Amaranth grain offers more food options for celiac disease patients. Part of the struggle facing these individuals is nutrition. Many flour substitutes exist so that everyone can enjoy fresh baked bread or baked goods even if they suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
What is Amaranth Grain?
Though you may not have heard of it, amaranth has a long history of use. You may recognize it as an ornamental plant. It has been cultivated since the days of the pre-Columbian Aztecs and in other cultures as well. Though it is often called a grain, it is actually considered a pseudo-cereal because it resembles wheat.
In an agricultural field, you may mistake amaranth for soybeans. Early in the plant's development, it appears similar. At harvest time, it will have striking crimson or maroon-colored flower heads. Like teff, the seeds are small.
It is not widely grown in the United States, though there is some production in Illinois, Missouri, and a few other states. Amaranth grain is sold at health food stores and some grocery stores. The product is also available online. Most of the amaranth you find in the U.S. is used for flour.
Uses of Amaranth
There are many diverse uses for amaranth grain. In Peru, the fermented grain makes "chicha" or beer. In Mexico, you may encounter a drink made from the roasted grain called "atole". The seeds are also popped like popcorn for a tasty snack with a slightly nutty flavor.It is also used to make a sweet treat when mixed with honey. Because of its red color, amaranth is sometimes used as a food coloring. The plant's leaves make a tasty vegetable side dish that resembles spinach.
Because amaranth grain contains little or no gluten, you will need to add other flours for making breads. It has other uses as well. You can make a breakfast cereal with the grains when simmered in water or other liquid. You can also make a nutritious granola bar, mixing it with honey and your favorite ingredients. Use amaranth flour to make pastas or flatbreads.Its uses are not limited to sweets. It can be used in your favorite soup or stew recipe as a thickener. Because of its small size grain and limited production, amaranth can be expensive when compared to other whole grains. Its benefits, however, may make the cost worthwhile.
Benefits of Amaranth
Amaranth has many benefits both for the farmer and the consumer. In agriculture, this annual plant is easy to grow and tolerant of a variety of climate conditions, though it prefers well-drained soils. Crops typically have high yields, while not requiring the greater quantities of nitrogen-containing fertilizers that corn needs. It is also relatively drought tolerant.
For you, the greatest benefit is in its nutritional value. It is very high in protein compared to other grains such as corn. It is rich in calcium, vitamin B5, magnesium, and in iron. Amaranth is high in lysine, an amino acid essential for protein production in your body. For this reason, amaranth is often found in vegetarian recipes. It is high in fiber, containing more dietary fiber than corn or even oatmeal.
Another benefit of amaranth is in its high levels of tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E. Evidence suggests tocotrienols may help lower cholesterol levels. Another benefit comes from its gluten content. You can add amaranth to your list of gluten-free foods. According to a 2000 paper published by Donald D. Kasarda of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is no scientific evidence for not including amaranth in your diet. Dr. Kasarda does caution however, that some individuals may experience allergies to amaranth.
Incorporating amaranth flour into your diet offers you more options for your gluten-free lifestyle. Its high nutritional value and pleasant taste make it a good choice for baking and other uses. For the celiac disease patient who wants to add more whole grains into your diet, amaranth is the ideal choice.