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Amaranth is added to gluten-free superfood lists

Not too many people are familiar with how to thicken vegan soups, smoothies, sauces, gravy, or frozen desserts with cooked, pureed amaranth or quinoa, when the cooked grain is added to a blender to be pureed with fruit and flavorings such as unsweetened cocoa powder and mango chunks, coconut water, or unsweetened almond milk. Looking for a gluten-free grain? See, "The Next Superfood Grain (And It's Gluten-Free.)"

Amaranth is added to gluten-free superfood lists.
Photo by Neilson Barnard

With the price of quinoa so high, amaranth, that tiny grain, is more affordable and listed as a super food on some lists. You may wish to read information such as the Forbes article, "Rediscovering Amaranth, The Aztec Superfood," or the Muscle & Fitness article, "Amaranth: Superfood for Super Health."

Here's how to make a healthy bok choy soup with amaranth to be eaten with a side of flax seed meal bread. Cut off the top of a bok choy plant and wash each stalk. Put the cleaned bok choy vegetable in a blender with some water or broth. Chicken broth or vegetable broth can be used. You also could use vegetable juices. Puree the bok choy in the water or broth. You also may wish to check out the article, "Healthy Superfood Grains - Freekeh, Farro, Amaranth, Chia."

Flaxseed meal wraps

Add a 1/4 of amaranth. Simmer the bok choy in the liquid until the amaranth is soft and chewable, usually about 10 to 15 minutes or so. Add a few cooked, peeled purple potatoes or cooked peeled sweet potatoes to this soup. Serve the green soup with a side of flax seed meal flat bread. Here is the recipe for making the flax seed meal flat bread or wrap. Season with garlic and onion powder (optional).

If excess grains are rotting your child's teeth, you might bake a flaxseed flat bread or wrap with your child, showing children how to make alternative breads, cakes, crackers, and wraps that do not use any grain and are gluten-free. One of the easiest flat breads to make with your children is the flaxseed and spinach wrap. It looks like a large, round pancake or cracker, but tastes great. And it's simple to make as the basic ingredients are ground flax seeds, an egg, baking powder, and a chopped vegetable such as spinach.

Here's how to bake a simple flaxseed flat bread or wrap made with ground flax seeds, eggs, chopped spinach, baking powder, turmeric, and garlic powder. Since it uses no grain or gluten, it's ideal for someone who wants a wrap or bread that's gluten-free and grain-free.

For each flat bread or wrap you'll need a separate pan or pie plate. To make more than one, just double the recipe for each ball of 'dough.'

Ingredients for one round flat bread that fits in a 9 inch round pie pan.

3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds

1/4 teaspoon of non-aluminum baking powder (optional)

1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon of turmeric

1/4 teaspoon of celery seed

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)

1 tablespoon of coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup finely chopped baby spinach leaves

1 egg

Instructions

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. You'll be baking the flatbread/wrap about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch.

In a dry grinder, grind up the flax seeds and the chia seeds. It's optional to use chia seeds as flax seeds alone will also be fine. You could add a variety of seeds to enrich the 'dough' such as a teaspoon of sesame seeds. But basically the bread or wrap can be made simply with ground flax seeds, an egg, and a tablespoon of water. Or you could substitute for the water, 1/4 cup of finely chopped spinach or chopped carrots. The wrap or flat bread is richer with the vegetables added. You can leave out the baking powder if you're on a no-added sodium/salt diet.

This makes a savory bread. If you wanted a sweet flat bread or wrap instead, more like a pancake, you could add finely chopped dried fruit or sliced banana to the dough.

Beat the egg with the 1/4 cup of finely chopped spinach leaves and add it to the dry seed mixture. Remember to double this recipe if you want to make more wraps. Mix well.

Grease a pie plate with coconut oil. If you're doubling this recipe, grease two pie plates. On a cutting board press out the dough in a thin, round circle. Press from the middle, like you're making a pizza or round shape. You also can use an inverted small saucer plate to make the edges round. When you have a round shape, lift it off the cutting board and put in into your pie plate.

Fix any tears or edges back into a round shape when the dough is in the greased pie pan. A glass pie plate made for oven use is good.

On top of the dough sprinkle some garlic powder and turmeric. Or you can mix the garlic powder and turmeric together and sprinkle it on top. Bake the round flat bread or wrap at about 350 degrees F. until it's done, about 20 minutes or until it's no longer wet in the middle when you touch the bread and it feels solid.

With a metal or wooden spatula, lift off the pie plate and flip over on a plate. You can decorate the wrap with sandwich fixings of your choice or eat like a cracker or flat cake. It also taste great topped with fish salad, egg salad, mushrooms, roasted vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, and onions, chopped green vegetables, or whatever you want to put on top or eat as is as a side dish along with a bowl of soup or stew, such as mushroom and salmon stew.

