Grain of the Week: Amaranth

What Is Amaranth

This tiny-but-powerful food has some similarities to quinoa — both are good protein sources and are naturally gluten-free — but it also boasts some impressive nutritional stats of its own.

You’ll start seeing it pop up in processed foods like granola bars, but it’s also great to eat on its own, and can be prepared a few different ways.

Here are some interesting facts on Amaranth:

  • It’s Actually a Seed: Like quinoa, amaranth is not technically a grain but is the seed of the amaranth plant. One plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds.
  • Amaranth Is Gluten-Free: Amaranth doesn’t contain any gluten, which makes it a great choice for people who are celiac or gluten intolerant and an excellent way to boost the nutritional power of gluten-free recipes.
  • It Contains Lysine: Most grains like wheat are short on lysine, an amino acid, but that’s not the case for amaranth. This makes amaranth a complete protein, because it contains all the essential amino acids.
  • Amaranth Contains Protein: Amaranth’s protein content is about 13 percent, or 26 grams per cup, which is much higher than for most other grains. To compare, a cup of long-grain white rice has just 13 grams of protein.
  • It’s A Source of Key Vitamins and Minerals: Amaranth contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. One cup of uncooked amaranth has 31 percent of the RDA for calcium, 14 percent for vitamin C, and a whopping 82 percent for iron.
  • Amaranth Can Be Popped: Popped amaranth is used in Mexico as a topping for toast, among other things. It looks like tiny popcorn kernels and has a nutty taste, and you can even do it yourself at home.
  • It’s A Great Breakfast Option: Amaranth’s tiny grains take on a porridge-like texture when cooked, making it a great option for your first meal of the day.
  • It Can Help Keep You Regular: Among its other impressive nutritional stats, amaranth is also a source of fiber with 13 grams of dietary fiber per uncooked cup compared to just 2 grams for the same amount of long-grain white rice.

 

How to Cook:

Cooking amaranth is very easy and take 20-25 minutes.

Use a ratio of 1 1/2 cups liquid for every 1/2 cup amaranth. (Yield: 1 1/2 cups cooked.). Place amaranth and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

 

Nutrition Information per 1 cup cooked:

Calories 250, Fat 4g, Carbs 46g, Fiber 5g, Protein 9g, Iron 29% DV, Calcium 12% DV

 

Serving Tips

  • As a breakfast cereal. Simmered just right, amaranth has a sweetness and porridge-like consistency that make it a delicious cereal. Use a ratio of 1 1/2 cups liquid to 1/2 cup amaranth. (Yield: 1 1/2 cups cooked.) Place amaranth and water or apple juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Keep a close eye on it towards the end and then serve it right away, as it will turn gummy and congeal if overcooked or left to sit. Add fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and/or sweetener.
  • Popped. Toast a tablespoon of amaranth seeds a time in a hot, dry skillet. Continually shake or stir until the seeds pop. Eat them as a snack or use them to top soups, salads, and vegetable dishes. We've also heard that popped amaranth can be used to bread tofu or meat but haven't given it a try yet.
  • Combined with other grains. When cooked with another grain, such as brown rice, amaranth doesn't overwhelm with its sticky consistency but adds a nutty sweetness. Use a ratio of 1/4 cup amaranth to 3/4 cup other grain and cook as usual.
  • Added to soups and stews. Take advantage of amaranth's gelatinous quality and use it to thicken soup. A couple of tablespoons added while the soup is cooking is usually sufficient.

 

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