The amaranth is darling of fans of healthy eating. But, it is still little used. It is a pseudocereal, as its seeds do not contain starches.
Originally from the frozen lands of the Andes, it has been present on the American continent for almost 7,000 years. The Mayan, Inca and Aztec peoples used the tea for stomach pains and offered amaranth paste in religious rituals. There are records of the use of the grain also by the Greeks.
The Brazilian production of amaranth began in the 1980s. The scientist and professor at the University of Brasília, Carlos Spehar brought the first seeds from Peru. The grain has adapted well to the country’s hot Cerrado climate, which concentrates the largest production and also in the southern region.
The annual harvest is between 15 and 20 tons, however, Spehar says that it could be more if there was investment in machinery that would reduce the loss of grain at harvest.
Amaranth bushes are 2 meters tall. The grain is small, measuring just 1 millimeter. The cultivation of amaranth is done by seeds and requires a climate between 22 o C to 30 o C. There are three possibilities for cultivation:
- Crop is planting between late October and early November. Harvest is in early January, before the rain;
- Off-season: planting between late March and early April, after the rainy season. The harvest, in mid-March;
- Winter: planting between May and June with harvest between September and October.
Lighting must be direct and daily. The soil needs to be drained, deep, rich in organic matter and with a pH between 5.5 and 7. Young plants require frequent irrigation, while mature ones withstand little watering and even dry periods. Harvesting takes place between 80 and 90 days after planting. First, harvest the branches that are exposed to the sun for 3 days. Then these branches are beaten and the seeds are released.
Amaranth is extremely nutritious. A 100 gram serving equals 8 cereal bars and 4 slices of whole grain bread. Its seeds have 15% more fiber, protein, calcium, zinc, phosphorus and lysine than beans, considered one of the richest grains. It even has more antioxidants than fish. We are sure that the bean will enter your menu after learning about the benefits of amaranth:
1.Improves the immune system
Amaranth is a grain rich in vitamin C. The antioxidant nutrient acts in the production of white blood cells, which recover cells.
2.Released for people with celiac disease
Celiac Disease is the body’s difficulty in processing gluten. Amaranth seeds are healthy food alternatives for celiacs.
3. Strengthens bones
Does milk have a lot of calcium? Know that amaranth has even more! The mineral is important for the formation and maintenance of teeth and bones. Those who are lactose intolerant have a powerful option in grain to maintain calcium levels.
Amaranth has more protein than oats. Therefore, it helps to strengthen muscles, gain muscle mass and post-workout recovery. One suggestion is post-workout amaranth juice. The recipe is simple: blend 50 grams of the bean flakes with 300 ml of pineapple juice in a blender. The benefits of the bean together with the bromelain substance of pineapple, muscle recovery is faster.
5. Improves bowel function
Fibers increase stool volume and facilitate evacuation. They improve the absorption of other nutrients, so amaranth prevents constipation, reduces the risk of gastric ulcers and colon cancer.
6.It’s good for the eyes
Amaranth is rich in vitamin A. The nutrient is an antioxidant that expels harmful substances from the eyes, preventing cataracts and other diseases.
7. Acts on heart health
The potassium present in amaranth relaxes the vessels, a factor that reduces the incidence of heart disease. In addition, the grain also keeps cholesterol levels in order.
8. Keeps skin, nails and hair healthy
Vitamin C acts in the production of collagen, the protein responsible for the maintenance of skin, nails and hair, so consume amaranth regularly.
Because it has more fiber than beans, amaranth brings twice as much satiety. But it doesn’t hurt to remember that no food works miracles.
Some people cannot eat the grain:
- Pregnant women: must seek medical advice before consumption;
- People with kidney disease: because it is a protein-rich food, the kidneys can be overloaded. Consumption needs to be professionally monitored;
- Diabetics: Its high glycemic index means it is quickly digested. This causes the body to release more sugar. Anyone who is already diabetic or in the risk group, should be moderate.
HOW TO CONSUME AMARANTH?
The grain cannot be eaten raw, as it has harmful substances. Put the seeds in boiling water for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove from heat when they are soft and sticky. That way, the seeds can be used in Moroccan salad and couscous. However, the bean is extremely versatile and is part of several recipes. Check out these delicious recipes with amaranth:
- 1 tablespoon of whole amaranth grain.
Distribute the beans in a pan. Leave on low heat until the beans are white. No need to add oil or olive oil. One suggestion is to sprinkle cinnamon.
- 1 cup of amaranth flour;
- 1 cup of whole amaranth beans;
- 2 cups of cornstarch;
- 1 cup of sugar;
- ½ cup of butter;
- 2 eggs;
- ¾ cup of skimmed milk or soy, or water;
- 1 dessert spoon of chemical yeast;
- 1 dessert spoon of salt.
Soak the amaranth in water and leave overnight. Beat the seeds in a blender together with the water, sugar, eggs, salt and water. Put the mixture in a bowl, add the butter, amaranth flour and cornstarch, mix well, add the yeast and stir a little more. Transfer the dough into a buttered dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 o for 30 minutes.
BANANA CAKE WITH AMARANTH
- 1 cup amaranth flakes;
- ½ cup of manioc flour;
- ½ cup cornstarch;
- 1 mashed banana;
- 1 banana in slices;
- 1 ½ tablespoon of yeast for bread;
- ¼ cup of skimmed milk or soy milk;
- 1 egg;
- 1/3 cup of margarine;
- 1 teaspoon of salt;
- 1 cup of sugar;
- Cinnamon powder.
Beat the egg and sugar in an electric mixer. When they are mixed, add the banana and butter. Beat again until ingredients are incorporated; add the cornstarch and stir with a spoon. Add the salt and manioc flour and beat in an electric mixer. Add the amaranth flakes and stir with a spoon. Add milk and beat a little more in an electric mixer. Transfer the dough to a buttered pan. Place the banana slices and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 o for 45 minutes.
AMARANTH AND SPINACH DUMPLING
- 1 cup of amaranth tea;
- 1 ½ cup of cooked and mashed spinach;
- ½ cup of thick oat flakes tea;
- 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour;
- 1 crushed garlic clove;
- 2 slices of ricotta;
- 2 cups of skim milk;
- 1 teaspoon of light salt.
Cook the spinach over low heat, with the pan covered, for 5 minutes. In a skillet, saute the garlic, then add the milk, oats, amaranth and flour. Stir this mixture until it thickens. Add the spinach and salt and stir until it no longer sticks in the pan. Turn off the heat and wait 15 minutes. Take small portions and mash with a spoon. Add a small piece of ricotta to each portion and make balls. Transfer to a buttered pan and bake for 30 minutes.
AMARANTH POLENTA WITH MUSHROOMS
- 1 cup of amaranth beans tea;
- ½ cup of dried mushroom tea;
- Black pepper;
- ¼ cup of chive tea;
- Chives for decorating;
- 1 tablespoon of safflower oil;
- ¼ tablespoon of salt.
Place the mushrooms in boiling water and soak until tender. Saute the chives for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauce water and cook them with the chives for 15 minutes. Add the salt, the chia and cook until it forms a mush. Place the mushrooms on this porridge and sprinkle with chives.
WHERE TO BUY AMARANTH?
Amaranth is found in health food stores and supermarkets. The price of amaranth varies a lot: On the Lojas Americanas website, a package of 150 grams of the bean starts at R$13.18. On the Mercado Livre website, flour costs between R$15.00 and R$40.00. In bulk at grain and cereal stores, a kilo is sold for R$40.00.
Look how much you lost by not knowing amaranth. Now that you know, try to include it in your diet, even if sporadically. Associate grain consumption with physical activity and other healthy foods.