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Health benefits of the super food amaranth

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.

Health benefits of the super food amaranth.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

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."

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