What is amaranth?
Amaranth is a ‘pseudo-cereal’, along with quinoa and buckwheat. It is a flower and also a grain. It is part of the foxtail plant family and the grain (which is edible) looks a bit like couscous.
Grains like amaranth share many similar properties to cereals (such as wheat, rye and barley). They are used and eaten in the same way as cereals, and amaranth has been eaten for thousands of years. It was originally grown and cultivated by the Incas/Aztecs. Amaranth is naturally high in iron and protein, and is also gluten-free.
Why does HiPP Organic use amaranth in their recipes?
Increasingly, for various reasons, more and more people in the UK are moving towards a plant-based diet. Some are vegetarians, whilst others are just looking for more ‘meat-free’ mealtimes.
Babies being raised as vegetarian, or partly vegetarian, can grow perfectly well without needing to eat meat, however there are some nutrients in meat which vegetarians need to get from other sources. One of these is iron. Babies are born with stores of iron they have gained in the womb, but it is almost all used up by six months of age, so babies need to start getting it from their diet. Meat (and fish) is a particularly good source of iron, but if you are vegetarian you need to find another source. Some fruits and vegetables contain iron, but it is usually in smaller amounts than meat. Amaranth contains a higher than average amount of iron for a grain, so it is a very good iron source for vegetarians. For this reason, HiPP Organic have added it to 3 of their vegetarian recipes.
Why is iron important during weaning?
Iron is an important mineral which we need to get from our diets as we cannot make it for ourselves. Iron is essential for blood formation as part of a product called ‘haemoglobin’ which helps to carry oxygen around our bodies. It is especially important in babies who are growing and developing quickly.
Organic products cannot be supplemented with additional vitamins or minerals; they must occur naturally within the ingredients or food. HiPP Organic has looked to find an ingredient naturally high in iron which can be used in our foods to boost the iron content of vegetable recipes.
How much iron does amaranth contain?
Raw amaranth has an unusually high iron content of around 9g/100g; this is higher than oats and almost three times as much as wheat or rice. This decreases a little on cooking but it is still a very good plant-based source of iron.
Cereals contain more iron than meat (beef or lamb contain only 2g/100g), but the amount that we can absorb from cereals is lower. Only about 5% of plant-based iron is absorbed, compared to around 20% for meats.
This means that for vegetarians, the balance of foods needs to be looked at carefully. Vitamin C can improve the absorption of plant-based iron, so combining amaranth with vitamin C-containing fruits or vegetables helps to increase the amount of iron we can absorb from it.
HiPP Organic have created three new recipes, all suitable for vegetarians and containing amaranth, providing a source of iron. Each of these jars contains at least 18% of your babies daily iron requirement. All three jars also contain fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, which can help the body to absorb the iron from the food.