Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Bad News About Quinoa

Resolving to rebuild myself into a better, healthier me this year, I began consulting some nutritional blogs on how to improve my eating habits, including swapping out white rice for organic quinoa. That particular experiment didn't last long, which is a story I can get into at another time. For now, suffice it to say that the quinoa diet is not going to work for me.

Interestingly, not long after my failed transition to quinoa, I now read a rather alarming article on some potential negative consequences of adopting a quinoa-heavy diet. From Yahoo! News ("How many Bolivians are dying because foodies love quinoa?"):
Quinoa is a massive crop that for millennia has honed its extraterrestrial nutritional powers in the dizzying altitudes of the Andes. In recent years, this curious substance—like coke before it—has also become a major export for Peru and Bolivia.

But, as the Guardian recently reported, the foreign market for the good seed has driven the street price of quinoa up so high that most Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their homegrown staple. For the people who used to live on it, protein-dense quinoa is now more expensive than chicken.

Alas, this editorial proves to be little more than a lengthy and obnoxious diatribe against sanctimonious "foodies" ("foodists," even!) and their much-touted wonder-food, which author Virginia Heffernan swears she has given a fair shake. She spends several self-indulgent paragraphs trying to knock down vegan straw men–weak stuff that never should have made it past the editing process–taking forever to draw the conclusion foreshadowed by the portentous headline, which she then almost immediately backpedals away from, acknowledging that the data is inconclusive.

There are only two certain points to be found here, which don't really connect to one another, despite the author's best efforts to make it so:

1) Junk food is increasingly taking over the diets of Bolivian kids.

2) The author doesn't like people preaching to her about how to live her life (and she won't hesitate to use her Internet soapbox to tell you that).

To the author's credit, she does helpfully link to the relevant stories and blogs that sparked this recent quinoa controversy in the first place (and that largely shut it down before she ever even got to it).


Sam said...

Yeah, quinoa isn't really a staple in Peru.

Henry Fung said...

Oh, that's right - you actually would know! And I still have that key chain souvenir you brought back.