SuperFoods for Health - Amaranth

Amaranth is Greek for “Unfading flower”. Never heard of this SuperFood? Not surprising! In the 1500’s, when the Spanish Conquistadors came to Mexico, they reported the use of Amaranth in spiritual Aztec ceremonies. King Louie, who deemed the ceremonies as ‘devilish’, declared Amaranth as the first banned food in the Americas. Amaranth faced similar challenges globally, as Spanish conquests replaced these crops with wheat and corn. Fortunate for us, some spiritual leaders continued to grow hidden crops of Amaranth. Since then Amaranth became a common food in India, Nepal, China and Eastern Africa but remained absent in North America until the 1970s. 

Amaranth is a broadleaf plant that can be grown for its seed (pseudocereal- used as a grain), forage potential and ornamental uses. It is now recognized for it’s high protein, high fibre and low saturated fat content. In fact, Amaranth contains the highest levels of Lysine (an essential amino acid) out of all of the cereals. It is also gluten-free and offers significant levels of vitamins and minerals.

It took the emergence of the gluten-free market in North America for Amaranth seed to become a valued food ingredient. It has become a recent favorite addition to baked goods, especially breads, providing additional nutritional and antioxidant properties.

The Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute provides a great overview of Amaranth as a crop. Here is a quick excerpt:

“The relatively high price of Amaranth, while good for farmers, is a factor limiting extent of its current use in the food marketplace.  Still, the valuable characteristics of Amaranth grain, combined with its adaptation to a wide range of growing areas, make it a very promising crop for the future.” Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute

As a crop, Amaranth production costs are about the same as or less than sorghum and soybeans production.  Grain Amaranth is drought tolerant and recognized as a hearty plant that flourishes in most environmental conditions and soil types.  In optimal conditions, it can generate in excess of $3000/hectare. SuperFoods for Health is a joint research partnership between Katan Kitchens, Ontario Soils & Crops Innovation (OSCIA) and OMAFRA currently evaluating 3 cultivars of grain Amaranth within the Sand Plains Region of Ontario. For more information on Amaranth and SuperFoods, visit our website at www.katan.ca or email me at service@katan.ca.

Katan Kitchens is as much a personal passion, as a professional venture for Jamie. Having suffered through a ‘health crisis’ in 2007, he has spent the past several years using his research and chemistry/environmental science education towards understanding the role of diet in health; with a focus on SuperFoods for individuals with allergies, intolerances and indigestion. Follow Jamie on Twitter @Katankitchens, or on his blog at katan.ca/blog/

- Jamie Draves, founder of Kathan Kitchens