Amaranth is nutritious and high in zinc, iron, and calcium. Amaranth has a nutty flavor and serves as a good complement to many bean dishes but it also makes a good main dish when combined with tasty vegetables as does the grain bulghur when turned into tabouli. The catch is that to get the most mineral value out of this food, we recommend soaking it overnight (or for eight to twelve hours) to reduce the mineral inhibitors native to the amaranth. All grains have these same inhibitors and so too benefit from this extensive soaking.
Amaranth is high in phytic acid, or phytates, a well-known mineral inhibitor. The phytic acid binds to minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium and inhibits your absoprtion of them. Although amaranth appears rich in minerals, the fact of the matter is that you cannot absorb all of them because of the phytic acid. The trick is to soak the amaranth to reduce the phytic acid. As a bonus, you will reduce your cooking time.
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Rinse your amaranth and plan to soak it for eight to twelve hours. An overnight soak works well. Use two parts water for one part amaranth or the amount of water called for in your recipe. Soak the amaranth in warm water — above body temperature — and leave it in a warm spot. Cover the amaranth with a towel as it soaks. Some people add yogurt or a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to the mixture to improve the pH of the soaking water. Feel free to give that a try, but if the flavor seems off to you, a regular warm water soak works well too.
After soaking, transfer the amaranth to a pan and follow the cooking directions. The only exception is that the amaranth is likely to cook twice as fast, so sample it along the way to check if it is done. It is good practice to stir it regularly while it is cooking. You might try soaking the amaranth in a stainless steel pot you plan to cook it in. After soaking, simply pop it on the stove and cook it. Prepare amaranth as a breakfast cereal with honey, as a side dish (drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper), or as the center of your meal. Amaranth is nutty, versatile, and nutritious. Plan to soak it to reduce the phytic acid content and you will benefit more from its rich mineral content.
Alexander V. Martin is a whole food advocate and promotes healthy cooking and baking at the website about phytates in food, especially phytic acid in grains. He also enjoys phytic acid videos.
Image by mindwhisperings For Globe Amaranth tea, add blossoms to hot water and steep for several minutes before serving.
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