You can find a similar recipe for flaxseed wrap that uses slightly different ingredients on page 244, appendix B of the book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, M.D. (Rodale) 2011. The book recipe uses paprika, onion powder and salt. But this recipe leaves out the paprika and onion powder and is a no-added salt food. You can use finely chopped garlic or garlic powder in place of salt or celery seed. Also this recipe uses chia seeds with the flax seeds.

You could also use a tablespoon of sesame seeds mixed with your chia seeds and flax seeds. Vary according to your preferences and choice of oils. Coconut oil is great as is olive or sesame seed oil. The recipe in the book uses a microwave. Since many people don't have microwaves, you can bake this flat bread in the oven at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes or until firm. But coconut oil does take the hot oven heat well.

Amaranth smoothies and frozen desserts

An amaranth smoothie tastes somewhat like a thick, chocolate milkshake, except it's nondairy, and you don't add sugar, fat, or cream. What you do start with is a cup of amaranth cooked in 2 cups of water. You cook it like any other grain, until it's soft and chewy. When the amaranth is soft enough to your taste, let it cool. There's no gluten in amaranth.

Recipes abound for quinoa as a substitute for wheat or rice, but another super food on the market is a smaller grain called amaranth. You can cook amaranth like a grain to make a pilaf or grain dish, but since the grains are so small, puree it with liquid and turn it into a smoothie, as an alternative to serving it as a side dish instead of quinoa or rice.

Next, put it in a blender and puree it with a cup of unsweetened almond milk and a cup of coconut water (not from concentrate). The coconut water usually contains about 10 gm of sugar found naturally in the coconut water, per eight-ounce cup. Now add a handful of fresh or frozen strawberries and a handful of fresh or frozen mango chunks. Blend it all into a smoothie/puree/emulsion and chill or freeze. If you want to turn it into a type of frozen dessert, add a half cup of grated organic coconut and puree until smooth in your blender, then freeze.

Or drink as a smoothie. The grated coconut is optional, in case you didn't want the added coconut, which is saturated fat. Coconut water, on the other hand, doesn't contain fat from the coconut 'flesh'.

Instead of amaranth any other cooked grain can be added to a smoothie, but the goal is to use a grain that's low on the glycemic index, that is that doesn't quickly turn to sugar in your bloodstream, and amaranth is on various lists as a super food. You also may wish to check out the Forbes article on amaranth as a super food. See, "Rediscovering Amaranth, The Aztec Superfood." Or, on another note, regarding vegetarian foods, you may want to take a look at, "Vegetarian Diets for Seniors."

The Forbes article describes amaranth as a tiny, fast-cooking grain that doesn’t require soaking, amaranth is gluten free, contains more essential amino acids than any other plant source (lysine in particular), has been shown in lab tests to reduce cholesterol, is second only to quinoa as a plant-based iron source, is reportedly the only grain to include vitamin C and is remarkably high in protein. Besides smoothies, you also can fluff cooked amaranth and toss it in a salad with cooked quinoa, greens, red bell peppers, celery, chopped red onions, spinach, arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, or other salad fixings.

That article also adds that the Whole Grains Council, citing a 1993 study by the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama at Guatemala, wrote that, “Using cheese protein as a reference, researchers concluded that the protein in amaranth ‘is among the highest in nutritive quality of vegetable origin and close to those of animal origin products.’”

Another article, "Amaranth: Superfood for Super Health," published in Muscle & Fitness, noted that amaranth is a complete protein. Amaranth seeds also can be ground into flour to bake cakes, breads, crackers, cookies, or other similar foods, or they can be substituted for similar foods like quinoa or brown rice. But amaranth grains are tiny. And amaranth leaves also can replace various greens such as kale.

Amaranth seeds contain three times the amount of calcium other grains have. The calcium in amaranth amounts to about 12% of an adult's daily value, based on a 2,000-calorie diet and a cooked one-cup serving. From a 250-calorie serving, you’ll get nine grams of protein and five grams of fiber.

The tiny grains also have some iron and other minerals. Amaranth has been called a super food. You also can check out the various studies on the health benefits of amaranth. There's also a study showing a possible positive effect in cancer prevention and in reducing inflammation for chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. You may wish to check out the Washington Post article, "Ancient grains can help prevent cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure." That article explains, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines, at least half of all grains eaten each day should be whole (that is, intact, ground, cracked or flaked).

For more information on vegan diets for older adults, see, "Vegetarian Diets for Seniors," "Veganism for the Over 60s - The Vegan Society," " Resources for Seniors | Vegetarian Resource Group," or "Vegan Diet -- What You Need to Know -- US News Best Diets."

If you're interested in nutrition for older adults, please also follow my articles for senior nutrition and diets information and research links at: Twitter.com/SeniorDiets. Or on my Facebook nutrition and health page. Or please subscribe (free) to my senior nutrition examiner column at: Senior Nutrition Examiner or for all ages nutrition articles, see, my Sacramento Nutrition Examiner column.