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Is Eating Quinoa Unethical? Here Are 4 Healthy Quinoa Alternatives

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The growing popularity and soaring prices of quinoa, the protein-packed grain-like “superfood” that’s loaded with fiber and essential vitamins and minerals, have created what many experts are calling a “quinoa quandary.”

With the demand for quinoa soaring in more affluent countries, the price of this crop has tripled since 2006. Although the surge has helped increase revenue for farmers in Peru and Bolivia—the neighboring countries to which nutrient-dense staple is native— many locals can now no longer afford to eat it.

So is consuming high amounts a quinoa an ethical misstep?

It’s no secret that quinoa consumption is down in its native regions, which has many experts concerned that the soaring prices of this South African culinary staple threaten the food security of two countries that already suffer from malnutrition.

Others, however, believe consumption is down because the increased revenue being brought in from rising quinoa prices is allowing natives to diversify their diets, adding more nutritious (and not-so-nutritious) foods to their diets such as fresh vegetables and (gasp!) Coco-Cola, foods they once couldn’t afford.

Not surprisnly, there are reports that those who say the countries of Peru and Bolivia are ‘fine with their loss of quinoa”

Luckily, no matter where you fall in the debate, plenty of other grains and vegetables offer all the positive health benefits of quinoa. By diversifying our food selection, we can help responsibly support a healthy, growing global economy.

Four Amazing Alternatives to Quinoa

Buckwheat. Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain that has been used for thousands of years and it can help keep you healthy, full of vigor, and light on your feet. In addition to buckwheat’s high vitamin and mineral content, buckwheat is quite high in protein and soluble fiber. In fact, buckwheat provides the most protein of all grains, second only to oats.

Spelt. An ancient grain, spelt is an excellent source of vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, thiamin and copper. It’s been said spelt is especially helpful for those who commonly encounter migraines or have diabetes. The great thing about spelt is that it is a whole food, unlike wheat, which loses nutritional bran and germ during milling. Since it’s highly water soluble, your body will absorb all of spelt’s constituents quickly and digest it easily. Spelt is commonly used as a key ingredient in salads and baking.

Amaranth. Amaranth is actually a vegetable, not a grain, and it contains plenty of protein, iron and calcium. Amaranth contains up to 30% more protein than wheat flour, rice and oats and contains a complete set of amino acids. Although it is suspected to have originated in South America and Mexico, nowadays many Asian and Caribbean countries export this healthful hero. One of the best things about amaranth is its versatility and easy cooking methods. You can boil or steam Amaranth or simply include it in stir-fry or soup.

Millet. Millet is gluten-free and packed with a host of nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Millet is actually one of the few grains that is alkalizing to your body, so it’s excellent to balance the body’s pH. Just be sure to consume plenty of water, as millet offers up quite a dose of fiber.


Amanda Schoonover lives in New Jersey where she blogs, takes photographs and advocates for low-impact living. She loves to write about frugal, eco-friendly lifestyle choices and sustainability at her blog, a thrifty hippie. You can also follow along with her on Twitter at @athriftyhippie.


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