Amaranth has been in the news for quite some time and for good reasons. Amaranth is not a ‘true’ grain but a ‘pseudocereal’ and has a very impressive nutritional profile.
The pseudocereal has very high protein content and contains lysine, an amino acid that’s not found in many grains.
It is also high in dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and contains appreciable amounts of calcium. It’s also the only grain documented to contain vitamin C.
The best part is that amaranth is gluten-free, which makes it a great choice for people who have celiac disease or are gluten-intolerant.
Apart from the whole raw amaranth seeds, it is also available in flour, puffed seeds, flakes, sprouted and oil forms. When cooking the seeds, make sure to use at least 6 cups of water for every 1 cup of amaranth.
Here are the top reasons why you should start eating amaranth.
1. Complete Protein
Amaranth is one of the few plant-based sources that offer a complete protein, meaning that it contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids. In fact, amaranth actually has more protein than any other grain, which essentially makes it a supergrain.
Protein is vital for the development and growth of new tissues and cells, energy and functions of metabolism.
It contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains. This particular amino acid plays a major role in calcium absorption, building muscle protein, recovering from surgery or sports injuries, and the body’s production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
Not just the seeds, even the leaves of the amaranth plant possess beneficial proteins. In fact, the leaves are mostly used in Asian and Caribbean cuisines.
According to the Institute of Medicine, women need a minimum of 46 grams and men require at least 56 grams of protein daily. By eating just 1 cup of amaranth, you’ll get 26 grams of your daily protein requirement.
As amaranth is gluten-free, it is safe for those who suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease in which body itself attacks the small intestine, thus making it hard for the small intestine to digest nutrients from food. This leads to malabsorption of nutrients and causes more health problems.
Celiac disease can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, constipation, heartburn, and nausea. It can also lead to problems like fatigue, bone and joint pain, infertility, depression and skin rashes.
People with sensitivity or intolerance to gluten can eat this beneficial grain and prevent these problems.
As the number of people suffering from celiac disease is expected to increase in the coming years, the popularity of amaranth is also going to increase.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
Amaranth is one of the best food choices for people with cholesterol problems. Being highly fibrous, it has cholesterol-lowering abilities and both the seeds and the oil are found to be effective.
Cholesterol binds to fiber in the digestive system and causes it to be excreted by the body. In fact, this grain may be another option to help prevent coronary heart disease.
A 2003 study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research analyzed the effects of amaranth grain on cholesterol levels in animal models. Researchers found that the grain and oil decreased very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol by 21 to 50 percent.
Another study published in Food Chemistry in 2009 reports that amaranth protein has a metabolic effect on endogenous cholesterol metabolism.
4. Offers Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Amaranth offers both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent a host of health problems.
Its antioxidant property prevents free-radical damage, which can accelerate aging and even lead to cancer and other health problems. It protects cellular membranes from oxidative damage and also boosts immunity.
The anti-inflammatory activities reduce the risk of health conditions like gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia, celiac disease and irritable bowel disease (IBD).
5. Facilitates Digestion
Amaranth is high in fiber content, which means it stimulates the digestive system and helps regulate the excretion of bodily waste.
Fiber passes through the digestive system unabsorbed by digestive enzymes present in the stomach, taking along with it toxins, waste, fat as well as cholesterol particles out of the system. In fact, this high roughage cereal is an ideal food to eat when feeling constipated.
A 2015 study published in Food Chemistry reports that 78 percent of the fiber in amaranth is insoluble fiber and 22 percent is soluble fiber.