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Amaranth seeds, amaranth flour, and amaranth cookies. Link to photo information
Amaranth seeds (left) and amaranth flour (right), above the final product, amaranth cookies. Click the image for more information about it.

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Ancient Grains Make Healthful, Tasty Cookies

By Sandra Avant
March 16, 2016

New chia-oat and amaranth-oat mixtures developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists may be used to make healthful foods in the future.

Chemist George E. Inglett and his colleagues at Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois, examined the physical properties of chia and amaranth that contain lysine—an essential amino acid. In one experiment, scientists blended amaranth flour with oat products containing beta-glucan, which is associated with lowering blood cholesterol, to make nutritious, gluten-free sugar cookies.

Amaranth-oat composites, cookies and doughs were compared with those made of amaranth or wheat flour alone. Amaranth dough had improved water-holding capacity compared with wheat, and amaranth cookies were acceptable in all aspects. The cookies had improved nutritional value and physical properties.

In another experiment, scientists found the same results for sugar cookies made from chia-oat composites. The scientists dry-blended Nutrim, oat bran concentrate and whole wheat flour with finely ground chia to make the mixture.

Chia seeds are high in oil and rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega 3, which help lower blood cholesterol and prevent coronary heart disease.

In this research, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture and the Journal of Food Research in 2014, Inglett demonstrated that amaranth-oat and chia-oat composites have desirable physical qualities such as improved texture. These qualities, along with the ancient grains' nutritional value, may make them desirable ingredients for healthful foods.

One of the ingredients used to make the cookies, Nutrim, is a commercial product made from barley and oats developed years ago by Inglett to help lower blood cholesterol.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about this work in the March 2016 issue of AgResearch.