EDIT ON JULY 25, 2013:

For those of you just joining me from a Google search, Pinterest, or somebody else’s blog, please read my update on this situation when you’re done reading this article as it has more information about food allergies in general.

If you’ve eaten quinoa (washed or unwashed) and had an allergic reaction, you’ll likely have another allergic reaction to quinoa no matter how much you wash it next time. Your body saw the quinoa protein come in with the toxin and probably will recognize the protein AS the toxin. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild itching … to DEATH. So be very careful!


I don’t normally post twice in a day, but this is important. Very important. It affects my health, and it potentially can affect the health of many, many others as the popularity of quinoa has grown exponentially since the advent of Pinterest and paleo-esque diets.

I’m having a pretty moderate reaction to my breakfast right now. I had quinoa, which was leftover from a batch I had on Wednesday night, which was followed by a MASSIVE 8-hour-long stomachcrampfest and near-death pain (okay not near-death but it freaking hurt). I chalked it up to the fact that I had bananas (see my note at the bottom) that day, and figured I’d just quit the naners for a while.

I’m now making the connection as I’m having some of the same symptoms as the other day, and haven’t had a banana since (YES  I can have bananas again!).

So … you’d think if there was a toxic substance in a food that can easily be removed by washing properly, there might be a WARNING label somewhere on the package.

Nope. Not with quinoa.

Quinoa has a naturally occurring toxic substance on it that can easily be removed by washing it properly.

If you do not wash quinoa properly, you can ingest the naturally occurring saponin, which protects the plant from insect and fungal attacks. Saponin is soapy, bitter, and toxic, and is actually used to make detergents. So you really should not eat it.

From what I’ve read all over the internets in my desperate attempt to find some relief is that if you have a reaction from quinoa like this, that if you ingest the saponin, your body will start to recognize the grain itself as being dangerous, and regardless of how much you wash it, you will continue to have reactions that worsen each time you eat it.

So bye, bye, quinoa. You are one of my favorite gluten-free grains. I guess I can add this to my already mile-long list of things I can’t eat. And to think, it could have been prevented if a simple WARNING LABEL was put on the packaging, or along with any quinoa recipes I’ve seen, giving proper cleaning instructions.

wash quinoa properly before eating or you could develop an irreversible allergy to the grain // lifeplusrunning.com // PLEASE REPIN

[source for original quinoa image]

Consider this your warning, and please pin this image and pass along as much as possible because it’s such a simple thing to do to avoid having to deal with a food allergy, or being in pain for hours on end. 

I’ve included a warning on all my quinoa recipes so that those who come across any of my recipes will at least have been warned of this issue.

This post about allergic reactions to quinoa gives instructions for washing your quinoa. Please read the instructions and wash this grain properly so you don’t develop an allergy and aren’t able to enjoy it anymore as I have done.

Here’s some more info about quinoa allergies.

I’m off to take some benedryl. I’m hoping that if I can wash a batch properly that I will not have this same reaction (send me some good vibes!)


Do you have food allergies?

I’ve never had an actual food allergy before. I’m sensitive to gluten and if I ingest a lot, I get really sick a few days later. I’m also sensitive to inulin, which is why bananas and onions sometimes make me sick (unless cooked).

60 Responses to #PSA Wash your Quinoa Unless you Want a Food Allergy

  1. Erika says:

    Thanks for this info! I’ve never reacted to whole grain quinoa (and I rinse it) but twice now I’ve been nauseous and then vomited after eating something made of quinoa flour. I might just switch to other grains altogether.

    • chimes says:

      Good call — listen to what your body is telling you. If you want to be sure, you could try just a bit of the flour and water, but I would just avoid it. My only worry for you is that you could be reacting to some other ingredient in the baked goods. However, if the flour was made from raw ground quinoa and not cooked, that could account for the different reactions because when you cook something the proteins are degraded, and when you have a reaction, it’s your body mistaking proteins in something for a toxin.

  2. Sally says:

    I made a quinoa dish yesterday evening and had some while it was warm. I started having a pain in my back like indigestion in the back. Thought it would go away but had a few more bites and it felt like molten lava going down the middle of my back. I had a hard time breathing and could not swallow as it was so painful to swallow. I was salivating a lot so I had to use a Dixie cup to spit in. I was screaming in pain and thought I might have to go to the hospital. I was in this pain for about 20 long minutes. I had a little quinoa at work and did not have this experience so did not think the painful episode was from that. So I had a little more later that night and the symptoms came back again but the pain was not as powerful. I do not have food allergies but it did cross my mind that could be the reason. So I looked it up on the web and found that this food can give people major problems. My pain was in my back but I am reading that people have stomach pains. Also, my nose was running and got stuffed up like a cold again. I rinsed the quinoa for quite a while but I am afraid of ever eating this food again. The pain was so bad I was thinking of asking my doctor to send me to a specialist. It is too much of a coincidence for this not to be a food allergy having had the same consequence two out of the three times eating it within a twenty-four hour period. This is really scary!

    • chimes says:

      Ugh. Wow. Do me a favor: if you ever get symptoms like that again, please go to the ER. They might not be related to quinoa in the future, but if you have symptoms, which quickly escalate like that, it is possible that your body could escalate further into shock, coma, or death. Allergic reactions (or reactions to toxins) are scary, scary things.

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