Though many of our Challengers aren’t vegetarians, we’re always interested in learning about plant-based sources of healthy protein that can contribute to a balanced whole foods diet. Many whole grains actually contain as much usable protein as meat, and amaranth is one of those lesser-known grains with an astounding nutritional profile.
You should really get to know each other…
Originating in Mexico and Central America, amaranth was an important food staple for the Aztecs and was also used in festivals and religious practices- namely human sacrifice (sorry, not too appetizing!). It’s worth mentioning because, although having been used in sacrificial rituals, the word amaranth comes from the Greek word for “everlasting” or “one that does not whither.” Hmm, ironic or sensible? Chew on that for a while.
It is still a popular ingredient in many Mexican dishes, often used for making sweets, candies and a traditional chocolate drink called Atole. In the past two decades, amaranth has spread throughout the world to become an important food source in countries such as Nepal, India, and Africa. Perhaps this is due to the plant’s adaptability to harsh climate and drought resistant nature. A true “everlasting” grain. It became more widely cultivated domestically by the 1970s, and amaranth is now grown throughout the U.S. and can be easily found in most health food stores.
Tiny grain, big benefits
They are seriously TINY, so don’t accidentally drop a bag on the floor, you’ll be finding these sand-like grains in your grout for months. Though small, this yellow grain packs a punch with a strong flavor and abundance of vitamins and minerals. Because amaranth is actually a seed, or the fruit of the plant, impersonating a grain like quinoa, it is higher in protein content than other grains. It has a well-balanced combination of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, including the amino acid, lysine, which is uncommon in most grains. Most plant-based protein is easily digestible, so amaranth is yummy for your tummy.
Amaranth is high in iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, Vitamin E, zinc, copper, and a slew of other beneficial vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, which no other grains contain. These micronutrients found in amaranth help build healthy brain cells, improve muscular function, and are good for your heart. Also, it’s low-glycemic and a gluten-free grain. Celiacs can easily substitute amaranth flour for wheat flour, plus it has triple the fiber.
I cup of uncooked amaranth has 251 calories, 4g fat (no cholesterol), 26g of protein, 13g of fiber, 31% DV of Calcium, 82% DV of Iron, and 14% DV of Vitamin C.
Amaranth Porridge with Banana and Almond Butter
Makes 3 servings
1 cup of dry amaranth
1 cup of non-dairy milk
2 cups of water
1 t vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick or 1 T of cinnamon
Toppings: 1/2 banana, 1 t each honey and almond butter
In a small pot, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes on low,
stirring often. For breakfast, enjoy 1 serving of porridge with 1/2 a banana, 1 teaspoon of almond butter and a drizzle of honey. Leftovers last for 4-5 days in the fridge and can be reheated with extra non-dairy milk or water.