Banana Amaranth Porridge

As I was waiting for my mom to finish making the chai this afternoon, I noticed that the bananas on the counter were becoming overripe. I’m actually not a huge fan of bananas. I have nothing against the taste but the texture is a little odd for me. So I really only eat bananas when they’ve been cooked. Normally, I would make banana oatmeal or banana bread (always a winner) but this time I wanted to try something different. So I found this recipe for amaranth porridge. I made a few variations of my own and, voilà! And, I gotta tell you, the caramelized bananas are delicious! I will definitely be doing this again.

IMG_3696

I discovered amaranth about a year ago but I haven’t tried out too many recipes, yet. Anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot about amaranth’s nutritional benefits. So I did some digging into the scientific literature regarding amaranth and here’s some of what I’ve found. What follows is by no means a comprehensive review of the literature, so I encourage you to read further literature if you’re interested in learning more about amaranth.

A recent study by Aparecida et al.* found that amaranth has cholesterol lowering effects. In this study, the proteins in amaranth were broken down into smaller fragments called peptides in a process similar to which proteins are degraded in the small intestine. The effects of these peptides on HMG-CoA reductase activity was then measured. HMG-CoA reductase is an native enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis and the most widely used anti-cholesterol medications work by reducing its activity. This study found that several peptides found in amaranth also reduced HMG-CoA reductase activity by 40% (peptides GGV and IVG) and 45% (peptide VGVL). For comparison, a common medication in this class, pravastatin, reduces activity by 90%. However, the study only looked at the effects in vitro so there need to be further studies to determine if the effects are similar in humans.

I also found a thorough review article by Caselato-Sousa and Amaya-Farfan** that summarized findings from a number of studies. Since I wasn’t able to get access to the full-text of many of these studies, I’ll refer to their summaries. They report that amaranth has ben found to inhibit the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). ACE is the final enzyme involved in producing angiotensin II, which is a potent vasoconstrictor. As the blood vessels constrict, blood pressure increases, producing hypertension. It should come as no surprise, then, that many antihypertensive medications are aimed at reducing ACE activity; these drugs are all part of the ACE-I class. The review article reports that in vitro studies of amaranth has found that some of the peptides also act as ACE inhibitors.

There are, however, certain downsides. The review article also reports that amaranth is a high GI food, which means that it causes hyperglycemia and elevated insulin levels. Therefore, it may cause difficulties in blood glucose management in diabetic patients. Again, these studies are in vitro so further investigations need to be conducted to determine the effects in humans.

All that being said, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence at this point to say that amaranth should be avoided. So, if you want to try out this recipe, read on!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup amaranth
  • 1 3/4 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 ripe bananas, cut into large slices
  • 3 tbsp raw sugar
  • Nonstick spray

Instructions:

  1. In a pan, heat amaranth, 1 cup almond milk, and water to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Let it cook for about 15 minutes, until the amaranth becomes soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Add chia seeds to the pan. Chia seeds absorb fluid quickly so add the remaining 3/4 cup almond milk at this time.
  3. Add cinnamon and vanilla extract to the porridge.
  4. After about 5 minutes, remove the pan from heat and allow the porridge to thicken.
  5. In a bowl, add sugar to the banana slices and toss so they are well coated.
  6. Heat an empty skillet over the stove. Just before you add the banana slices, coat the skillet with nonstick spray. Place the banana slices on the skillet and keep the skillet hot.
  7. After about 3 minutes, flip the banana slices over and cook for an additional 3 minutes. The bananas should be caramelized on the surface, as in the picture below. IMG_3695

To serve, spoon the porridge into a bowl and top with the bananas, walnuts, and cranberries. This recipe should make 3 servings. Enjoy!

IMG_3698

References:

*Aparecida, R. (2015). Major peptides from amaranth (amaranthus cruentus) protein inhibit HMG-CoA reductase activity. Int. J. Mol. Sci., 16, 4150-4160. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
**Caselato-Sousa, V., & Amaya-Frafan, J. (2012). State of knowledge on amaranth grain: A comprehensive review. J. Food Sci, 77(4), 93-104. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
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