Amaranth healthy carb addition

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Aug. 8, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 8, 2013
Amaranth healthy carb addition

Nutritionally, amaranth is a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese and dietary fiber.

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Imagine chicken or steak sizzling on the grill, fresh green beans, vine-ripened tomatoes and grilled corn on the cob.

Satisfying meals include a protein source, at least one vegetable and a complex carbohydrate.
For most people, the usual list of carb choices is pretty limited. Sweet potatoes, white potatoes, pasta, rice, green peas, corn and starchy beans, such as pinto, black or kidney beans, are popular.

There are many different grains and seeds now available on the shelf or in bulk at local stores. To add variety and health benefits, I’ve decided to experiment, beginning with a tiny seed called amaranth.

Nutritionally, amaranth is a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese and dietary fiber. It’s a good choice for vegetarians because it contains the amino acid, lysine, which is missing in most grains.

Several studies have shown that like oats, consuming amaranth has a positive effect on cholesterol profiles. Amaranth is completely gluten-free, making it suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Historically, amaranth was a major food crop of the Aztecs and also used in religious ceremonies. It was combined with honey to create a deity’s image. Once formed, the images were worshipped before being broken into pieces and distributed for people to eat.

When Cortez and his Spaniards landed in the New World in the 16th century, they began fervent and often forceful attempts to convert the Aztecs to Christianity.

Because of ritual similarity to Catholic Holy Communion, Cortez banned all cultivation of amaranth in 1519. Fortunately, the plant was found in other parts of the world and not completely eradicated, serving as an important food source in Africa, India and Nepal.

The procedure to cook amaranth is similar to rice:

Combine one cup of seeds with two cups water or stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until water is absorbed and texture is soft for a side dish. After adding honey or maple syrup as a sweetener, it may be eaten as a hot cereal. Or add amaranth to soups or stews and simmer at least 20 minutes.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D,. is a registered dietitian and nutritionist and extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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