At first glance, amaranth groats look rather frivolous: tiny seeds no more than one millimeter in size. Is it possible to compare them with rice or buckwheat, with rye or oats?
What is amaranth and where does it grow?
In Russia, this plant has been known since ancient times as shiritsa. In addition, amaranth bore other colorful nicknames: cat’s tail, fox’s tail, cockscomb, velvet. And all because it blooms very beautifully – bright red, crimson, burgundy, and scarlet.
The grain of the plant looks like a white poppy or a smaller copy of quinoa. Botanists classify them as pseudo-grains, since, technically, they are seeds (with quinoa and buckwheat, by the way, the same story). They hide in a seedbox, and each such box can contain up to 1000 tiny seeds.
Although the Russian people gave amaranth many names, this plant does not come from our latitudes at all. The first to grow and grind small seeds into flour were the Indians. Their experience of interacting with amaranth, according to scientists and archaeologists, is more than 8000 years old. That is, about the same as mankind is familiar with rice and wheat.
The ancient inhabitants of America did not have microscopes and laboratories to study the composition of amaranth seeds, but they already guessed that this food could perfectly compete with potatoes, corn, and, in part, even with meat. The Maya, Aztecs, and Incas not only respected amaranth – they elevated it to the rank of divine food, around which a whole cult was built.
Seven reasons why Aztec food is good for us too
Reason # 1: gluten-free
Amaranth flour, unlike wheat or oatmeal, does not contain gluten, which means it is suitable for people with intolerance to this component and those who simply decided to limit their consumption.
Reason # 2: protein storage
Amaranth is one of the most “protein” plants. At the same time, the protein contained in it is easily absorbed by the human body and – what is especially important! – contains all the amino acids we need, including lysine and methionine, which are usually lacking in cereals. According to scientists, its composition is very close to animal proteins.
Reason # 3: A source of healthy fats
Amaranth flour contains a complex of essential fatty acids for our health (linoleic, linolenic, oleic, palmitic, stearic), the amount of which reaches 77%.
Reason # 4: protecting against dangerous diseases
Amaranth is an excellent source of antioxidants. It is especially rich in phenolic acids (gallic, para-hydroxybenzoic, and vanillic), which protect us from aging, heart disease, and cancer.
Reason number 5: vitamin and mineral dressing
By adding amaranth flour to your diet, know that you are giving your body the opportunity to receive such valuable nutrients as manganese, magnesium, selenium, copper, phosphorus, and iron. It is these minerals that are found mostly in small grains.
Reason # 6: lowering cholesterol
Some studies show that amaranth can lower bad cholesterol levels without dropping good cholesterol.
Reason # 7: weight control
Since amaranth is high in protein and fiber, it can be a good tool in the fight against excess weight. Foods high in protein help reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, and dietary fiber makes you feel full.
How to use amaranth flour?
The Indians baked cakes from amaranth flour and prepared a life-prolonging drink known to us today as amrita. For modern housewives, the choice of how to use amaranth flour has become even wider. We can use it:
- in baked goods (pancakes, waffles, muffins),
- for making bread and rolls, crackers, crispbreads and biscuits,
- as a breading,
- to make homemade noodles or dumplings dough,
- for making smoothies,
- in sauces and soups – for thickness,
- for baking pancakes,
- instead of bread in cutlets,
- as a base for a mask or scrub for the face and body.
Fresh and high-quality amaranth flour should have a pleasant nutty smell.
It should be remembered that amaranth flour differs in its culinary properties from wheat: it contains very little gluten, which means that the dough prepared according to the usual recipe can behave completely unpredictably.
If you do not have a gluten intolerance, when baking bread and pastries, you must mix amaranth flour with wheat first or premium in a 1: 2 ratio. This will make the products lush, airy, porous, with elastic crumbs. If you have celiac disease, you need special gluten-free recipes that compensate for the lack of gluten with other ingredients and special preparation methods.
For the preparation of cutlets, cheesecakes, sauces, and other dishes, where flour is not a key, but an additional ingredient, you can leave the classic recipe unchanged, simply replacing the wheat flour with amaranth.
Wafers with amaranth flour are crisper and harder than on wheat, and pancakes are not so fluffy, but with a delicate nutty flavor in taste. Pancakes sometimes behave capriciously if your pan is not good enough: without skill, you may think that they are more prone to sticking to the frying surface.
Amaranth flour protein smoothie
Take 1 level tablespoon of amaranth flour and mix with 1 glass of milk, bring to the boil in a saucepan and turn off. When the drink cools down, whisk it in a blender with your favorite berries (raspberries, strawberries, cherries) or fruits (banana, pear, apple). Optionally, you can add vanilla or cinnamon, as well as a spoonful of honey. Your carbohydrate-protein shake is ready.
Amaranth cheese pancakes
Take 1 packet of low-fat cottage cheese (200 g), 1 egg, and 3-4 tbsp. amaranth flour. Mix until smooth. The amount of flour can be changed depending on how dense the cheesecakes you want to get (the more flour, the denser they are). For a light sweetness, add 1–2 tsp. sugar or half-mashed banana. If you add a banana, the egg can be removed from the recipe (bananas bind dough ingredients very well). Bake for 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 160 degrees.