Quinoa is certainly a controversial ingredient when it comes to the Paleo approved food list. Though quinoa is a non-grain, technically a seed, it does contain phytic acid and lectins. These are same anti-nutrients present in grains and legumes, compromising the absorption of key minerals and contributing to “leaky gut” syndrome. It doesn’t settle well with some, with others its a great alternative to grains and rice. It should absolutely be limited to “in moderation” status. Depending on your goals and the concerns that led you to committing to the Paleo lifestyle, you will have to decide for yourself if you’re comfortable eating this.
Here are some links that will help you make your decision.
Cliffnote: Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and has a moderate glycemic index rating so it won’t spike your blood sugar and give you an energy crash. This seed is rich in B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium and fiber.
Mark’s Daily Apple: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/alternatives-to-grains-quinoa/#axzz21bQdqNJL
Cliffnote: Quinoa is a complete protein, rich in all nine amino acids plus a handful of critical minerals. It is still relatively carb-heavy, so shouldn’t be eaten regularly. Makes a suitable rice and pasta substitute when needed/desired. MDA offers caution to its praises. Paleo is grain-free and accepts seeds… this one just comes with some baggage.
The Paleo Plan: http://www.paleoplan.com/2011/04-27/phytates/
Cliffnote: The ultimate low-down on Phytic Acid… for those of us who speak English. Phytates actually bind to the calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron in your intestines and take them out of your body. That’s a big downer. Also, did you know that many nuts and seeds have a higher phytate count than grains or legumes!? Something to think about…
The Paleo List: http://thepaleolist.com/2012/12/10/is-quinoa-paleo/
Cliffnote: It’s not all bad, but why eat it when you don’t have to? These guys are great for short, accurate answers to big Paleo food questions. They highlight saponin, phytic acid and leptin content.
Nutrition Data: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/10352/2
Cliffnote: Scientific nutritional number stuff.
As I’ve said before, the Paleo Diet is on a spectrum and it’s up to you to educate yourself to decide where you stand. I personally adhere to the mindset that I will eat as close to ideal as possible, but not sweat the days, meals or ingredients that aren’t 100% compliant. Most days I’m at 90% Paleo and that works just fine for me. I encourage you to inform yourself and trust your instincts when it comes to what your body and lifestyle require. Mine requires variety and flavor and some grain-free carbs once and a while. And I’m gonna eat two of these bad boys for dinner.
- 4 cups cooked quinoa (one cup raw makes 4 cups cooked)
- 2 small handfuls of baby spinach, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
- 2 TBSP parsley
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 cup feta
- 5 eggs
Slice, zest and chop away. Then add everything except the eggs to the cooked (and cool) quinoa, mix well. Once everything is combined, add in the scrambled eggs. Mixing the eggs ahead of time means you don’t risk getting that stream of egg white running across the burger once these are cooked up.
Heat a large sauté pan with your fat of choice. I made bacon for lunch and still had the fat in the pan, it’s a no-brainer for this girl. When it comes to temperature there’s a sweet spot for cooking quinoa burgers–too hot and the burger burns before the egg inside is cooked through, too cool and the quinoa absorbs too much of the oil, gets soggy and falls apart. Shoot for medium to medium-high and adjust as needed. The other trick to cooking a perfect quinoa burger is come hell or high water DO NOT MOVE IT until it’s ready to be flipped! The best way to turn your burger into nuggets is to start messing around with it before it’s cooked through. Simply make sure your pan is hot, the fat is sufficient, drop the patty in and let it brown until ready to flip. It’s that easy. You’ll know it’s time to flip when the edges have a deep brown crust, the patty slides around in the pan easily when given a little shake and not much fluid is given up when you press down slightly on the top of the burger. Use your senses and your judgement when cooking, not always a timer!
Make each burger patty as you are loading them into the pan. They are fragile and temperamental and high-maintenance… but so worth it! Let the cooked burgers rest on a paper towel until you’re done with the batch.
I’m serving these tonight with a quick cucumber salad. I threw together a few ingredients I had on hand… lots of high notes to balance out the savory bacon-fat-fried quinoa! Perfect pairing!
GREEK CUCUMBER SALAD
- 1/2 english cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 TBSP flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp Chia seeds
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
- pinch of kosher salt
- pinch of dried oregano
- couple grinds of black pepper
Slice the cucumber and kalamatas, chop the parsley. Toss in a medium mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and give it a mix–that’s it! Spoon a heap of this on top of the quinoa burger to balance it out.