6 April 2016
You may have seen our packets of Amaranth on the shelves or you may not have! Either way this is definitely a grain that deserves a mention.
Believe it or not – this is the plant the Amaranth seed comes from and there are about 60 different species of plant, which are usually very tall plants with broad green leaves and impressively bright purple, red, or gold flowers. The name for amaranth comes from the Greek amarantos, “one that does not wither,” or “the never-fading.” True to form, amaranth’s bushy flowers retain their vibrancy even after harvesting and drying! Although several species can be viewed as little more than annoying weeds, people around the world value amaranth as leaf vegetables, cereals, and ornamental plants.
Amaranth isn’t a true cereal grain in the sense that oats, wheat, sorghum, and most other grains are. It actually belongs to a different plant species and although their overall nutrient profile is similar to that of cereals, it is actually a “pseudo” cereal.
This clever little grain also contains more than three times the average amount of calcium than any other grain and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. Very little research has been conducted on amaranth’s beneficial properties, but the studies that have focused on amaranth’s role in a healthy diet have revealed three very important reasons to add it to your diet:
It’s a protein powerhouse:
At about 13-14%, it easily trumps the protein content of most other grains. You may hear the protein in amaranth referred to as “complete” because it contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains.
It’s good for your heart:
Amaranth has shown potential as a cholesterol-lowing whole grain in several studies conducted over the past 14 years. In 2003, when researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that amaranth can be a rich dietary source of phytosterols, which have cholesterol-lowering properties. Just a few years later, in 2007, Russian researchers drew from the 1996 study to determine whether or not amaranth would also show benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Patients who presented with coronary heart disease and hypertension not only showed benefits from the inclusion of amaranth in their diets, researchers also saw a significant decrease in the amounts of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol.
It’s naturally gluten-free:
Gluten is the major protein in many grains and is responsible for the elasticity in dough, allows for leavening, and contributes chewiness to baked products. But more and more people are finding they cannot comfortably – or even safely – eat products containing gluten, often due to Celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.
How do I cook and eat Amaranth?
Cooking amaranth is very easy – measure grains and water, boil water, add grains, gently boil with the occasional stir for 15-20 minutes, then drain, rinse, and enjoy! Yes, it’s really that simple. Cooked amaranth behaves a little differently than other whole grains. It never loses its crunch completely, but rather softens on the inside while maintaining enough outer integrity so that the grains seem to pop between your teeth. In fact, the sensation of chewing a spoonful of cooked amaranth grains has been compared to eating a spoonful of caviar (without the salty fishiness, of course). It doesn’t really work in a pilaf, but the cooked grains can be spread on a plate or other flat surface to dry a bit, then sprinkled on salads, added to cookie batters, breakfast cereals or stirred into soups.
In fact, there’s only one real rule to follow when cooking up a batch of plain amaranth – don’t skimp on the water! We suggest at least 6 cups of water for every one cup of amaranth, not because the little grains will absorb that much
* 3 cups water
* 1 cinnamon stick
*1 1/2 cups amaranth flour (or use a coffee grinder to grind whole grain amaranth)
* 1/3 cup honey
* 1/2 Tablespoon butter (optional)
* 1 cup whole or roughly chopped pecans
Bring the water and the cinnamon stick to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and slowly whisk in the amaranth flour, to ensure that no lumps form. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and starts to boil again. Remove from heat and take out and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the honey and butter, if using. Pour into individual bowls and top with the toasted pecans.