In the early 1970s, Steve Gorad ’63 had a successful career as a clinical psychologist. He was in charge of the alcohol unit at Boston State Hospital and had a private practice, but he was restless. “It wasn’t enough,” he says. “I was a long-haired hippie writing [draft exemption] letters for people who didn’t want to go to Vietnam. I had doubts about what we really knew about psychology. I was a seeker.” So when Gorad’s boss at the hospital refused to give him time off to attend a 40-day spiritual workshop organized by a group called Arica, he quit. He immersed himself in Arica, turned his home in Boston’s South End into a commune, and traveled throughout Latin America. “My response to most everything during those years was to say yes,” he recalls.
While living in Chile, Gorad visited Bolivia. There he encountered quinoa, a grain considered peasant food in Latin America and relatively unknown elsewhere at the time. He was struck by its taste, and intrigued when told of its nutritional value. He began to study quinoa on frequent trips to the high-altitude region of Bolivia, called the Altiplano, where it’s widely grown, and by reading scientific papers. He learned that quinoa plants are often resilient even in the face of drought and frost. He learned, too, that quinoa’s protein content is unusually high, ranging from 11 to 21% (compared with less than 14% for wheat and roughly 7.5% for rice). He also found that it contains all the “essential” amino acids—those that must come from food because the body can’t make them on its own—in proportions close to the nutritionally ideal ratio. “This makes the quality of quinoa protein roughly equivalent to that of milk (casein) or egg (albumin), without any of the disadvantages of coming from an animal source,” he has written. (Gorad credits MIT for giving him the tools to evaluate the science behind these nutritional claims. “MIT taught me the scientific method,” he says. “I can’t just accept claims because I’m told about them. I need to see proof, and that has served me throughout life—and certainly when it came to quinoa.”)
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