Quinoa Allergy Test
Latin name: Chenopodium quinoa
Source material: Dried seeds
Family: Amaranthaceae (Chenopodiaceae)
Common names: Quinoa
Quinoa is a food which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.
Quinoa Allergy Test: Allergen Exposure
Quinoa is an annual flowering plant which is grown as a grain crop. Originating in the Andes mountains of South America it has been cultivated by humans for around 4,000 years. Today it is cultivated in Bolivia, Argentina and Peru, as well as Colorado, USA and several European countries.
Although it is used as a grain, quinoa is not a true cereal unlike wheat, barley or rice, and in fact is closely related to spinach. It is valued for its nutritional profile, which exceeds that of many other grains. Quinoa is rich in protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, and dietary minerals.
The quinoa seed is small, and looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet in size, shape, and colour.
Quinoa is a versatile ingredient, and the dishes it features in range from staple foods to spicy delicacies. Quinoa flour, ground from whole seeds, has a delicate, nutty flavour. As it contains no gluten, it is an ideal wheat substitute for those with wheat or gluten allergies, as well as sufferers of coeliac disease.
In recent years, quinoa has become increasingly popular in Western diets, and is found especially in health food stores and restaurants that emphasize natural foods and healthy eating.
Due to quinoa’s high concentration of protein, ease of use, versatility in preparation, and potential for increased yields in controlled environments, it has been selected as an experimental crop by NASA for long-duration human occupied space flights.
Quinoa Allergy Test: Allergen Description
No allergens present in quinoa have been characterised to date.
Quinoa Allergy Test: Potential Cross-Reactivity
An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected but has not been described to date. Closely related family members include the weed goosefoot or lamb’s quarters, which may be of relevance for pollen exposure.
Quinoa Allergy Test: Clinical Experience
Quinoa may rarely induce symptoms of food allergy in sensitised individuals.
Symptoms can include stomachaches, itchy skin, hives, and other common symptoms of food allergies. It has been suggested that in many cases, allergic reactions to quinoa may in fact be caused by saponin, a soapy substance which coats the outside of quinoa grains.
This substance is usually removed during processing, however it is possible that trace amounts remain, and where quinoa makes up a large part of a person’s diet, the cumulative effect may lead them to experience symptoms.
Soaking and rinsing quinoa grains prior to using them in cooking can help to remove any remaining saponin and render the grain safe to eat.
Saponin is a known toxic glycoside, which is known to be a mild eye and respiratory irritant and a low gastrointestinal irritant. It also gives unwashed quinoa a bitter flavour and has antinutritional properties. The same substance is found in alfalfa, hops and soybean.