Erbology
Amaranth FAQs

Amaranth FAQs

Team ErbologyErbology

It may be a petite-sized grain, but its uses and benefits are endless. It can be popped, drizzled, cooked, and baked. Whether you’ve never heard of it or want to know a bit more, we have the answers to your amaranth FAQs.

April 09, 2021 8:19 pm

What does amaranth taste like?

Amaranth is a grain that you can use similarly to cereal grains such as oats, wheat, and rice. It’s actually not a cereal grain but a pseudo-cereal. Other common pseudo-cereals are buckwheat, chia, and quinoa.

Amaranth is smaller than other pseudo-cereals and looks very seed-like. It’s got an earthy flavor comparable to brown rice and a neutral, nutty taste which makes it versatile for both savory and sweet dishes.

Amaranth flour is a perfect gluten-free and nut-free ingredient for cookie and cake recipes. Try our vegan and gluten-free cookie recipe with amaranth flour. With cardamom, cinnamon, and orange, these cookies are a staple recipe for the Christmas holidays.

If you like snacking on popcorn, then you’ll love popped amaranth. Similar in texture and taste, popped amaranth is a great snack option and goes well sprinkled on top of porridge, granola or even salad.

Related reading

 

protein bar recipe

Can you eat amaranth raw?

This is a debatable question. Ideally, you should not eat amaranth raw but there’s nothing necessarily dangerous in doing so.

Raw amaranth grain contains anti-nutrients and, as the name suggests, they can block the absorption of nutrients. These compounds protect plants from bacterial infections and insects nibbling away at it.(1)

You can remove the anti-nutrients in most foods by soaking or boiling them.

There are a handful of anti-nutrients in amaranth, including phytic acid, tannins (think coffee and wine), protease inhibitors, and saponins.

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is found in many plant-based foods. It is the stored form of the mineral phosphorus. Unfortunately, you cannot remove it simply by peeling off the grain’s hull or rinsing the grain.

It passes through the body and binds to minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron. This blocks the absorption of those minerals in the intestine. Humans lack the phytase enzyme needed to break phytic acid down.

Though, the phytic acid only binds to minerals when you eat them together in the same meal. Therefore it’s not as common or dangerous as you’d think.

Those at risk are people with malnutrition, who don’t have access to a variety of foods, and people who have an iron or zinc deficiency.

As long as you have a well-balanced diet with calcium, zinc and iron, your body has enough nutrients to protect from a mineral deficiency caused by phytic acid.

On the other hand, there are actually some benefits to consuming phytic acid. It has antioxidant properties and can protect against DNA damage. It can also prevent kidney stones from forming.(1)

Tannins

Tannins in amaranth can form chemical complexes and digestive enzymes to inhibit protein digestion and, potentially, starch digestion. Peeling the grain from its hull can remove most of the tannins.(2)

Protease inhibitor

Amaranth contains a small amount of protease inhibitors — specifically for trypsin and chymotrypsin.(2) These are enzymes that help us digest protein.

Luckily, you can decrease or even completely remove these inhibitors by cooking, popping, or sprouting.(7)

Saponins

Saponins are extremely bitter in taste. Similarly to phytic acid, they can form complexes with proteins or minerals, such as zinc and iron, to inhibit absorption into the body.

Since they are only present in small quantities in amaranth, they are characterized as low toxicity and don’t pose any danger. Therefore, you can eat amaranth raw without worrying about the saponins effect.

Plus, they have some anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits.(7)

 

amaranth recipes

"Cold-pressed amaranth seed oil is the leading natural plant-based source for squalene, containing 2.4 to 8 grams per 100 grams."

Should you rinse amaranth?

It’s always best to clean grains with a quick rinse before cooking them to remove dust or plant debris, as you would with rice. However, rinsing amaranth alone will not strip the grain of anti-nutrients.

Can amaranth be sprouted or activated?

Sprouted?

Yes! You can sprout amaranth as you would with any other pseudo-cereal, like buckwheat.

Sprouting is the natural process of seeds or grains germinating (putting out shoots). This process also increases nutrient levels.

In a study comparing the cereals wheat, brown rice and triticale, the results showed that protein levels increased in all grains after germination.(8) Another scientific review concludes that germination reduces the level of anti-nutrients in the grain, increases digestibility and lowers glycemic index.(9)   

Sprouting amaranth is easy to do and fun to watch as you grow your very own garden in a jar.

To sprout amaranth, rinse your amaranth grain with cool water and drain well (best to do a couple of times). Transfer the clean amaranth to a glass jar or a container with a lid (or ideally, with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band). Pour cool water over the seeds, and soak them for about 2 hours. Drain the amaranth again, and repeat the process of soaking them in a container.

