When people consider including more whole grains in their diet, they often think of common sources such as oats or wheat. However, many less conventional options, including quinoa, spelt, barley, and amaranth exist and are just as much if not more beneficial to your health!
Technically, Amaranth is a seed, rather than a true cereal grain, like oats, wheat, and sorghum, which come from the Poaceae family of plants. Instead, it is a member of the chenopodiaceae plant family, making it a relative of beets, spinach, swiss chard, and quinoa. The crop is native to Peru, with a long history in Mexico. It was known to be a food staple in the diet of the Aztecs.
Amaranth is naturally gluten-free, with an overall nutrient profile similar to cereal grains such as oats, as well as leafy green vegetables. It is an especially good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Vitamins C and E are also present. This ‘grain’ is low in saturated fat and a good source of both fiber and protein. At 13-14% protein, the protein content of Amaranth is considerably higher than its relative cereal grains. Due to the fact that the amino acid Lysine is present, Amaranth is considered a complete protein, of high nutritive value compared to other sources of plant protein. Another benefit? Studies indicate that patients with coronary heart disease and hypertension showed benefits from adding amaranth to their diets. The result was a decrease in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Amaranth has a crunchy texture, and earthy-nutty flavor. It can be ground into flour, popped like popcorn, cooked like porridge or oatmeal, or combined with other grains to make a rice-like dish. Because it readily absorbs water, it has great emulsifying properties.
Nutrition facts: 1 serving is 1/4C dry amaranth. 180kcal, 3 g total fat (1 g saturated), 10 mg sodium, 31 g carb, 7 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 7 g protein, 80 mg calcium, 170mg potassium.
I had to experiment with Amaranth for myself so I made Amaranth bars 🙂 I found the recipe here. The bars are very sweet, basically a dessert.
- 1/2 C creamy all-natural peanut butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp honey
- 1 C puffed amaranth
Directions: Begin by puffing amaranth. I used about 5 tbsp. Heat a saucepan on high. Once it has warmed up completely, add 1/2 the Amaranth. This is an art. The amaranth will pop very
quickly and burn if overcooked. Use the lid because the grain will pop around just like popcorn. Roll/ shake the pan around for 10-15 sec as the grain pops then transfer to a separate bowl. Repeat with last 1/2 of amaranth. Combine with peanut butter, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Stir well. Press into a glass loaf pan. Refrigerate for several hours until firm, then slice into squares.