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Diet & Nutrition > Foods > Amaranth

A super grain high in protein

Amaranth (Amaranthus) is an erect summer annual that often grows to more than 6 feet tall. It was cultivated by the Aztecs in what is now Mexico where similarly to quinoa, after the Spanish conquest, the growing and use of amaranth was banned by Spanish colonists, however it remained in limited use and actually continued to grow as a weed until it was re-discovered in the 1970's and its use has spread globally.

Nutrition

Amaranth is rich in protein and contains amino acids not generally found in other grains making it a complete source of protein and it's completely gluten free.

It's also a healthy source of fiber, linoleic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins E, A and C. It also contains 6-10% of predominantly unsaturated oil, which is found mostly within the germ.

The fibre content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and its iron content, five times more than wheat. It contains twice the calcium as found in milk, so using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry.

Easy to digest, amaranth also has cholesterol-lowering properties and its 90% digestible making it ideal for those with weak digestion such as those recovering from an illness or ending a fasting period.

Popular Usage

The whole plant has many used, the leaves can be eaten and have a similar taste to spinach. The seeds can be eaten as gruel called or milled into flour to make chappatis (flat breads). Cook as a cereal, grind into flour, pop like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutritional thickening agent.

Used as a grain substitute or alone, amaranth flavour is mild, sweet, nutty, and malt like, with a variance in flavour according to the variety being used. It also has a "sticky" texture that contrasts with the fluffier texture of most other grains and care should be taken not to overcook it as it can become very gooey.

In Mexico it is often used to make a very delicious and nutritious sweet candy called 'alegría' (Spanish for happiness). The grains are popped, mixed with honey and made into bars or balls. In India, it goes by the name of 'luddos' - a popular food provided where instead of honey, the popped grains are mixed with melted jaggery (a traditional unrefined sugar) to make an iron & energy rich treat and the sprouts can be used in sandwiches and salads.

References
The Whole Grain Cookbook
Stalking the Wild Amaranth Gardening in the Age of Extinction (Hardcover).

 



 

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