Step aside, oats: there's a new cereal making a comeback in the breakfast aisle known as amaranth! A popular ingredient among Mexican and Peruvian cultures alike, this rice-like grain is a good source of protein and a great option for anyone following a gluten-free diet.
A staple in the diets of pre-Colombian Aztecs, today amaranth has become increasingly popular around the world. In Mexico, it is popped and mixed with a sugar solution to make a treat called alegria (happiness). Amaranth seeds are also milled and roasted to make a hot drink called atole. Peruvians use it to make beer, and also use the flowers from the amaranth plant to treat toothaches and fevers.
Although it is commonly called a grain, amaranth is technically a pseudo-cereal. The seeds from amaranth plants are used to make cereal and flour (which is used to make pasta, bread crumbs, and baked goods). It can also be popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted.
Like whole grains, amaranth is highly nutritious. It's high in protein, and contain the essential amino acids lysine and methionine. It's high in fiber (three times that of wheat) and contains calcium and iron, too. In fact, it contains twice as much calcium as milk! Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn, or brown rice results in a complete protein, making it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans.
What's more, amaranth contains tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E, which have cholesterol-lowering properties. It is also easy to digest and has a mild, sweet, and nutty flavor. A great alternative to quinoa, it tastes great warmed with maple syrup, pumpkin puree, raisins, and a little rice milk. You can also use it as a rice substitute or try it in cereals like Mesa Sunrise, crackers, pastas or other products made with amaranth flour.