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Amaranth and Quinoa: Pseudo-cereal Super Foods

Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Winter Issue - Originally published January 14, 2015


Image: CC--naturalflow

Celiac.com 06/28/2016 - My latest obsession is creating new quinoa recipes, since my eight year old daughter absolutely loves it! Her favorite is warm quinoa with crumbled turkey sausage, broccoli, and lots of cumin. She also loves it with oil and balsamic vinegar. I like it cold with chopped veggies, garlic, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Just a few weeks ago I tried amaranth for the first time. It seems to be the new craze these days. It cooked up very similarly to quinoa, and had a similar taste and texture. I would say the only noticeable difference is that amaranth does not get as fluffy when cooked. It seems like it would be great in soup! Now for a little history.

Amaranth is estimated to have been domesticated between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago, and was a staple food crop of the Aztec's. The common name, amaranth, represents over sixty different plant species called amaranthus.(1) The amaranth plant is a full, broad leafed plant that has vibrant colors. Amaranth's name comes from the Greek name, amarantos, meaning "one that does not fade." This is due to the plant retaining its vibrant colors even after harvesting and drying. The amaranth plant can contain up to 60,000 seeds.

Amaranth is gluten-free and it contains about thirty percent more protein than rice, sorghum, and rye.(2) Amaranth flour can be made from the seeds and is a excellent replacement for those suffering from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Amaranth flour has a unique chemical composition with a predominance of albumins and globulins and a very small prolamins content with total absence of alpha-gliadin. This makes it very comparable to wheat protein(2). It also has a relatively high content of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber and an almost perfect amino acid profile. It's particularly high in lysine, which is abundantly lacking in wheat and corn.(3)

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Another benefit of amaranth is that it is a natural source of folic acid, and in some countries, amaranth is used alleviate birth defects. Amaranth is not a true grain, as it does not come from the Poaceae family, but is considered a pseudo-cereal like it's relative quinoa. Both amaranth and quinoa belong to a large family that also includes beets, chard and spinach.(3)

Quinoa is a broad-leafed plant that produces a small seed. It's a member of the Goosefoot family that is native to South America.(4) Quinoa is considered a complete protein that contains all nine of the essential amino acids necessary to human physiology, and it is the only plant-based source for these nutrients.(5) Quinoa cooks up like a grain, but it is actually a seed, and is an excellent source of protein for vegans and people following a gluten-free diet. According to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, it is also safe for celiac patients.(6)

Like amaranth, quinoa can be ground into a flour and used in cooking or baking. Quinoa is rich in manganese which is vital to activating enzymes crucial to metabolizing carbohydrates and cholesterol. It is also essential to bone development. Quinoa is rich in lysine, an essential amino acid, and helps with the absorption of calcium and the production of collagen and is low on the glycemic index.(5)

Both amaranth and quinoa are great gluten-free options, both as a flour or grain substitute, and have a nutty taste and texture. They readily absorb the flavors they are cooked with, but are also tasty on their own. They can be made hot or cold, combined with other foods, added to soups or baked goods, and made into hot porridge or cereal. They are both versatile, easy to work with, and have a high nutritional content. If you're looking for an easy, healthy, gluten-free option, why not try amaranth or quinoa? It's a staple in our home!

References:

  1. www.wholegrainscouncil.org
  2. Vopr Pitan. 2014;83(1):67-73., Amaranth flour: characteristics, comparative analysis, application possibilities.
  3. Howard, B. C. (August 12, 2013), Amaranth, Another Ancient Wonder Food, But Who Will Eat It?, Retrieved from www.nationalgeographic.com.
  4. Laux, M. (June 2012). Iowa State University. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. Retrieved from www.agmrc.org.
  5. Norek, Danna. (June 15, 2010), Quinoa Gives the Perfect Protein Source to Vegetarians and Vegans. Retrieved from www.naturalnews.com.
  6. Victor F Zevallos PhD1, L Irene Herencia PhD2, Fuju Chang MD, PhD3, Suzanne Donnelly PhD1, H Julia Ellis PhD1 and Paul J Ciclitira MD, PhD1 (January 21, 2-14). Gastrointestinal Effects of Eating Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in Celiac Patients. Am J Gastroenterol 2014; 109:270–278.

