Amaranth properties and contraindications

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Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) is a rich source of protein, containing zero gluten, making it an ideal solution for those who suffer from celiac disease.

It’s a plant with a long history and it’s a staple of Andean people. Amaranth is in fact a variety native to Central America, long forgotten, but slowly renowned and reintroduced in the recent couple of decades as a food in Europe and the US.

The rediscovery of the plant has a certain date– 1975, with the publication of a botany book by the American Academy of Sciences in which the nutritional characteristics of different forgotten plants were explained, including amaranth, which changed the perception for the plant radically. It was spread in pre-Columbian civilizations, but the conquistadores didn’t allow for the seed to travel to Europe, thus profiting from local people.

Today it’s greatly appreciated, especially because of its absence of gluten for people suffering of celiac disease, but also those who stick to vegetarian or vegan choice of life, thanks to its rich vegetable protein resource.


Beautiful amaranth plants growing: historically amaranth was introduced in Europe as a decorative plant

Contrary to popular belief, this ingredient of natural cuisine is not a cereal, but a bean, being prepared as a cereal. Out of the 60 known species, only three are considered suitable for seed production (Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus and Amaranthus hypochondriacus).

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The plant adapts to different climates, that’s why its present in all continents and it’s also very resistant to pathogens. Looking like a small plant with dark red inflorescence (also used for decoration), it has edible seeds that are eaten after cooking a while, usually 45 to 50 minutes. It’s recommended not to combine the seeds with other protein foods, rather you should mix it with vegetables.

Amaranth nutritional properties

Amaranth consists mainly of fiber, also a lot of minerals, calcium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium, also vitamins C, A and B. The protein content is high, as previously mentioned, making it suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets, and also for the elderly and children who require an easily digestible food. The leaves are edible and are rich in iron. It has a high content of lysine, an amino acid which most cereals lack.

Thanks to the fibers that are contained, it can aid the proper functioning of the intestines, especially the colon and helps strengthen the immune system due to the significant presence of iron.

Amaranth contraindications

There are basically no contradictions linked to consumption of amaranth. However, given the presence of moderate amounts of oxalic acid, amaranth can complicate the assimilation of zinc in the body, as well as calcium and other minerals. Therefore it’s relatively not recommended for those suffering from kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Also given its high protein content, it should not be consumed along with other foods rich in it, such as meat, eggs, milk and derivatives.

Amaranth preparations and recipes

In Central American countries, where this food has a long tradition it is also used in desserts, snacks, or just like popcorn kernels it could be blown and popped.
To eat it has to be boiled for a moderately long time, thus assuming a gelatinous consistency (like tapioca), so it’s best to cook along with cereals or vegetables. After washing, the proportions are 2 parts water to 1 part amaranth and 1 teaspoon of salt, similar to white rice.

For optimal consistency it’s best not to mix it, but rather let it chill for 10 minutes, to give the beans chance to swell and absorb moisture.

Now go get yourself some quality gluten-free protein from amaranth!

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