Ancient grains make healthful, tasty cookies

March 17, 2016 by Sandra Avant
Amaranth seeds (left), amaranth flour (right), above the final product, amaranth cookies. Credit: Diejun Chen

More people are becoming aware of the health benefits of ancient grains and seeds, such as amaranth and chia seeds, but incorporating them into one's diet is not always easy. That could change in the near future as Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists explore the physical properties of these foods, blending mixtures to make treats like sugar cookies that are tasty and good for your health.

At the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois, scientist George E. Inglett and his assistant Diejun Chen have developed amaranth-oat and chia-oat composites that may be used to create foods with that include lowering the occurrence of heart problems, diabetes, and obesity.

Amaranth flour contains lysine, an essential amino acid, and oats contain beta-glucan, known for lowering . The researchers blended the two ingredients to make nutritious, gluten-free sugar cookies.

The team compared the amaranth-oat composite cookies and doughs with those made with amaranth or alone. Amaranth and its composites had improved water-holding capacities compared to wheat flour. Differences were found in the hardness and shape of doughs and cookies. There were no significant differences in color and flavor among all cookies.

"Our amaranth-oat cookies were acceptable in all aspects. They had improved nutritional value and along with gluten-free uniqueness," says Inglett, who works in NCAUR's Functional Foods Research Unit.

Technician Diejun Chen (left) and chemist George Inglett inspect sugar cookies they made with amaranth and oat products. Credit: Z. Lewis Liu

The same can be said for cookies made from the chia-oat composites. Scientists dry-blended Nutrim (a commercial product developed by Inglett that is made from barley or oats), oat bran concentrate, and whole wheat flour with finely ground chia to come up with the powdery mixture.

"Whole chia seeds are not easily absorbed in our systems because of their hard outer coats, but they are pretty good when ground in with other components," Inglett says. "Chia seeds have some very interesting compositions—high oil and rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega 3, that help lower blood cholesterol and prevent coronary heart disease."

In addition to Nutrim, Inglett also developed Oatrim, used as a fat replacement in baked foods; Z-Trim, a zero-calorie insoluble fiber gel that is prepared from high-fiber agricultural products like corn and oat hulls; and Calorie ControlTrim, which contains 20 to 50 percent beta-glucan.

Whole chia seeds. ARS scientists used ground chia seeds as an ingredient in their nutritious cookies. Credit: Al Probyn

In recent studies, Inglett found that the amaranth-oat and chia-oat composites have excellent physical properties, which contribute to improved cookie texture, and their nutritional qualities may be valuable in healthful foods.

"Oats are good for you, but we don't get enough. I try to make oats more palatable and available not only for breakfast, but also for lunch and dinner," Inglett says. "That's what my research has been all about over the years—making nutritious food to promote better health."

Explore further: Amaranth seeds may prevent chronic diseases

Related Stories

Amaranth seeds may prevent chronic diseases

February 19, 2015

The tiny seed of an amaranth grain may be able to help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, according to a review of existing research in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety published by ...

Enhancing yogurt with healthful fiber from oats

March 26, 2013

Adding about one-quarter teaspoon of a fiber-rich component of oats boosts the nutritional value of low-fat yogurt without noticeably affecting the taste or texture of this increasingly popular dairy food.

Inventing New Oat and Barley Breads

February 26, 2010

( -- Delicious new all-oat or all-barley breads might result from laboratory experiments now being conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in California.

Healthy fractions of oats efficiently recovered

October 27, 2014

In his PhD thesis, Juhani Sibakov, MSc (Tech) from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland developed methods to broaden the use of oats in, for example, snacks and beverages. Fractions with 56% beta-glucan and 73% protein ...

Recommended for you

Ants need work-life balance, research suggests

January 16, 2017

As humans, we constantly strive for a good work-life balance. New findings by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology suggest that ants, long perceived as the workaholics of the insect world, do the same.

New tools will drive greater understanding of wheat genes

January 16, 2017

Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have developed a much-needed genetic resource that will greatly accelerate the study of gene functions in wheat. The resource, a collection of wheat seeds with more than 10 million ...

How China is poised for marine fisheries reform

January 16, 2017

As global fish stocks continue sinking to alarmingly low levels, a joint study by marine fisheries experts from within and outside of China concluded that the country's most recent fisheries conservation plan can achieve ...

SMiLE-seq: A new technique speeds up genetics

January 16, 2017

Scientists at EPFL have developed a technique that can be a game-changer for genetics by making the characterization of DNA-binding proteins much faster, more accurate, and efficient.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.