Looking to mix up your grit game? Popular options like quinoa, buckwheat, oats, and millet are great choices, but without amaranth, you’re missing out on a great addition to your meals.
You may not be familiar with this grain, but it dates back thousands of years in the human diet. According to the Whole Grains Council, the Aztecs called amaranth the “food of immortality.” Its peppery yet “pleasantly sweet” flavor with a herbal aroma means you can use it for both dinner and dessert. It may seem strange at first (isn’t it tasty, like quinoa?), but many bakers use this grain to make amaranth pudding, which is made with vanilla, raisins and coconut or chocolate and various nuts. Read on to learn more about this awesome whole food.
Where does amaranth grow
The Whole Grains Council says amaranth seeds were originally found in Argentina before humans moved them north through Mexico and then across Europe and Asia. Today, this grain can be found all over the world – even in your own backyard, if you get your hands on seeds. The advice adds that the plant can “adapt to a wide range of growing conditions and perform well at various altitudes”. Bonus: Vibrant magenta flowers add beautiful color to your garden before they start to turn brown and it’s time to harvest.
Nutritional values of amaranth
Here’s a simple breakdown of the notable macro and micronutrients packed into a cup of cooked amaranth:
- 251 calories
- 46 grams of carbs
- 5.17 grams of fiber
- 9.35 grams of protein
- 116 milligrams of calcium (9.67% Daily Value or DV)
- 54.1 micrograms of folate or vitamin B9 (13.53% DV)
- 5.17 milligrams of iron (28.72% DV)
- 160 milligrams of magnesium (50% DV)
- 332 milligrams of potassium (12.77% DV)
- 13.5 micrograms of selenium (24.55% DV)
Do not be afraid of the carbohydrates in amaranth – the amount is similar or lower than other whole grains. Amaranth also contains more protein per cup than other grains. Check out the carb and protein stats for other grains below (all cooked):
- Buckwheat groats: 155 calories, 33.4 grams carbs, 5.68 grams protein
- Oats (old fashioned): 154.7 calories, 26.7 grams carbs, 6.7 grams protein
- Millet: 207 calories, 41.2 grams carbs, 6.11 grams protein
- Quinoa: 222 calories, 39.4 grams carbs, 8.14 grams protein
This impressive amount of protein in amaranth is made even better by the fact that it is a complete protein, meaning it includes all nine essential amino acids. (Buckwheat, oats, millet, and quinoa also contain complete protein.) Along with that, the high fiber content makes it a beneficial addition for anyone looking to shed a few pounds thanks to the digestive and healing properties of nutrient. Plus: it’s gluten-free.
A word of warning: while there isn’t much data available on the glycemic index of amaranth, one study puts it at between 87 and 106, which is considered high. Therefore, people with diabetes should try mixing amaranth with foods high in fiber and protein, such as leafy greens and lean meat, to reduce the risk of it causing a spike in blood sugar.
Health benefits of amaranth
The Whole Grains Council also notes that amaranth contains a peptide called lunasin, which may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. A 2014 study published in Molecular nutrition and food research confirms this theory. During this study, researchers found that amaranth prevented the activation of NK-kB (a group of genes that trigger inflammatory and immune responses). Although inflammation is our body’s natural response to damaged or harmful cells, anyone with chronic inflammation issues could find relief by adding amaranth to their regular diet.
An earlier study from 2012 in the Journal of Food Science listed a few other benefits you can probably count on from amaranth that have been seen over the years, including lower cholesterol and blood sugar and improved high blood pressure. It also strengthens the immune system and can even prevent allergic reactions. (That’s a lot for such a small bean.)
How to cook amaranth
By now you are probably wondering how to cook amaranth. You can use it the same way as any other grain. The Whole Grains Counsel recommends combining one cup of dried grains with two cups of liquid (water or your favorite broth) and letting it boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. When finished, the texture should resemble porridge or polenta. Then toss just about anything on top, be it vegetables, fish or chicken. Or use it to create a sweeter treat with ingredients like chocolate and cinnamon. Try it the next time you crave a bowl of cereal and reap all of its delicious benefits.
This article was originally published on our partner site, First for Women.
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