July 16, 2018

Can You Develop a Quinoa Allergy?

Research suggests that more than 4 percent of children and 4 percent of adults in the United States are affected by food allergies. This makes food allergies one of the most commonly occurring allergic conditions. While most people develop allergies to foods like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish or shellfish, a person may be allergic to almost anything. Thus, in some people, eating quinoa leads to an allergic reaction.


Quinoa is a tiny, grain-like food, rich in protein, which is often called a superfood. It is described by many nutritionists as a pseudo-cereal. But despite its appearance, quinoa belongs to the fruit family.

The risk of reacting to quinoa is quite low, but the reaction may be dangerous. Therefore, it is important to know the symptoms of quinoa allergy and how to treat them.

What Are the Symptoms of a Quinoa Allergy?


In quinoa-allergic people, this food may trigger the symptoms ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms are likely to occur soon after a person eats or comes into direct contact with quinoa.

According to experts at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, normally, it takes about 2 hours for the reaction to appear. However, in some cases, you may experience the symptoms 4 to 6 hours after being exposed to the allergen.

When it comes to mild reactions, you may experience coughing, wheezing, a hoarse throat, tightness in the throat, swelling of the tongue, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.

People with severe allergies to quinoa may experience difficulties with breathing, lower blood pressure, and accelerated heartbeat. These are the signs of anaphylaxis – a severe form of an allergic reaction.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires an immediate treatment. It involves an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and a follow-up medical care.

Sometimes, allergies may develop in adulthood. You may have been able to eat quinoa without any problems, but the next exposure may trigger a reaction.

What Can You Replace Quinoa with?


There are many people who use quinoa to replace rice or wheat. It is also a commo ingredient is salads, soups, pilafs, and black bean burgers.

Speaking of good alternatives to quinoa, you may want to try barley. Other options include rice, which is often used in recipes instead of quinoa, as well as corn, oats, couscous, and rye.

How Is Quinoa Related to Saponins?


Some people with an allergy to quinoa may actually have an allergy to its saponins – the chemicals found in the fruit’s coating. These substances are also contained in soybeans, chickpeas, amaranth seeds, and legumes.

The waxy texture of saponins serves as protection of the plant from insects. In some people, these chemicals may trigger an overreaction of the immune system.

You can actually prevent the allergy symptoms by removing the saponin from quinoa. To do so, you can try soaking the food in water for about half an hour and then rinsing it. This should be done before you start cooking it.

Which Foods Should You Avoid with a Quinoa Allergy?


To prevent an allergic reaction to quinoa, you should avoid quinoa and foods containing it. Anyone with a food allergy should always read the ingredients labels carefully to avoid the allergens.

As mentioned earlier, quinoa is often contained in salads and in certain vegan dishes to help with the consistency and taste.

In addition, if you are allergic to quinoa, you may also be sensitive to similar foods, especially apples. According to a study published in 2018, a quinoa allergy can be linked to an apple allergy.

If you eat foods that are similar to those you are allergic to, they may also trigger a reaction in your body.

How Do You Get a Diagnosis?


Allergic reactions to quinoa may be severe and even life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to visit an allergist or immunologist, if you think that this food is causing your immune system to overreact. The doctor may suggest that you get tested for an allergy, which will help to determine the actual trigger of your allergy. Based on the test results, your symptoms and your medical history, the specialist will make a diagnosis.

If you notice having the symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should seek an immediate medical help.

The Bottom Line


If you have an allergy to quinoa, the best way to prevent the reaction is to avoid the allergen.

If you had experienced quinoa-induced anaphylaxis before, your doctor will prescribe you an epinephrine auto-injector (for example, EpiPen) that you should carry wherever and whenever you go. If you notice any symptoms of a severe reaction, you should use the auto-injector as soon as possible.

If you experience mild reactions to quinoa, you can try soaking and rinsing quinoa before cooking it. This is because in some people, the reaction is triggered by saponins. Soaking and rinsing helps to remove these chemicals.

Besides, there are a lot of various alternatives to quinoa you can still enjoy eating.


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