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Miracle Food Blues: Bolivia Trades Health for Cash

Posted on Mar 21, 2011
rusvaplauke (CC-BY)

The nutritional virtues of quinoa have been known since the Inca had an empire, but now that it’s sent around the world to satisfy the bourgeois appetites of the Whole Foods set,  some Bolivians have become malnourished although slightly better off economically.

New York Times:

Now demand for quinoa (pronounced KEE-no-ah) is soaring in rich countries, as American and European consumers discover the “lost crop” of the Incas. The surge has helped raise farmers’ incomes here in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries. But there has been a notable trade-off: Fewer Bolivians can now afford it, hastening their embrace of cheaper, processed foods and raising fears of malnutrition in a country that has long struggled with it.

The shift offers a glimpse into the consequences of rising global food prices and changing eating habits in both prosperous and developing nations. While quinoa prices have almost tripled over the past five years, Bolivia’s consumption of the staple fell 34 percent over the same period, according to the country’s agricultural ministry.

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By ProgressivesWin, March 24, 2011 at 2:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mix quinoa with millet. Cooks really easily, raises the nutritional value of each to eat them together, tastes good.

My improved, high protein version of “cream of wheat (or rice)” which costs pennies to make and is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and lasting energy: Grind in coffee grinder if you don’t have a blender or mill - 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, 1/2 cup uncooked red winter wheat, 1/2 cup uncooked lentils, 1 cup uncooked millet, 1 cup uncooked brown rice. Mix all together, cook 1/2 cup at a time in about 2 cups of water over low heat until done to taste (about 20 minutes). Butter, garlic, a little pepper, whatever, or eat with honey and butter. Really delicious, filling, perfect lightweight food for backpacking. And did I mention how CHEAP it is? And how much better than the store-bought stuff?

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By samosamo, March 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment


A miracle food? I rather think not and would not want my
nutritional requirements coming from only this source.

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy   1,539 kJ (368 kcal)
Carbohydrates   64 g
Starch   52 g
Dietary fibre   7 g
Fat   6 g
polyunsaturated   3.3 g
Protein   14 g
Water   13 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1)  0.36 mg (28%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2)  0.32 mg (21%)
Vitamin B6   0.5 mg (38%)
Folate (Vit. B9)  184 ?g (46%)
Vitamin E   2.4 mg (16%)
Iron   4.6 mg (37%)
Magnesium   197 mg (53%)
Phosphorus   457 mg (65%)
Zinc   3.1 mg (31%)

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 22, 2011 at 9:07 pm Link to this comment

For gods sake don’t let monsanto get ahold of it.

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By Conden, March 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm Link to this comment

Quinoa has been available in US health food stores since before “whole foods” existed.  Many people are intolerant to gluten or have celiac disease, and can’t handle rice, wheat, oats, etc.  But amaranth is another good alternative grain that grows in the US; perhaps it should be cultivated more.  Importing/exporting anything but wild food that isn’t needed by the citizens of the country should be illegal.  “Free trade” is always a stickup.

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By Jeb, March 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“bourgeois appetites ” and “Whole Foods set”...come on,
its a grain. Are people supposed to feel guilty for eating
an alternative grain that is touted for its nutritional
value? Shame on you Truthdig writer for being unnecessarily divisive. If we were talking about caviar or
Tiger tongue it would make sense but no, quinoa is a
simple grain. It’s pretty darn good in soup by the way!

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By Anarcissie, March 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

Processed foods are not cheaper.

In theory, if the price of quinoa rises, more farmers should start growing it, eventually causing the price to fall as economies of scale kick in. 

If this is not happening, then it is probably not the immediate fault of the ‘Whole Foods set’, whoever they are.  Poor ‘Whole Foods set’—if they don’t buy the products of the Bolivians, they’re bad; if they do buy the products of the Bolivians, they’re bad.  Maybe they should just kill themselves.  But whatever, don’t let’s perform an actual, rational, reality-based examination of the price of quinoa.

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