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Gluten-Free For Celiacs and the Gluten-Intolerant: Amaranth

By: Jody Smith

Got problems with gluten? Living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? Mourning the loss of your favorite foods? Toss the widow's weeds and go after gluten-free foods.

Amaranth is one such item to add to your refurbished grocery list. Amaranth is not well-known but it should be. It's already being used in baked goods like breads and cakes. It's an unsung hero that anyone who has celiac disease or gluten intolerance needs to hear about.

Amaranth is not a grain, it's a seed belonging to the Amaranthaceae family. Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can use it as a substitute for glutenous grains. Unlike many grains, amaranth has a high concentration of the amino acid lysine.

But Amaranth is considered a complete protein because of its Lysine content, along with the other essential amino acids. The protein content hovers around 13 to 14 percent.

Amaranth has the most protein of any gluten-free grain, on par with the amount of protein in milk. It also contains more protein than wheat.

Researchers at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama obtained results that indicated Amaranth's protein was comparable to animal products like cheese. It’s protein was also considered to be superior to most vegetable-source proteins.

Amaranth is also high in calcium, iron, fiber, fatty acids, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Grains don't contain vitamin C but Amaranth does.

Nutritionally, Amaranth stands tall. But despite its stellar attributes, it shouldn't stand alone. This is because it is very absorbent when it's used without other flours. Bakery items made just with amaranth will produce dense, heavy concoctions that resemble paperweights and doorstops more than bread or cookies.

This just means you'll need to try your hand at experimentation with other gluten-free flours until you find a combination that is lighter and more edible. Growing Amaranth is somewhat touchier than some other grains and flour crops due to susceptibility to many diseases and pests.

Amaranth leaves taste rather like spinach. You can put the leaves in salads, or cook them in stews and other dishes.

In its masquerade as a grain, amaranth can be used in breads, cereals, crackers, muffins and pancakes. Or you can boil it in water for 15 to 20 minutes, then drain and rinse it. After it's cooked and given time to dry, it can be used in such diverse recipes as salads, soups and cookie batter.


Jody Smith is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.


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