Amaranth Flour is made from the Amaranth plant by grinding its seeds into a fine powder. It is a protein-rich and gluten-free flour first widely used by the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilisations in South America.
Simple to use and offering an earthy, nutty flavour, amaranth flour is today widely used in Mexican, Chinese, Indian and various Asian cuisine. Favoured for making unleavened flatbreads like tortillas in Mexico or chapatis in India. When used for leavened or yeast-risen bread it is best used in combination with other flours. Amaranth flour is also used as a thickener for soups, stews and sauces.
The Amaranth Plant
Bushy with thick stalks, amaranth plants reach a maximum height of 3 to 9 feet. The seeds from which amaranth flour is milled come in various colours, including gold, tan, pink and white, depending on the species of grain amaranth that is used.
Considered a pseudocereal unrelated to wheat or other true grains, amaranth not only delivers high-quality protein — roughly 17 per cent by weight — but also contains plenty of other healthful nutrients. Its high levels of the amino acid lysine help your body to properly absorb calcium from the digestive tract. For those interested in increasing their calcium intake, amaranth flour also has twice as much calcium — ounce for ounce — as cow’s milk, according to “The Thrive Diet.” Amaranth flour is also rich in fatty acids and includes tocotrienol, a potent form of vitamin E. Amaranth flour has roughly five times the iron and three times the fibre of wheat flour. It’s also rich in other micronutrients, including potassium, phosphorus and, vitamins A and C.
Amaranth Flour is Gluten-Free
Individuals who experience allergic reactions to foods containing gluten can avoid or minimize these unpleasant symptoms by using amaranth flour in combination with other flours that are either gluten-free or extremely low in gluten content. Gluten is a protein composite found in many foods made from wheat and certain other grains. Susan O’Brien, the author of “Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking,” recommends using amaranth flour by itself for thickening sauces or breading. For baked goods, she suggests using amaranth flour to make up 25 per cent of the total flour content in recipes, combining it with other gluten-free flours such as quinoa and brown rice flours.
A team of Brazilian researchers conducted laboratory and animal studies to assess the antioxidant properties of Amaranthus hypochondriacus, one of the primary species used to produce amaranth flour. In-vitro testing showed that amaranth seed extract had adequate levels of total phenols — naturally occurring plant compounds — and demonstrated increased antioxidant activity. In the animal study, the livers of laboratory rats were subjected to ethanol. Rats that were then fed an amaranth seed extract displayed less liver damage than those in control groups that received alternative feeds. In an article in a 2009 issue of “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition,” researchers said their findings confirm that amaranth seed is a good source of phenols that show a protective effect on the blood and livers of rats exposed to ethanol.