Amaranth Grain
The Better Life Experts | March 10, 2009

Amaranth Grain In the August 5, 2008 issue of Hot Topics, Mamma Pat introduced you to several types of grains that are alternatives to the more familiar wheat and oats. In the next few Newsletters, we will cover some of these “new” grains in more detail, and we’ll even include a couple of recipes that some of you more adventurous souls may wish to try this holiday season. Today’s Newsletter will highlight Amaranth.

Amaranth has been cultivated as a grain for around 8000 years. It was a major food of the Aztec nation until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores in Mexico in the early 1500s, at which time the cultivation of amaranth was banned. The plant continued to flourish – as a weed – until research began on amaranth in the U.S. in the 1970s. Meanwhile, its popularity as a food source spread around the world. Today, the use of its leaves or grain can be found in areas of Africa, India, Nepal, China, Russia, parts of eastern Europe, South America, and it’s reemerging as a crop in Mexico. Much of the grain currently grown in the U.S. is sold in health food stores.

Grain Amaranths represent three distinct plant species and vary in height from 2 to 8 feet tall, but the most common variety in the United States, called Plainsman, is about 5 or 6 feet tall and is grown in Missouri. One characteristic that has helped it to adapt to such a variety of climates across the world is its drought tolerance. Although the grain is used exclusively for seed production in the U.S., other countries use its leaves as herbs or as food for hogs. The oil extracted from the amaranth grain has the potential for many valuable uses. For example, the squalene in its seed oil sells for thousands of dollars a pound. The pigments in the amaranth flours and vegetation appear to have great potential as a source of natural, non-toxic red dyes. And, the small size of the starch particles found in amaranth seeds can be of value in both food and industrial uses.

What makes amaranth so special? Some of its most desirable characteristics include the fact that its protein is of an unusually high quality; that ¼ cup of amaranth grain supplies 60% of the RDA of iron; that it is particularly high in lysine (an amino acid that most grains lack; and, it is free of gluten (a real bonus for people with gluten allergies). In addition to its high protein content, it is high in fiber as well. It has been processed in popped, flaked, extruded, and ground flour forms, making it highly adaptable for many uses. For example, in Mexico, popped amaranth is mixed with molasses or honey to make a type of smack bar similar to our granola bar or Rice Krispy bar. The whole seed can be used in a type of porridge, or sprinkled on some other food as a condiment. When ground into flour, it can be used to make a variety of baked breads.

Most of the amaranth in the U.S. is made into ground flour that is blended with wheat or other flours to make cereals, crackers, cookies, bread or other baked products. But, even if advertised as an amaranth product, it is probably only 10 to 20% amaranth. The addition of amaranth to other flours does not change the products taste or how it can be used. The three main buyers of amaranth grain in the U.S. are Arrowhead Mills (Texas), Health Valley (California) and Nu-World Amaranth (Chicago, Illinois). The companies that use amaranth in their food products usually buy it from one of these three suppliers.

The table below shows the nutritional content of amaranth.

The proximate composition of grain and raw leaves of amaranth (100g portions)
Component Amount
Moisture 9.0 g
Protein 15.0 g
Fat 7.0 g
Total carbohydrates 63.0 g
Fiber 2.9 g
Calories 391
Phosphorus 477 mg
Riboflavin 0.32 mg
Niacin 1.0 mg
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) 3.0 mg
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) 0.14 mg
Ash 2.6 g
Calcium 490 mg

Here is a recipe you may like to try as you expand your cooking know-how.

Amaranth Fruit Pudding

Recipe Category: Desserts (gluten free)
Diet Types: gluten free, casein free
Makes 4 servings
½ cup Toasted Nu-World Foods Amaranth flour
½ cup Nu-World Foods Pre-Gel Amaranth powder
2 cups applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon - ground
¼ teaspoon nutmeg - ground
1 egg - whipped
2 sliced apples
Blend all ingredients together until uniform. Arrange apple slices to cover bottom of greased casserole. Pour blended ingredients over apple slices. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until pudding is set. Remove from oven to cool. Serve hot or cold as a dessert.

**For more recipes, go to
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