Fashionable Food Fads: Quinoa’s Healthy Benefits Raise Questions in Celiac Disease

Doctor by day. Food fashionista by night.





The far more fashionable accessory to have these days when hitting up a new restaurant is not a new pair of Manolo Blahnik’s. The accessory happens to be eatable. Food has never been more fashionable – especially the side dish. I am talking about the increasingly popular Quinoa.

When Quinoa was becoming a more popular diet trend a few years back, I surprisingly didn’t jump on the bandwagon. I really did not pay more attention to it’s growing trend, as I already incorporated whole grains into my diet. Also because the effects the quinoa craze left on the communities of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador – where Quinoa is grown. It’s sales soared international demand, but caused the locals to no longer able to afford it.

Thanks to a fellow colleague at the hospital, I am intrigued to set out on a mission to find out what makes this super grain so appealing across the world.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH) has already gone mainstream. A-list movie stars have been seen buying it at the grocery store. Restaurant owners have it on the menu and more than 100 countries have it shipped in. A few years ago I may have asked someone where I could find the kwi-NO-ah, but now I know better than to mispronounce this grain. Once a fad, this high protein grain is here to stay.

The “superfood,” marketed as a protein-rich meat substitute, which is also low-fat and gluten-free, is selling out of supermarkets across the country. Why? What makes it so special is that Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein and comprised of all nine essential amino acids. Sounds too good to be true? Well, believe it.



But, what do you do if you have Celiac’s Disease? Many doctors and nutritionists recommend foods like buckwheat and quinoa as substitutes for wheat and other grains that are toxic for celiac patients; however, recent studies may suggest that quinoa contains proteins similar enough to gluten to activate the immune system of those patients with celiac disease – leading to an acute attack.

Alternatives to gluten are absolutely vital to those diagnosed with celiac disease, as patient’s must live a life-long, strict gluten-free diet.

A new study published January 21, 2014 in The American Journal of Gastroenterology studied the effects of quinoa in Celiac patients. Lead study author Dr. Victor Zecallos found that celiac patients can not only tolerate but improve on a diet including quinoa.

The study, titled “Gastrointestinal Effects of Eating Quinoa in Celiac Patients” examined 19 subjects, each with celiac disease, for six weeks on their gluten-free diet. And what researchers found was that both the results from the blood tests and the gastrointestinal parameters were normal throughout the study in each patient with celiac’s that ingested 50 grams of quinoa every day.

Researchers concluded that an immune response similar to the immune response to gluten could be possible with significantly higher amounts of quinoa in the diet (more than 50 grams) and that “further studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of quinoa consumption.”

The best option? – Talk to your doctor or nutritionist before making any drastic changes in your diet.



Quinoa Dishes to try:
Warm Quinoa Salad with Edamame & Tarragon

Warm Quinoa Salad with Edamame & Tarragon

1 cup  quinoa
2 cups  vegetable broth
2 cups  frozen shelled edamame, thawed (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon  freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons  lemon juice
2 tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons  chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon  salt
12 ounces  dry sea scallops, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or dry bay scallops
4 teaspoons  reduced-sodium tamari, or soy sauce, divided
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons  canola oil, divided
1 1/2 cups  quinoa, rinsed well
2 teaspoons  grated or minced garlic
1 cup  trimmed and diagonally sliced snow peas, (1/2 inch thick)
1/3 cup  rice vinegar
1 teaspoon  toasted sesame oil
1 cup  thinly sliced scallions
1/3 cup  finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup  finely chopped fresh cilantro
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Dr. Danielle Krol, a native of the Philadelphia area, spent the majority of her early life growing up in New Jersey. With over 15 years’ experience in Dance and Theatrical Arts, Dr. Krol was pursuing a career as an actress until her mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. For the 3 years that followed, Dr. Krol placed her life on hold and took the responsibility of Caretaker for her terminally ill mother. Her passion for medicine came about during her mother’s illness, and her determination to become a doctor came about after her passing in 2002.