No. We are not going to call this a superfood. Not again. These days, everything that you can find on the supermarket shelves is dubbed a superfood – so much that the term is losing its value.
So, we are not going to call amaranth a superfood. We will just show you what it can do for you. Whether it is a superfood or not, well, you decide.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Amaranth?
- What Is The History Of Amaranth?
- What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Amaranth?
- What Are The Benefits Of Amaranth?
- How To Use Amaranth
- How To Cook And Eat Amaranth
- How To Select And Store Amaranth
- Any Popular Amaranth Recipes?
- Any Important Facts About Amaranth?
- Where To Buy Amaranth?
- Any Side Effects Of Amaranth?
What Is Amaranth?
Scientifically known as Amaranthus, this is a genus of perennial plants (annual as well as short-lived). The name ‘amaranth’ is derived from the Greek words ‘amarantos’ (which means ‘unfading’) and ‘anthos’ (which means flower).
Technically, amaranth is a seed and not a grain (though most sources call it a grain, and that is okay). It is called ‘bayam’ in Indonesia and Malaysia, ‘kalunay’ in the Philippines, ‘amarante’ in France, ‘kiwicha’ in Spanish, ‘borlas’ in South America, and ‘bredo’ in Portugal. It also is called the African or the Indian spinach.
Certain amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, ornamental plants, and even pseudocereals (non-grasses used the same way as cereals, like quinoa). And there are different types of amaranth:
Amaranth leaves, which are either growing in the field (and come in vibrant colors like red, orange, and purple) or are ready for harvest (which are dried and brownish). These are also called amaranth greens.
Amaranth grains, which are in a uniform shade of pale cream.
Popped amaranth, also called puffed amaranth – they are what we get when you pour a few tablespoons of amaranth grains onto a very hot surface. The grains pop. You can call it amaranth popcorn.
Amaranth flour, which is white or creamish like any other flour.
Don’t lose yourself in the technicalities because what you are about to see next is even more interesting.
What Is The History Of Amaranth?
Why do we call this interesting?
Because this is one of the oldest things cultivated and eaten by humans. Like, say, more than 8,000 years ago. The Aztecs were the first guys to cultivate this crop, and it is still a native crop in modern-day Peru. The ancient history of amaranth can be traced back to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.
Today, amaranth is grown in Africa, India, Russia, China, throughout South America, and parts of North America.
The reason amaranth is being cultivated for more than 8,000 years now is the stuff it contains – the nutrients.
What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Amaranth?
|Nutrition Facts Serving Size 193g|
|Amount Per Serving|
|Amount Per Serving|
|Calories 716||Calories from Fat 113|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14g||21%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||14%|
|Total Carbohydrate 127g||42%|
|Dietary Fiber 13g||52%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||2.3mg||11%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
One cup of cooked amaranth contains about 251 calories. It contains 4 grams of fat and no cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, and 46 grams of carbohydrates.
Some other important nutrients in amaranth include:
– 0.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 (14% of the daily value)
– 0.1 milligrams of vitamin B2 (3% of the daily value)
– 0.6 milligrams of niacin (3% of the daily value)
– 0.5 milligrams of vitamin E (2% of the daily value)
– 0.1 milligrams of thiamine (2% of the daily value)
– 2 milligrams of manganese (105% of the daily value)
– 160 milligrams of magnesium (40% of the daily value)
– 5 milligrams of iron (29% of the daily value)
– 116 milligrams of calcium (16% of the daily value)
– 54 micrograms of folate (14% of the daily value)
– 2 milligrams of zinc (14% of the daily value)
Knowing about these nutrients is not enough – what we need to look at is what these nutrients can do for us.
What Are The Benefits Of Amaranth?
Amaranth is gluten-free, which is great news for anyone who wants to have a healthy diet but is gluten-intolerant. The seed is a great source of protein, which helps build muscle and boosts immunity and hair health. And the fiber amaranth contains works great for treating diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even cancer.
1. Is Gluten-Free
That’s some fantastic news for people with sensitivities or intolerances to gluten. Gluten sensitivity is basically a cluster of symptoms that happen due to reaction to a protein in the wheat plant (and that protein is gluten). The most severe form of gluten sensitivity is Celiac’s disease, which causes serious digestive complications.
Given amaranth doesn’t have gluten, you can happily include it in your gluten-free diet.
2. Is An Excellent Source Of Protein
We have read in school that protein is the building block of the body. And then, we forgot about it. It’s time to remind ourselves about the importance of this nutrient.
