Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Amaranth, A Tasty Source for Energy

Early last year I was complaining to a friend of mine about how lethargic I had become and how although I wanted to be active in all areas of my life, I seemed to have low energy and wasn't accomplishing all the tasks I had set out to achieve on a daily basis.

I felt I was slowly sliding into a middle age stupor and all would soon go to pot. That is when she recommended I try to enhance my diet with more high protein foods that would fuel my energy. I was up to her suggestions especially since I am a vegetarian and really need to watch my protein intake. My friend recommended I try a grain called Amaranth.

Now Amaranth has an usual history. It is a very attractive plant with a beautiful flower that blossoms from it's stems. It was believed to have supernatural powers by the Aztecs who used the plant in religious ceremonies. Before the Spanish Conquest amaranth was associated with human sacrifice as the Aztec women made a mixture of ground amaranth seed, honey or human blood then shaped this mixture into idols that were eaten ceremoniously. Because of this tradition the horrified Spanish forbade use of the plant which caused it to drop in popularity and become obscure for hundreds of years. Small pockets of communities in the Andes and Mexico continued to use Amaranth otherwise it might have not been known to us.

Today in South and Central America Amaranth is mixed with a sugar solution to make a confection called "alegria" (happiness), and milled and roasted amaranth seed is used to create a traditional Mexican drink called "atole." Peruvians use fermented amaranth seed to make "chicha" or beer. In the Cusco area the flowers are used to treat toothache and fevers and as a food colorant for maize and quinoa (another high energy grain).

In both Mexico and Peru the amaranth leaves are gathered then used as a vegetable either boiled or fried. In India amaranth is known as "rajeera" (the King’s grain) and is popped then used in confections called "laddoos," which are similar to Mexican "alegria." In Nepal, amaranth seeds are eaten as gruel called "sattoo" or milled into flour to make chappatis. In Ecuador, the flowers are boiled then the colored boiling water is added to "aquardeinte" rum to create a drink that "purifies the blood," and is also reputed to help regulate the menstrual cycle.

Since the mid-seventies amaranth has started to become popular as a grain and is grown in the Midwest. The grain and it's flour can be found in most natural food stores. It can also be found in cereal form which is the primary way I eat my amaranth.

Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18%) and contains respectable amounts of lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. It is high in fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.The fiber content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and its iron content, five times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry.

Amaranth also contains tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which have cholesterol-lowering activity in humans. Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible and because of this ease of digestion, it has traditionally been given to those recovering from an illness or ending a fasting period. Amaranth consists of 6-10% oil, which is found mostly within the germ. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and is high in linoleic acid, which is important in human nutrition.

Amaranth has been a much welcomed addition to my diet and I recommend it highly to anyone who has been feeling sluggish and suffers from low energy. Actually amaranth and quinoa have both been great additions to my diet as it helps me stay alert during the day and active enough in the evening to do my yoga and workouts. I find myself not trying to talk myself out of exercising especially after work.

Here is a amaranth recipe that has proven to be quite delicious:

Amaranth with Spinach Tomato Mushroom Sauce
1 cup amaranth seed
2-12 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch spinach (or young amaranth leaves if available)
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and coarsely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 teaspoons basil
1-1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 clove of garlic minced
1 Tablespoon onion, minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste (or use a salt substitute)

Add amaranth to boiling water, bring back to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes. 

While amaranth is cooking, stem and wash spinach, then simmer until tender. Dip tomatoes into boiling water to loosen skin, then peel and chop. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add garlic an onion. Saut̩ approximately 2 minutes. Add tomato, mushrooms, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and 1 Tablespoon of water. Drain and chop spinach and add to tomato mixture. Cook an addition 10 Р15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lightly mash tomato as it is cooking.

Stir the sauce into the amaranth or spoon it on top.

For more amaranth recipes click onto this link

More energy means being able to accomplish what we want in life and be able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones in the process.


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