Puffed amaranth is about the size of a mustard seed. You can purchase it at many health food stores or online or make it yourself. It is more widespread in Europe than in North America. From a nutritional point of view, amaranth is very valuable as it contains high amounts of essential amino acids, iron, unsaturated fatty acids, and fiber. As it is one of the gluten-free pseudograins (Amaranthaceae), amaranth is a whole grain that can be used in case of gluten intolerance.
Health aspects: Amaranth contains high levels of iron and is therefore a good choice for people who have an iron deficiency or women who are pregant.2
Amaranth contains certain tannins that can inhibit the absorption and digestion of vitamins, protein, and trace elements. In addition, it is rich in oxalic acid, and people who are more inclined to get kidney stones (or have limited kidney function) should only consume it in small amounts.2
General information: Amaranthus, collectively known as amaranth, is a cosmopolitan genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants. Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, pseudocereals, and ornamental plants. Most of the Amaranthus species are summer annual weeds and are commonly referred to as pigweed. Catkin-like cymes of densely packed flowers grow in summer or autumn. Approximately 60 species are recognized, with inflorescences and foliage ranging from purple, through red and green to gold. Members of this genus share many characteristics and uses with members of the closely related genus Celosia. "Amaranth" derives from Greek ἀμάραντος (amárantos), "unfading", with the Greek word for "flower", ἄνθος (ánthos), factoring into the word's development as amaranth. Amarant is an archaic variant.1
Known to the Aztecs as huāuhtli, amaranth is thought to have represented up to 80% of their energy consumption before the Spanish conquest. Another important use of amaranth throughout Mesoamerica was to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses, or chocolate to make a treat called alegría, meaning "joy" in Spanish. Diego Durán described the festivities for Huitzilopochtli, the name of which means "left side of the hummingbird" or "hummingbird left-hand" (Real hummingbirds feed on amaranth flowers). The Aztec month of Panquetzaliztli (7 December to 26 December) was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli. People decorated their homes and trees with paper flags; ritual races, processions, dances, songs, prayers, and finally human sacrifices were held. This was one of the more important Aztec festivals, and the people prepared for the whole month. They fasted or ate very little; a statue of the god was made out of amaranth seeds and honey, and at the end of the month, it was cut into small pieces so everybody could eat a little piece of the god. After the Spanish conquest, cultivation of amaranth was outlawed, while some of the festivities were subsumed into the Christmas celebration.
Because of its importance as a symbol of indigenous culture, its gluten-free palatability, ease of cooking, and a protein that is particularly well-suited to human nutritional needs, interest in grain amaranth (especially A. cruentus and A. hypochondriacus) revived in the 1970s. It was recovered in Mexico from wild varieties and is now commercially cultivated. It is a popular snack sold in Mexico, sometimes mixed with chocolate or puffed rice, and its use has spread to Europe and parts of North America. Amaranth and quinoa are not grasses and are called pseudocereals because of their similarities to cereals in flavor and cooking.1