Amaranth contains an unusually high quality of protein. One cup of cooked amaranth offers 9 grams of protein. This nutrient is used by every cell in our body – and is essential for building muscle mass and digestion. It also aids neurological function.
3. Helps Fight Inflammation
Amaranth is a great tool you can use to fight inflammation. And more importantly, it treats inflammatory conditions like arthritis and gout. This is especially true in the case of osteoarthritis.
One study spoke of the anti-inflammatory properties of amaranth and how they could aid the treatment of inflammatory conditions like arthritis (3). Something similar is also discussed in a report by the Arthritis Foundation, which talks about how amaranth can be a better choice for anyone suffering from arthritis (4). It is gluten-free (we will discuss that too), which offers an added advantage. The magnesium in amaranth also offers anti-inflammatory benefits.
These anti-inflammatory properties of amaranth can be attributed to the presence of phytochemicals, which amaranth contains aplenty (5).
4. Improves Bone Health
Manganese is one important mineral this vegetable contains, which plays a role in bone health. One cup of amaranth offers 105% of the daily value of manganese, making it one of the richest sources of the mineral.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, amaranth is one of the ancient grains important for a bone-healthy diet. It contains protein, calcium, and iron – nutrients crucial for bone health (6). It also happens to be the only grain to contain vitamin C, which helps improve the health of ligaments and also fights inflammation (and associated inflammatory ailments like gouts and arthritis).
And being rich in calcium, amaranth helps heal broken bones and even strengthens the bones. One 2013 study stated that consuming amaranth was an effective way to meet our daily needs of calcium and other bone-healthy minerals like zinc and iron (7).
These characteristics of amaranth also make it a good treatment for osteoarthritis.
5. Strengthens The Heart
One Russian study stated the efficacy of amaranth oil in preventing coronary heart disease. The oil achieves this by reducing total cholesterol (8). It also increases the concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids and other healthy long-chain acids from the omega-3 families. This also can have a beneficial effect on patients suffering from hypertension.
Another study published in 2003 showed that amaranth has phytosterols, which have cholesterol-reducing properties. Amaranth had also exhibited anti-atherosclerotic effects in several other studies (9).
6. Might Fight Diabetes
Though amaranth has a high glycemic index, surprisingly, it may not be harmful for diabetics. In one study, rats fed with amaranth oil or amaranth grain experienced an increase in insulin levels and a decrease in blood sugar levels (10). Although we need more studies in this regard, taking amaranth in moderation can be beneficial for diabetics (as it contains fiber as well).
You might want to have amaranth along with lean protein foods and foods high in unsaturated fat.
7. Fights Cancer
The protein in amaranth can play a vital role in cancer treatment. It builds the health of healthy cells that are otherwise destroyed in chemotherapy.
According to another Bangladeshi study, amaranth can exhibit a strong anti-proliferative activity on cancer cells. It stops the cancer cells from spreading (11).
Amaranth also contains tocotrienols, which are members of the vitamin E family, found to have anticancer properties. We don’t know much about tocotrienols, but whatever little we know tells us that these compounds play a role in the treatment and prevention of cancer (12).
8. Is A Great Source Of Lysine
Amaranth tops the list of the high-lysine grains – offering 721 milligrams of the nutrient in a half cup serving. Lysine is one essential amino acid that plays a role in calcium absorption. It also burns fat and maintains the skin, tendons, cartilage, and bones.
The lysine in amaranth is also used to treat herpes virus and cold sores around the mouth. It also works as an immune booster.
9. Boosts Immunity
Reports suggest that unprocessed grains work wonders for your immune health, and amaranth is one among them (13). And the oil also works great for immunity – especially for children suffering from allergies.
Amaranth is also rich in zinc, another mineral known to empower the immune system. Zinc has an important role to play, especially in the immune systems of older people. Older individuals might be more susceptible to infections, and zinc helps by staving them off.
Zinc supplementation is linked to an increase in the numbers of T-cells, which are a type of white blood cells associated with a stronger immune system. T-cells target and destroy invading pathogens (14).
10. Enhances Digestive Health
The fiber in amaranth bags the credit here (15). It binds to the cholesterol in the digestive system and results in its excretion. The fiber basically acts as bile and pulls the cholesterol out of the stool – which, apart from offering benefits to your heart, also aids digestion. It also regulates the excretion of waste.
Around 78 percent of the fiber in amaranth is insoluble while the remaining 22 percent is soluble – and this proportion is higher than what is found in other grains like maize and wheat. Soluble fiber aids proper digestion.
Amaranth also treats leaky gut syndrome, where the gut lining that prevents the bigger food particles (that can damage your system) from passing through gets inflamed. This causes fatigue, bloating, headaches, and even weight gain. Amaranth works here by encouraging the growth of the beneficial gut bacteria, thereby healing the leaky gut.
