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Amaranth packs all the amino acids (building blocks of muscle) that render it a complete protein, particularly lysine, the amino acid missing in most grains. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and boasts one of the highest fiber contents of all grains. It is gluten-free, which makes it ideal if you have digestive problems such as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Because amaranth falls low on the glycemic index, your blood sugar levels stay steady to deliver long-lasting energy. It is also replete with anti-inflammatory prowess due to its fiber, unsaturated oil and phytochemical content, which helps reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the body and brain before, during and after exercise. Carbs also play a key role in maintaining and building muscle mass: having adequate amounts in your system prevents precious protein from being broken down and used up for energy. Also, training in a carb-depleted state may increase the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that can negatively impact your performance. So how much do you need? Generally, you want to aim for two to four grams per pound of body weight. For best results, time your carb intake with your training.
Preworkout: Eat a small serving (a third of a cup) of cooked amaranth (equals about 15 grams of carbs) 30 to 60 minutes before exercise to maintain steady blood glucose levels and prevent premature fatigue.
Postworkout: Eat a third to two-thirds of a cup of cooked amaranth with protein, opting for the higher amount as the intensity and duration of your training increases. Eating carbs immediately after exercise replenishes glycogen stores, so you can work out the next day with gusto.
So versatile! Try amaranth as:
- A flour replacement in pancake, waffle and muffin recipes.
- A hot cereal or in place of rice.
- An ingredient in granola.
- A thickener for gravies, soups and stews.
- A snack. Pop it in a pan as you would to make popcorn.
You can also use it this way as a crunchy salad topper.
Amaranth Crusted Chicken with Roasted Peppers
Ready in 30 minutes • Makes 2 servings
- 2 4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 10 mini bell peppers (red, orange, yellow)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
- 6 Tbsp. amaranth seeds
- Olive oil spray
- Pinch sea salt and pepper
- Cut chicken into thirds to make 6 pieces. Pound with mallet to ½-inch thickness, then place the pieces into a large Ziploc bag.
- Rinse bell peppers, let drain and set aside.
- Whisk marinade ingredients and add to bag with chicken. Shake to coat and let soak for 10 minutes.
- Prepare crust: heat a skillet over high heat until it becomes very hot. Add 2 tablespoons of amaranth seeds into the skillet and cover with a lid. Shake the skillet until all the seeds have popped, about 20 seconds. Remove seeds from the skillet and repeat 2 more times. Set aside in a bowl.
- Roast peppers: preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a cooking sheet with oil and place peppers on top. Spray with oil and season. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning to brown evenly.
- Cook chicken: sear on a skillet set on medium-high heat for 2 minutes on each side, until lightly golden. Cover with a lid, lower heat, and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from pan and place into a bowl with popped amaranth; coat evenly on both sides. Serve with roasted peppers.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 368, Total Fats: 13 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 60 mg, Sodium: 559 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 33 g, Dietary Fiber: 7 g, Sugars: 6 g, Protein: 30 g, Iron: 3 mg
Cooking tip: Use 2½ to 3 cups of water for 1 cup of amaranth, cook for 20 minutes, then drain.