If the only nutritious grain you know is quinoa, then it’s time to up your whole foods game! Meet amaranth – a close relative of quinoa hailing from South America, where it was domesticated nearly 7,000 years ago. This gluten-free grain was a major food crop of the Aztecs due to its high protein, mineral and vitamin content.
It has more iron, calcium and phosphorus than most vegetables, and also, cup for cup it has more protein than oats (28.1g vs. 26.3g) and rice (28.1g vs. 13.1g).
Amaranth looks very similar to quinoa (the same tiny, round seeds) and has an earthy, nutty flavour that works wonderfully in tabouleh- or pilaf-style dishes with lemon juice, parsley and tomato. Another way, more unusual but absolutely delicious is to puff the amaranth and make energy balls with it or even “rice cakes” with amaranth and honey.
If that's not convincing enough, here are 7 more reasons why you should get into this gluten-free nutritional bombshell!
- Amaranth is rich in an amino acid called lysine, which makes it a complete protein, as is contains all 7 amino acids. With 26 grams of protein per cup, as opposed to 13 grams for white rice, it is no wonder we included amaranth into their protein-packed bliss ball mix!
- It's a great source of vitamins and minerals: 1 uncooked cup has 82% recommended daily intake of iron, 31% of calcium and 14% of vitamin C!
- Amaranth contains phytosterols, which can cut your levels of cholesterol!
- An impressive source of fibre, amaranth contains 13 grams per cup (uncooked). For comparison, white rice has just 2 grams!
- This tiny seed contains peptides and oils, which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, making it almost a dietary staple for those suffering from diabetes and heart disease.
- The antioxidants in amaranth may help protect cells from damage thus making it a measure to prevent cancer.
- Finally, it can make you younger because it prevents premature graying of the hair!
So how do I cook amaranth?
1 cup amaranth seed
2 ½ cups of water
Add amaranth to boiling water, bring to boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes.
Puffed (makes two cups)
6 Tbsp raw amaranth
Heat a medium pot over medium heat for quite some time to make sure it gets hot enough. To test – add a drop of water (if it instantly balls up, dances around the pot and evaporates – it’s ready). Put 1 Tbsp of amaranth in the pot, you should have a VERY thin layer covering the bottom. PUT THE LID ON (if you don’t, it will go everywhere). Lift the pot slightly and slide it back and forth: the grain should start popping in 2-3 seconds and should be ready in 10-15 seconds. It burns quickly, so keep an eye! Pour the amaranth into a bowl just as the popping is slowing down to make sure you don’t burn it. It takes some practice, but the result is delicious!