11. Might Aid Weight Loss
Though not a weight loss food specifically, amaranth could be an addition to your weight loss diet. Fiber is what we can look at here. It suppresses your appetite and keeps you full, and this discourages overeating – healthily impacting your overall weight loss process.
Amaranth is also a whole grain, and it contributes to weight loss much better than refined grains (16).
12. Improves Vision
Amaranth contains vitamin A, which is known to improve vision. The vitamin is important for vision under poor lighting conditions, and it also prevents night blindness (caused by vitamin A deficiency) (17).
Amaranth leaf also is rich in vitamin A, which can help enhance vision (18).
13. Is Beneficial For Pregnancy
Amaranth is rich in iron, a mineral that has a vital role to play during pregnancy. It helps deliver oxygen to the baby and supports its development. And the folate in this veggie helps the body make new cells. It also is crucial for copying and synthesizing DNA. More importantly, a folate deficiency can lead to neural tube defects in the newborn.
Folate is also considered the most important vitamin during pregnancy. In fact, fortification of foods with folate by the FDA had cut down the risk of neural tube defects by 26 percent (19).
14. Improves Hair And Skin Health
Amaranth contains lysine, an amino acid the body cannot produce – and an amino acid that can benefit the hair. It strengthens the hair follicles and helps prevent male pattern baldness. You can simply extract the juice from the amaranth leaves and apply to your hair after shampooing.
The iron in amaranth also contributes to hair health. This mineral might also prevent premature graying.
Amaranth oil can be beneficial to your skin as well. It can help prevent premature signs of aging and even serve as a good cleanser. You just have to massage a few drops of the oil into your face before you take a bath.
15. Combats Anemia
Given that it is rich in iron, amaranth can help combat anemia – which is a result of the deficiency of the mineral. This was proved in a study published in Public Health Nutrition, where adding amaranth to the diets of Kenyan children had improved their anemic symptoms (20).
The benefits, we saw, are wonderful. But these alone can’t define the greatness of amaranth. There is something else.
How To Use Amaranth
There are other ways you can use amaranth to make your life easier. Whether it is moisturizing your skin or removing your makeup seamlessly, amaranth has something to offer. Here are ways you can use amaranth:
- Moisturize Your Skin
Wash your hands and then leave them damp. Pour about 3 drops of amaranth oil on your palms and rub them together. Massage this oil into your face. Repeating this daily can improve skin health.
- Clean And Whiten Your Teeth
The oil works as a natural bactericide. So, you can use it to remove the plaque and bacteria on your teeth and tongue. You might also want to use the oil to treat swollen gums, mouth ulcers, or even a sore throat. Simply swish a tablespoon of the oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes, and then spit it out. Repeat daily.
- Remove Makeup
Take a couple of drops of the oil on your fingertips and massage into the skin around your eyes and eyelashes (and wherever you added makeup). Take a cotton swab and wipe the makeup residue away.
- Make Your Hair Shine
Simply massage your hair and scalp using a drop or two of amaranth oil. Wrap a towel around your hair and leave it on for 30 minutes. You can shampoo afterwards for smooth and shiny hair.
That’s with the uses. It sure does feel good when something not only benefits your health but also works in ways to make your life a whole lot easier. But yes, ever wondered how you can cook amaranth? Any tips on how to serve the veggie?
How To Cook And Eat Amaranth
You can prepare and eat amaranth in several ways. And these are just a few.
- You can cook them in water. The ratio is 6 cups of water to 1 cup of amaranth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir once in 15 minutes.
- Or you can take it as a healthy cereal. Cook amaranth in milk and serve it with your favorite fruit and nuts.
- Have it as a tasty evening snack. Simply pop amaranth seeds just like popcorn. Add it as a crunchy topping to soups or salads.
- Use it as a side dish. Cook amaranth in juice or stock. Add seasoning and a dollop of butter. Use it as a side dish.
- As a substitute for rice. You can have amaranth in the place of rice. Or replace rice with amaranth in your regular rice preparations.
Good stuff, isn’t it? But not all amaranth you find in the marketplace is good. So, one must know how to pick the right variety. And how to store it as well.
How To Select And Store Amaranth
This is quite simple.
For selection, ensure you pick the fresh, crisp, and green bunches. There must be no signs of insect damage. If you are going for the seeds, make sure they are well wrapped in airtight packages.
For storage, keep them (seeds or leaves) refrigerated in a plastic bag. Use within a week. Don’t wash them until you are ready to use them.