Store in a cool place, out of sunlight for up to 6 hours. You’ll know your grain is sprouted when they become lighter in color and start growing root hairs — they look like tails!

Sprouted amaranth is perfect on salad with a drizzle of Amaranth Oil or on top of avocado toast.

Activated?

Yes, you can activate amaranth grains as well.

In fact, you can activate pretty much all seeds, nuts and grains by soaking in water, sometimes mixed with an acidic medium like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. This starts the germination process which will unlock more nutrients and increase digestibility, just like sprouting.

Activation is essentially the same soaking method as sprouting without the added steps. To activate amaranth grain, soak your amaranth grain in water for at least 8 hours (and up to 24).

 

amaranth granola

Does amaranth oil have squalene?

Cold-pressed amaranth seed oil is the leading natural plant-based source for squalene, containing 2.4 to 8 grams per 100 grams.(4)

Squalene is a natural moisturizer, supporting pro-hydration in our skin. It also increases production of collagen, the protein most known for skin health and hair growth. An insufficient amount of squalene can cause UV rays to induce inflammation in the skin.(5)

Our organic cold-pressed oil is made from amaranth seeds and should be enjoyed at room-temperature (never heated). It’s so versatile that you can use it to moisturize your skin or cook with it.

We don’t heat the oil because the high temperature destroys some of the valuable nutrients the oil has, such as free-radical-fighting vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids. Plus, oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids oxidize at high temperatures and if consumed like this, could lead to oxidative stress that is potentially harmful to our bodies.

It’s perfect to drizzle on top of salads, or use it in raw recipes like this muhammara dip.

Is amaranth gluten-free?

Yes, amaranth is gluten-free. It can be ground up into a flour and used for gluten-free recipes!

Did you know that all-purpose flour, barley flour, rye flour and spelt flour all contain gluten? Therefore, amaranth flour is a great gluten-free replacement for these flours when you are baking and cooking.

Though be sure to double-check before you use amaranth flour in a recipe. For some recipes like bread making, only up to 25% of the flour can be replaced by amaranth flour as a blend. Any more affect the quality of the bread.(11)

 

veggie burger with amaranth flour

How to tell when amaranth is cooked?

Since amaranth can be used like a cereal, you can cook it as you would any other grain.

A ratio of 1:3, grain to water, is ideal for cooking your amaranth. For 1 cup of amaranth, add 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring the amaranth to a boil, simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. The water should be almost fully absorbed by the grains. At the end of the cooking time, put a lid on the pot and leave aside.

The grains will absorb the rest of the water and will become a little fluffy. Alternatively, you can cook your amaranth in two cups of water and simmer it covered with a lid, then leave aside covered.

When the water is fully absorbed, the amaranth is done and ready to enjoy.

Can you make amaranth porridge?

Amaranth porridge is a delicious gluten-free alternative to oats-based porridge. Although oats are gluten-free, oats run a high risk of cross-contamination during processing.

Commercial oat products are normally processed in the same factories as grains containing gluten such as wheat, barley and rye. During processing, oats become contaminated with mixtures of these grains.(12)

For people with celiac disease or a gluten-free diet that want to eat oats, it’s important to buy oats that guarantee no cross-contamination.

To be safe and have a guaranteed gluten-free porridge, amaranth porridge is the best option. You can use your favorite porridge recipe and just substitute your usual grain with amaranth grain.

Amaranth seed oil is a nice added touch of nutrients and squalene to sprinkle on your porridge. For a crunchy texture, why not try puffed amaranth as a topping?

Can you use amaranth for weight loss?

Yes, you can use amaranth for weight loss. Consuming amaranth comes with benefits to help you on your weight-loss journey.

It’s a great source of protein, containing all 9 of the essential amino acids. We need these proteins to strengthen and protect your muscles after exercise.

A post-workout meal with amaranth will give you the protein and added nutrition you need to recover. We recommend a homemade veggie burger with lentils and organic amaranth grain or salad with amaranth seed oil drizzled on top for a nutty flavor.

Amaranth is also high in fiber, meaning that it will keep you feeling full for longer as it takes longer to digest. This means you won’t be craving food and consuming extra calories by snacking throughout the day.

Try porridge made with organic amaranth grain as your next pre-workout meal. It’ll give you the fullness and energy you need while you’re sweating it out at the gym.(2)

 

gluten free cookie recipe

Does amaranth help with diabetes?

Amaranth is a healthy whole grain with a low glycemic index (or GI) suitable for people with diabetes. The grain is even listed as one of the best grains for diabetics by Diabetes UK.(10)

The glycemic index is a parameter of food quality that represents the rise in glucose levels after consuming a specific food. The higher the GI, the higher the glucose level in the body.

