The amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) is recognized for its tiny round grains of beige color, contained in an ear that follows a showy and colorful inflorescence. This seed experienced its greatest splendor under the Aztecs, when it was called "grain of the Gods". The ancients attributed great value to it for the high nutritional properties well known to them. The Aztecs not only used it at the table but also in many religious ceremonies, kneading it with corn flour to make figurines of the gods that were then eaten at the end of the rite. Amaranth was also crucial for the Mayan diet. As for the Incas, they appreciated its healing power.
The family includes as many as 60 species. This plant can reach a height ranging from 0.5 to 3.5 m. The leaves can be oval and lanceolate. Amaranth is much more adaptable and easier to grow than quinoa.
Amaranth: Benefits and Properties
Known for its numerous properties, the amaranth seed is very rich in proteins of high biological value. Among the essential amino acids contained, lysine stands out, whose content is twice that of many cereals (which are mostly deficient). Well attested are also the fibers, which perform many essential functions for the body. Also from the point of view of minerals amaranth is well placed, thanks to the presence of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
In the field of vitamins stand out niacin or B3 (useful for cellular respiration, the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, as well as for circulation) and pyridoxine or B9 (necessary for metabolic synthesis and for the formation of white and red blood cells) and E, an important antioxidant. Lipids are well represented and composed mainly of polyunsaturated fats, followed by mono-unsaturated and to a lesser extent saturated.
Like millet and buckwheat, amaranth is a gluten-free food that is therefore suitable for those suffering from celiac disease. Its consumption is safe because amaranth is naturally gluten free.
It presents itself as a very digestible food and above all it is known for its content of the amino acid lysine. The latter is often present in legumes, which is why it is advisable to combine the consumption of whole grains with that of legumes, to have all the amino acids that our body needs available.
Amaranth: Ideas in the kitchen
Soaking is useful but not indispensable (4-6 hours); however, it is preferable to rinse the beans in cold water in order to limit the formation of mucilage during cooking. If you do not use it in other ways, you should cook the amaranth for absorption with twice the weight of water for 30 minutes.
Cooking times are halved by using the pressure cooker.
Its taste is completely sweetish and, when cooked, takes on a gelatinous consistency that is not always welcome. In fact, it is recommended to mix it with rice or barley, thus giving the amaranth a more pleasant result. Alternatively it can be cooked with vegetables or even fruity with vegetables already cooked for the preparation of velvety and pureed.
There are no contraindications in amaranth seed, except for a moderate content of oxalic acid. Those who suffer from stones and kidney problems should consult their doctor to ask for more information, in reference to the amount of amaranth to be taken and how often.