What is Amaranth?
Amaranth is an annual, large and bushy plant usually about 90-130 cm high. It has oblong-lanceolate pointed green leaves normally arranged alternately in 2-4 inches long. The stems are erect branched. The plant yields flowers at summer or autumn (August and October) which is pink or white in color. The seeds are yellow, white, red, brown, pink, or black in a spherical or flattened lenticular shape. It prefers the warm climate and thrives in well-drained soils. As the plant is annual, it has got the lifespan of one year.
Amaranth, scientific name Amaranthus, is a member of the Amaranthaceae family which is related to and resembles Quinoa. Native to Central America and South America, it is also cultivated in the countries having warm climate.
Health Benefits of Amaranth
Inflammation: The anti-inflammatory properties of peptides and oils in amaranth can ease pain and reduce inflammation. This is especially important for chronic conditions where inflammation erodes your health, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Cancer: The same peptides in amaranth that protect against inflammation may also help prevent cancer. The antioxidants in this grain may even help protect cells from other damage that can lead to cancer.
Gluten Free: Amaranth isn’t really a grain and it does not have the sometimes troublesome proteins you find in wheat, rye, and barley. Amaranth flour can be used to thicken soups, sauces, and more. It can also be used with other gluten free flours and gums in baking.
Cholesterol: The oils and phytosterols in amaranth help lower cholesterol levels, including LDL and triglycerides.
Minerals: Amaranth is a very rich source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and copper. It is also a good source of zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. These build strong bones and muscles, aid hydration, boost energy, and are vital in thousands of processes throughout the body.
Immune System: Amaranth may boost immune function according to some studies, probably thanks to the potent vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Blood Pressure: The fiber and phytonutrients in amaranth lower blood pressure according to some recent studies. This seed tackles cholesterol, inflammation, and blood pressure, making it an all-around good food for heart health.
Protein: Amaranth is a very rich source of protein and this protein is also highly bioavailable. The protein in amaranth is more digestible than other seeds and grains and has been compared to the digestibility of milk protein.
Lysine: Vegetables and grains are often lacking in this essential amino acid. Amaranth has a good amount of lysine which helps the body absorb calcium, build muscle, and produce energy.
Fiber: Amaranth is a high fiber food. This makes it filling and means it aids digestive health, cholesterol, blood pressure, and slows the absorption of sugars to let the body keep up with energy production.
Gray Hair: Amaranth helps prevent premature graying, mainly due to the minerals this seed has in abundance.
Uses of Amaranth
- You can pop amaranth, like popcorn, and use it as a healthy snack or as a treat by mixing it with coconut syrup or honey
- Popped amaranth is used in Mexico as a topping for toast, among other things. It looks like tiny popcorn kernels and has a nutty taste, and you can even do it yourself at home.
Nutritional value of Amaranth
Amaranth is a good source of many essential vitamins too, including A, C, E, K, B5, B6, folate, niacin, and riboflavin. These act as antioxidants, raise energy levels, control hormones, and do much more.
Amaranth, like most seeds, nuts, and grains, does contain some phytic acid, a phosphorus storage molecule that can bind to many minerals and keep us from digesting and using these vital nutrients. It is always better to soak, ferment, or sprout seeds and grains before cooking them to neutralize most of the phytic acid. Amaranth has a modest amount of oxalic acid, which should be avoided or only moderately used by those with gout, kidney problems, or rheumatoid arthritis.