Amaranth is a tiny, yellow grain. It can be bought as a whole grain (pearled Amaranth), as a flour, or as rolled flakes. It’s also found as an ingredient in cereals and crackers. Amaranth is a genus of herbs that contain over 60 species with a variety of colors and uses. Many of these species are considered weeds; however, people around the world consume Amaranth as grains, vegetables and cereals for their many health benefits. Amaranth has a long history and has been in use for many centuries by many different cultures. Amaranth was a key part of the diets of the pre-Columbian Aztecs, and it was used not just for food, but also as part of their religious ceremonies.
1. It’s Actually A Seed: Like quinoa, Amaranth is not technically a grain but is the seed of the amaranth plant. One plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds.
2. Amaranth Is Gluten-Free: Amaranth doesn’t contain any gluten, which makes it a great choice for people who are celiac or gluten intolerant and an excellent way to boost the nutritional power of gluten-free recipes.
3. It Contains Lysine: Most grains like wheat are short on lysine, an amino acid, but that’s not the case for Amaranth. This makes Amaranth a complete protein, because it contains all the essential amino acids. Amaranth has a good amount of lysine which helps the body absorb calcium, build muscle and produce energy.
4. Amaranth Contains Protein: Amaranth’s protein content is about 13 percent, or 26 grams per cup, which is much higher than most other grains, like a cup of long-grain white rice has just 13 grams of protein. Amaranth is a very rich source of protein and this protein is also very bio-available. The protein in Amaranth is more digestible than other grains and has been compared to the digestibility of milk protein.
5. The Plant Is Hardy: Amaranth prefers a high elevation, but can grow at almost any elevation in temperate climates if it has moist, loose soil with good drainage. It can also survive in low-water conditions once the plants have been established.
6. You Can Eat Other Parts Of The Plant: Amaranth seeds may be the best-known part of the plant, which has more than 60 different species, but the leaves are also edible. They’re commonly used in Asian and Caribbean cuisines — try them stir-fried or chopped and added to soup.
7. It’s A Source Of Key Vitamins And Minerals: Amaranth contains Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus and Iron. One cup of uncooked Amaranth has 31 percent of the RDA for calcium, 14 percent for Vitamin C, and a whopping 82 percent for Iron.
The Amaranth plant
8. Humans Have Eaten It For Millennia: It’s estimated that Amaranth was first domesticated 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, which means we’ve been eating it for a very long time. Considering how easily and quickly it grows, that makes sense!
9. Amaranth Can Be Popped: Popped Amaranth, just like popped popcorn, 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.
10. It Grows Around The World: Though Amaranth is considered a native plant of Peru, it is now grown around the world in countries including China, Russia, Thailand, Nigeria and Mexico. It has also become a part of the cuisines of parts of India, Nepal and the African continent. There are even farmers growing it in parts of the United States, including Nebraska and North Dakota.
11. Amaranth Is Good For Your Heart: Several studies have shown that Amaranth could have cholesterol-lowering potential. Amaranth has Phytosterols, which have cholesterol-cutting properties. The fiber and phytonutrients in Amaranth lower blood pressure according to some recent studies. This grain tackles cholesterol, inflammation and blood pressure, making it all around a good food for heart health.
12. It’s A Great Breakfast Option: Amaranth’s tiny grains take on a porridge-like texture when cooked, making it a great option for your first meal of the day. In fact, Amaranth porridge is a traditional breakfast in India, Peru, Mexico and Nepal.
13. It Can Help Keep You Regular: Among its other impressive nutritional stats, Amaranth is also a great source of fibre with 13 grams of dietary fibre per uncooked cup compared to just 2 grams for the same amount of long-grain white rice.
14. Disease Prevention: The anti-inflammatory properties in the peptides and oils of Amaranth can ease pain and reduce inflammation. This is especially important for chronic conditions where inflammation erodes at health, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The same peptides in Amaranth that protect against inflammation may also help prevent Cancer. The antioxidants in this grain may also help protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Amaranth may boost immune function according to some studies, thanks to the potent vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it contains.
15. Prevents Grey Hair: Amaranth helps prevent premature greying, mainly due to the minerals.
Amaranth has a modest amount of oxalic acid. It should be avoided or only moderately used by those with gout, kidney problems, or rheumatoid arthritis.