What Makes Amaranth So Amazing?

Q: What is Amaranth?

A: Amaranth is a member of the “goosefoot family” of plants, technically referred to as  Chenopodiaeceae.    Its kin includes quinoa, beets, Swiss chard and spinach. Amaranth’s closest cousin is the popular grain, quinoa. The two are often likened to cereal grains (oats, wheat, sorghum) due to their appearance, flavor and nutritional profile. In fact, amaranth is often eaten as a hot cereal. Read on for a scrumptious breakfast recipe and other ways to use the amazing amaranth.  

cooked amaranth in a bowl

What’s really amazing is that each amaranth plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds, making it an efficient and highly sustainable food source. These seeds or grains can be prepared in a number of ways or even ground into flour. They are packed with various nutrients and are delicious, to boot!

The cultivation and use of amaranth grain originated in the ancient Aztec civilization. It is estimated that around 80% of the Aztecs’ calorie consumption was from amaranth grain alone. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, amaranth crops were burned and its use was forbidden. It has resurfaced in modern day Mexico, and these descendants of the Aztecs consume amaranth as a staple part of their diets. In recent decades, amaranth has made its way into different cultural diets around the world.

Q: Why is amaranth considered to be a superfood?

Amaranth is incredibly high in protein and fiber, while being low in calories and fat. It’s considered a complete protein source, meaning it has adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids. Amaranth is especially rich in lysine, an essential amino acid which helps to convert fat into energy and promotes healthy collagen production.* It also contains above average amounts of calcium, magnesium and iron, and it’s the only grain known to provide vitamin C. Did we mention it’s also completely free of gluten?

Amaranth nutrition chart

Amaranth is an excellent source of fiber and protein. Plus it’s perfect for gluten-free and vegan diets.

Q: How do I prepare Amaranth?

A: Cooking with amaranth is easy, as you’ll see from the recipe below. Its natural nuttiness makes it great eaten alone or added to just about any meal for a boost of flavor and quality nutrition.

Another popular method of preparing amaranth is to pop the grains. Yes, just like popcorn (very tiny popcorn). Bring a large pan or skillet to high heat, reduce a bit and add a few tablespoons of amaranth at a time. Cover with a lid or strainer and shake pan. It should pop almost immediately and become white in color. We recommend adding a bit of olive oil and sea salt after the grains have popped for a delicious and filling snack.

You can also enjoy this grain in its ground-up, flour form. Amaranth flour can be used in many creative ways. For instance, it’s gaining popularity in gluten-free recipes — from cookies and brownies to made-from-scratch breads and pastas.

Now it’s time to get cooking and give this grain a go. Try this recipe for a warm breakfast bowl ‘o porridge:

Morning Amaranth Porridge

3 cups water
1 cup amaranth
1-2 tsp raw honey
1 tsp coconut oil
2 tsp cinnamon powder
Sea salt to taste

Add amaranth to medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Eat up!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. 

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Health & wellness Q & A from Vitacost.com' product experts Matt Albretsen and Ryan Halvorsen. Submit your question at productinfo@vitacost.com

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One comment on “What Makes Amaranth So Amazing?

  1. Lynn says:

    Is there a substitution for coconut oil in the amaranth porridge? I can not tolerate the taste of anything coconut.

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