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Yes the first has wheat gluten in the ingredients, the second via the wheat flour. Here in the UK manufacturers HAVE to highlight gluten sources. Check the ingredients and if WHEAT, BARLEY, or RYE are mentioned *usually highlighted, italicised or underlined, then you will know there's gluten. Most of iceland's processed foods will probably be gluten filled to be honest. Any breadcrumbed or battered foods for instance. Ps, you and me both have another disease, the british one of apologising You don't need to, you're very welcome here and all of your questions are valid and understandable. It's going to get better

Hi, I am deeply sorry for posting on here again. As I am scheduled for an Endoscopy on the 9th May, I wanted to make sure that my gluten intake is being kept the same. I was wondering if the ingredients to these products contain gluten even though dextrose is in one of them? http://groceries.iceland.co.uk/iceland-32-breaded-chicken-nuggets-448g/p/52275 Chicken Breast Fillet (60%), Water, Wheat Flour, Breadcrumbs (Wheat Flour, Dextrose, Salt, Yeast), Rapeseed Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, White Pepper, Dried Sage. http://groceries.iceland.co.uk/iceland-10-breaded-chicken-burgers-550g/p/52276 Chicken Breast Fillet (60%), Water, Wheat Flour, Breadcrumbs (Wheat Flour, Dextrose, Salt, Yeast), Rapeseed Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, White Pepper, Dried Sage. Thank you for all your help so far,

JMG got it down pretty much, the painful and gluten effects from eating it should clear up in a month, damage symptoms you might notice some differences as early as 2-4months but most do not noticed major improvements til about 6 months to a year. I have been gluten-free for over 3 years all my villi have healed according to the doctor on my last scope. It is very important to not cheat and avoid any kind of CC as it can set you back weeks or months. I would suggest a whole foods only diet for the first month or two, no dairy, simple stews, soups, etc. make for easy to digest and simple meals. Check out the 101 thread for some good information. PS a new combo crockpot, steamer, rice cooker combo and liners for a crock pot will be a life saver for making simple meals and easy clean ups. Quick cook microwave ware will also be handy making sure you have gluten-free cooked meals if you can not get new cookware immediately. I normally suggest cleaning out the entire house, scrubbing down knobs, handles, on the drawers, sink, fridge, cubbards etc. throw out condiment jars, checking ingredients on everything in the house including your hygiene and makeup. Putting in drawer organizers for new utensils, throwing out scratched glass, teflon, plastic, and steel cookware. Throwing out any Tupperware, and cutting boards, some utensils that can not be cleaned well. Some times you can save cast iron and stainless steel cook ware if you can run it in your ovens cleaning cycle over 600F. Gluten is a protein like blood if you can not clean a item where a CSI team will not find it give it up, it is not a germ that can be killed with disinfectant. I use freezer paper for clean prep surfaces, also makes clean up a breeze, I tend to use gloves alot also when fixing foods,

Hi Allie and welcome First off, I know 3 years was a long wait, but at 17 you've figured out celiac way before many people do. That should make a big impact on minimising its effects and helping you with the diet, so, bizarrely enough, congratulations! A lot of good advice has been brought together in this thread: Don't worry that your symptoms are bad now. As you follow the diet your body will begin healing itself and you're still very young so hopefully this will go really smoothly. Think in terms of the next 6 months rather than weeks however, recovery will likely take a little time. Eat as healthily as you can, lots of whole foods and try to avoid the gluten free processed substitutes as your digestive system needs all the help it can get at this moment. You may want to avoid dairy as well for now and think about reintroducing it later. This site has been really helpful to me and others. I hope you find it just as useful. Best of luck! ps, your increased reaction to gluten during the challenge phase was perfectly normal. Many find that reintroducing it much worse than the initial affects and take some time to get over the challenge. That's why you'll see lots of posts here urging folks to 'stay on gluten' till their testing is complete! PPS( ) Inasmuch as your post can convey emotion, your's seemed positive Stay that way! At times the diet can be a bit isolating and some friends and family may struggle to understand. I'm sure it will be difficult at times making good choices and staying vigilant when everyone around you doesn't have to think twice. Stick with it, your health is paramount and it will be worthwhile. In time your good friends will get it and those that don't aren't worth worrying about. There are great foods you can eat and if not, learn to cook them yourself

Hi! My daughter is 19 was diagnosed at age 16. It took about 12-18 month s for her to fully heal from the damage and feel "normal" again. Also because of the damage done she had reactions to dairy, so you may want to try no or minimum dairy until youre fully healed. Just a suggestion. Hope you start feeling well soon!