When perusing the cereal aisle, I have come across boxes boasting that they contain amaranth. This started me wondering, is it healthier than other grains?
Amaranth was a staple in the diets of pre-Columbian Aztecs, who believed it had supernatural powers and incorporated it into their religious ceremonies. Ground amaranth seed was mixed with honey and then shaped into idols that were eaten. This practice appalled the conquistadors so the grain was forbidden by the Spanish. If it weren't for a few remote areas in the Andes and Mexico still growing this crop, amaranth would have been lost to us forever.
Today it is used in different cultures. In Mexico, it is popped and mixed with a sugar solution to make a treat called "alegria" (happiness). They also mill and roast the amaranth seed to make a drink called "atole." Peruvians use it to make beer, and the flowers can also be used to treat toothaches and fevers.
I thought it was a grain, but amaranth is actually an herb. The seeds are used to make cereal and flour (which is used to make pasta, bread crumbs, and baked goods). Amaranth seeds can also be popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted.
Yes, amaranth is highly nutritious. Want to know more? Then read more
Amaranth seed is high in protein, and contains the 2 essential amino acids, lysine and methionine. It is high in fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.
The fiber content of amaranth is 3 times that of wheat, and has 5 times as much iron. Get this - it contains twice as much calcium as milk! Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn, or brown rice results in a complete protein as high as you'll find in fish, red meat, or poultry, so it's a great choice for vegetarians and vegans.
What's more, amaranth contains tocotrienols, a form of Vitamin E, which have cholesterol-lowering properties. It is also easy to digest and has a mild, sweet, and nutty flavor, so it goes well with most dishes.
Fit's Tips: To get all the nutritional goodness, you can cook amaranth seeds and use them as a rice substitute. Or you can find cereals (like Mesa Sunrise, crackers, pastas or other products made with amaranth flour.