When we consume carbs, our bodies convert those carbs into glucose (blood sugar). The rise in glucose prompts the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin carries glucose throughout the body to use as energy.

People with diabetes have too much glucose in the blood and no insulin to carry to their cells for energy, or unreliable insulin. While the cause of type 1 diabetes is still uncertain, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and low glycemic index diet.

Is amaranth a high GI food?

There is some debate surrounding the GI of amaranth. While the grain is low GI, some studies have suggested that puffing amaranth increases its GI score, which could make it less suitable for diabetics watching their carb count.

For example, a study in Germany tested the GI levels and satiety of cereals containing amaranth and popped amaranth. The study involved 20 non-diabetic healthy volunteers who were given either standard cereal, cereal with amaranth, or cereal with popped amaranth.

The study concluded with amaranth cereal as a low GI with 36.91 mg of glucose per 100 g while cereal with popped amaranth had a high GI of 51.59 mg / 100 g. This difference in GI is due to the amaranth’s composition. Even though the study classified popped amaranth as a high GI food, their data suggests that by adding popped amaranth to standard cereals may reduce GI.(6)

Therefore, if you are on a low GI diet, skip the popped amaranth and go for amaranth grain.

More facts about amaranth

Did you know that amaranth is an ancient grain that’s been cultivated for at least 8,000 years? If you’d like to learn more about amaranth, we’ve written an article all about the gluten-free grain.

You can view our full range of amaranth products to find the right one for your health and nutrition needs.

Related reading

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Comments (2)

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  • Team Erbology

    2 months ago

    Hi! Thanks for your question. We find that soaking amaranth overnight is a great way to reduce antinutrients and any bitterness, as with many grains. It is quite tough to sprout amaranth but it can be easily activated by soaking. Hope this helps! Team Erbology

  • Alan

    3 months ago

    How do you get rid of the bitter taste? I've soaked it and rinsed it many times. Still bitter. Only thing that I've done that even comes close to eliminating the bitterness is to follow multiple soakings and rinsing with fermentation. Will sprouting it get rid of the bitter taste? And what about the other antinutrients?

  • References

    1. The Nutrition Source. n.d. Are anti-nutrients harmful?. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/> [Accessed 15 March 2021].
    2. Pastor K, Ačanski M. The chemistry behind amaranth grains. J Nutr Health Food Eng. 2018;8(5):358‒360. DOI: 10.15406/jnhfe.2018.08.00295
    3. EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies), 2015. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for phosphorus. EFSA Journal 2015;13(7):4185, 54 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4185
    4. Caselato-Sousa, V.M. and Amaya-Farfán, J. (2012). State of Knowledge on Amaranth Grain: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Food Science, 77(4), pp.R93–R104.
    5. Kostyuk V, Potapovich A, Stancato A, De Luca C, Lulli D, Pastore S, Korkina L. Photo-oxidation products of skin surface squalene mediate metabolic and inflammatory responses to solar UV in human keratinocytes. PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e44472. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044472. Epub 2012 Aug 30. PMID: 22952984; PMCID: PMC3431355.
    6. Schneider I, Heinemann M, Hahn A (2015) Comparison of Glycemic Index and Satiety of Cereals containing Amaranth. J Hum Nutr Food Sci 3(5): 1074
    7. Venskutonis, P.R. and Kraujalis, P. (2013), Nutritional Components of Amaranth Seeds and Vegetables: A Review on Composition, Properties, and Uses. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12: 381-412. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12021
    8. Sibian, Mandeep S et al. “Effect of germination on chemical, functional and nutritional characteristics of wheat, brown rice and triticale: a comparative study.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture vol. 97,13 (2017): 4643-4651. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8336 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28370158/
    9. Singh AK, Rehal J, Kaur A, Jyot G. Enhancement of attributes of cereals by germination and fermentation: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(11):1575-89. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.706661. PMID: 24915317. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24915317/
    10. Diabetes UK. (n.d.). Healthy grains. [online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/carbohydrates-and-diabetes/healthy-grains [Accessed 22 Mar. 2021].
    11. ScienceDirect.com. (n.d.). Amaranth Flour – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/amaranth-flour [Accessed 22 Mar. 2021].
    12. Hernando A, Mujico JR, Mena MC, Lombardía M, Méndez E. Measurement of wheat gluten and barley hordeins in contaminated oats from Europe, the United States and Canada by Sandwich R5 ELISA. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008;20(6):545-554. doi:10.1097/MEG.0b013e3282f46597

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