What do you do after you have picked the right type of amaranth and stored it properly? You head to your kitchen counter, ready to create the next culinary masterpiece. Right? Well, these amaranth recipes can help – they will have you going gaga over this trendy grain.
Any Popular Amaranth Recipes?
1. Amaranth Porridge
What You Need
- ½ cup of amaranth
- 1 ½ cups of water
- ¼ cup of milk (or almond milk or rice milk)
- 2 teaspoons of maple syrup or brown sugar
- A pinch of salt
- In a small saucepan, combine the amaranth and the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low (covered) and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep stirring as the amaranth might stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the milk and maple syrup or brown sugar. Add a pinch of salt.
- Keep stirring until the porridge is creamy. Remove from the heat and serve.
2. Orange Amaranth Bread
What You Need
- 1 ¼ cups of warm water
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- 2 ½ cups of bread flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup of whole wheat bread flour
- ¾ cup of amaranth flour
- 3 tablespoons of grated orange zest
- 1 tablespoon of wheat gluten flour
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- ¾ teaspoon of salt
- In a large bowl, stir the water, honey, and yeast. Let the mixture stand until the yeast softens and begins to turn into a creamy foam.
- Whisk the bread flour, whole wheat bread flour, amaranth flour, and wheat gluten flour in another bowl.
- Add the orange zest and vegetable oil and salt to the yeast mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture until you get a sturdy dough. After the dough has pulled together, turn it onto a slightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic. This might take some 10 minutes.
- In a slightly oiled bowl, place the dough and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place (until it has doubled in volume).
- Lightly grease a loaf pan.
- Punch down the dough, turn it onto a lightly floured surface, and knead about six times. Form the dough into a loaf and place into a prepared pan. Let the dough rise and double in volume in the next 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350o F.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the top turns golden brown. The bottom of the loaf should also sound hollow when tapped. This might take some 40 minutes.
You can also replace your regular flour with amaranth flour for delicious amaranth flour recipes.
We don’t have to be too serious. Here’s something to lighten you up a bit.
Any Important Facts About Amaranth?
- Amaranth completes its life cycle after one or a few years, depending on the species.
- The leaves of amaranth are edible and quite popular in Asia.
- Amaranth propagates via its seed.
- The amaranth plant blooms during the summer and autumn. It belongs to a group of self-pollinating plants.
- Amaranth has an erect and bushy stem that can grow anywhere from a few inches to 10 feet in height.
You have learned a good deal about amaranth and how it can benefit you. But wait, where can you get it?
Where To Buy Amaranth?
We aren’t done yet. There is something else you must know.
Any Side Effects Of Amaranth?
There are no known side effects of amaranth. But this doesn’t mean you can take as much as you want. Stick to normal food amounts. And coming to pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is no enough information. So stay safe and avoid use.
Reap gains from this grain (or seed, whatever).
And yes – do you think it is a superfood? Tell us in the comment box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How different is amaranth from quinoa?
There is not a lot of difference. Some say amaranth is way cheaper, but this depends on the location as well. Amaranth contains slightly more protein than quinoa, but the difference is not so much that it deserves any debate.
How does amaranth grow?
Planting amaranth is simple. Remember that good soil moisture is imperative. Don’t water the plant until it has two to three leaves. The plant might appear slow growing initially, but it is drought tolerant and does well on a total of inches of water or less.
What does amaranth taste like?
It has an earthy and nutty flavor. Like whole wheat or whole berries.
Any good substitute for amaranth?
How to sprout amaranth?
Soak the seeds in water for 30 minutes. That’s it.
What are the benefits of amaranth flour?
Same as what we saw about amaranth.
Does amaranth contain saponins like quinoa?
How to prepare amaranth flower tea?
Steep the flowers in boiling water and keep stirring. Filter the petals, and you are good to go.a
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- “Give your bone health a boost…”. International Osteoporosis Foundation.
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- “Pepsin-pancreatin protein…”. Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico.
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- “Tocotrienols fight cancer…”. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA.
- “What to eat to boost your immune system…”. The Telegraph.
- “Extra zinc boosts immune system in older adults”. Tufts University.
- “Ancient rediscovering food: Grain amaranth”. Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
- “Managing your weight with healthy eating”. US National Library of Medicine.
- “What is vitamin A and why do we need it?”. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
- “Fact or fiction: Can the carrot be a cure for your eyes?” The University of Arizona.
- “Folate Fortification for the Prevention of Birth Defects”. American Journal of Epidemiology.
- “Think amaranth for healthy variety”. Chicago Tribune.
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