heal on gluten-free, even after one year. Symptom status & labs (IgA tissue transglutaminase antibodies (IgA tTG)) don’t predict who has persistent CD enteropathy despite GF diet. 90% had excellent diet adherence. Typ followup uses labs & not endoscopy & biopsy. Growing evidence many CD adults have persistent enteropathy, despite having no symp & normal IgA tTG levels. Current guidelines need revised to do baseline endoscopy to confirm CD diagnosis + repeat biopsy to eval remission study:

  2. From SCD FAQ,

    The nutritional value of quinoa has been known for a long time to be superior to traditional cereals and is, in fact, superior to milk solids in feeding trails (White et al. 1955). Protein content ranges from 10 to 18% with a fat content of 4.1 to 8.8%. Starch, ash, and crude fiber average 60.1, 4.2, and 3.4%, respectively (DeBruin 1964; Ballon pers. commun.). The ash has been found to primarily consist of potassium and phosphorus (65% of total). Calcium and iron are significantly higher in quinoa than in rice, maize, wheat, or oats (White et al. 1955; DeBruin 1964). Variations have been observed between species and between landraces within species. Many landraces of quinoa contain saponin in the seedcoat. Saponins function as “antinutrients” and are frequently associated with plant lipids. They are not normally absorbed from the gut and have been shown to induce small intestinal damage or reduce intestinal absorption of nutrients (Jenkins 1988). Quinoa saponin is a known hemolytic when mixed with blood cells. In South America, saponin removed from quinoa is used as a detergent for clothing, washing and as an antiseptic to promote healing of skin injuries (D. Cusack pers. commun.; E. Ballon pers. commun.). Saponin can be removed either mechanically or with a water rinse (White et al. 1955; DeBruin 1964; Mahoney et al. 1975). Mechanical abrasion systems currently in use fail to remove all saponin, leaving bran with saponin attached to perisperm granules (Becker and Hanners 1991).

  3. Thank you for all the information you’ve put together. A few years ago I experimented with Quinoa, but realized I didn’t feel better after it. As soon as I began reading about the soaking methods, I pretty much took a break from Quinoa (especially being the only one in the family consuming it.) Everytime I think about another Quinoa purchase, I frustratingly realize the cooking instructions still mention nothing about properly soaking. I know now that when I ‘slow’ down, taking the time to prepare nutritious food – the soaking methods leave myself and the whole family feeling much better.

    1. Hi Priscilla. Thanks for stopping by! I am so glad that you have discovered the way to feeling better is to consume foods that work with our bodies instead of against it. Nourishing foods that feed the human and microbiome parts of us moves both body and mind to health. Such a simple recipe our ancestors knew that is lost in the rush of today’s fast cooking methods that ignore proper food prep. To make proper quinoa prep even simpler: You can make it in bulk when you can schedule it into your busy lifestyle. Then freeze it in a thin layer to be broken into chunks and separated into user friendly storage!

  4. 40 Foods with Superpowers,

    Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles.

    Quinoa – Muscle Enhancer
    “Move over white rice and make room for this South American grain,” says Lynn Grieger, an online health, food, and fitness coach ( Although technically a seed, this protein source contains a complete set of branch chain and essential amino acids, making it a tissue- and muscle-building powerhouse. “Its nutritional composition is better than most grains, so try to have one cup a week, alternating it with other healthy starches such as sweet potatoes and brown rice,” says Bowerman. “It’s a great breakfast cereal, especially when flavored with cinnamon.”

Now I'd like to hear your thoughts... comments are always welcome!