What You Should Know About Pseudograins and Paleo
Grains are typically classified as refined or unrefined (whole). But did you know that there are actually some grains that fall under the unrefined grain group but technically aren’t even grains? It’s true! They’re called pseudograins, and they’re a little bit different from other whole grains. Read on to learn more about pseudograins and whether they’re acceptable for Paleo eaters.
Pseudograins: What are they?
The difference between cereal grains — the real grains — and pseudograins comes down to botany. Cereal grains like wheat and rice are the edible seeds of grass, whereas pseudograins are the edible seeds of leafy plants, according to the Huffington Post. The origin of the seed is mainly what differentiates cereal grains from pseudograins. However, the latter is often referred to like any other grain because they’re consumed the same way. The most commonly eaten pseudograins are quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, which are used as alternatives to wheat and rice.
Benefits of Pseudograins
Nutritionally speaking, though, these two types are not equal. Pseudograins are naturally gluten free. In fact, researchers published a study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology that tested the gluten content of quinoa on people diagnosed with celiac disease. They found that celiac patients didn’t react negatively to quinoa in their diet, even if they ate it every day for six weeks. They even found small health improvements, like lower cholesterol and a healthier gut. Buckwheat and amaranth are also considered gluten-free foods.
Compared to others, pseudograins are also more nutritionally dense. They contain minerals such as magnesium, iron, manganese and B-vitamins. These grains are also high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The protein content is pretty good, too. Here’s a breakdown of the amount of protein per cup of the three pseudograins (raw):
• Amaranth - 28.1 grams
• Quinoa - 24 grams
• Buckwheat - 22.5 grams
Drawbacks of Pseudograins
Paleo eaters aren’t strict with carbohydrates like Keto eaters are. In fact, there’s an abundance of healthy carbohydrates in veggies and fruits listed here that you can eat! But, it should be noted that pseudograins are by no means low-carb foods.
What makes pseudograins not recommended for Paleo eaters is not the carb content but the anti-nutrients present. Anti-nutrients are plant chemicals that make it hard for the body to absorb and process certain nutrients. When it comes to pseudograins, there are two main types of anti-nutrients: saponins and lectins. The bitter taste of pseudograins are because of the saponins present on the seed’s surface. They prevent vitamins from being absorbed properly and are even thought to cause leaky gut. Lectins, on the other hand, make it hard for the body to absorb minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.
If I’m on Paleo, Should I Eat Pseudograins?
The answer to that question really depends on how strict you are with your Paleo diet. For people with gluten sensitivity, it can be a relief to find edible grains that cause no health problems, so incorporating them is no trouble. But if you’re concerned with malnutrition, eating pseudograins is not ideal given that you might have difficulty benefiting from its nutrients.
If you choose to gradually introduce pseudograins into your diet, experts recommend soaking them first. This helps reduce the amount of anti-nutrients like saponins. If your quinoa still tastes bitter, that probably means you need to soak it longer! At least 30 minutes before cooking is ideal.
Image credit: We Know Rice
You can also slow cook pseudograins in a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot. It’s the only way to significantly reduce or even completely eliminate the presence of lectins, which can make it healthier. Try making buckwheat porridge in an Instant Pot using the slow cooking setting. Roasting the seeds is another option for making them healthier.
Lastly, some say that sprouting the grains reduces the anti-nutrient content. Self Magazine notes that sprouting breaks down the phytic acid, another anti-nutrient that may also be present in pseudograins. Sprouted grains can also be easier to digest. Plus, it’s a fun experiment to germinate your own seeds and harvest them later on!
Again, it’s completely up to you if pseudograins should be incorporated into your diet. There are certainly benefits to eating more quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, but you also have to think about your own nutritional goals. Hopefully, this article helps you decide on that! Have more questions about pseudograins? Leave a comment below or contact us to learn more.
Exclusively written for Within/Without by Aelle Mehr