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A Lesson in Moderation, for Health….And Life

Quinoa is a hot commodity these days.  It’s a quick cooking, versatile whole grain that packs tons of vitamins, minerals and is high in protein (12-18%).  And in recent years it has become one of the most in-demand grains in the US.  Great, you say, so what?

Well, the US is kind of ruining it for everyone else.  And by everyone, I mean Bolivians.  Bolivia is a poor country in South America where quinoa has been a staple food since the Incas but was production was discouraged by the conquistadors in the 16th century.  Quinoa was recently “rediscovered” by the US and the production demand has been financially beneficial for Bolivian farmers.  However, the demand for quinoa has increased in the US, raising the price and therefore making it less affordable to the Bolivian people.

Quinoa prices have almost tripled in the last 5 years, but consumption in Bolivia has fallen by more than a third during the same time period.  Those numbers seem too striking to be coincidental and more importantly, may put the people at risk of nutritional deficiencies.  Noodles (made from white flour) and white rice are only about a quarter of the price of quinoa and are quickly replacing it as a staple food.

There are other factors that are negatively affecting consumption too – young people don’t want quinoa as much and processed foods are more widely available now.  But, as a processed western diet increases in popularity, so does the risk of chronic disease.  Hopefully, the steps that Bolivian president Evo Morales is taking (making quinoa part of school lunch, offering it to the military, and giving loans to growers) will help slow the processed food consumption.  If we help preserve Andean culture, we can help support their economic growth without exhausting their resources or negatively affecting their health.

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2 Comments to "A Lesson in Moderation, for Health….And Life"

  1. jessica j says:

    WOW this is interesting. Didn’t know the story behind this. Thanks for sharing!

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