The amaranth plant has been in vogue as part of healthy diets for centuries because of its innumerable health benefits. The first records of growing it date back nearly 8,000 years, and since then, it has become extremely popular as a superfood for being a very rich source of many essential vitamins.
Characterised by a mild nutty flavour, the amaranth grain has a similar texture and feel like quinoa. It can be used in a number of creative ways, and if you are bored of eating quinoa, this is the naturally gluten-free superfood substitute you would want to turn to.
From nutrition to usage: Here’s everything about amaranth and its benefits
What is amaranth?
Amaranth is essentially a group of 60 species of grains, and it was considered a staple food by the Mayan and Aztec civilisations. While there are different types and varieties of grain, only about a dozen are grown by human beings, either for the amaranth seeds or for its leafy greens. The plant is easily identifiable by its impressive stalks, broad leaves, and elongated bright purple, red or gold flowers.
According to Healthline, amaranth is grouped under the category of pseudocereals, which means that it is not like other grains such as oats, buckwheat and wheat but contains equal health benefits.
The amaranth grain is found all over the world but is mainly concentrated in China, Peru, Nigeria, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Southern India, West Africa and Caribbean basin regions.
The superfood is a quick and healthy breakfast option, as it takes on a porridge-like thick consistency, making it a guilt-free indulgence that is super helpful for the body.
Nutrients and minerals in amaranth
The superfood abounds in minerals like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. The first one helps in proper brain function and protects from certain neurological conditions. Manganese, on the other hand, helps in muscle and nerve well-being as well as keeps a tab on blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Both phosphorus and iron help in increasing bone density and producing blood.
The Whole Grains Council states that amaranth is “a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, and at 14% protein, it contains close to double the amount found in rice and corn.”
Not just that. The council also mentions that the superfood contains a peptide called lunasin, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and cancer-preventive beneﬁts. Inflammation is the body’s immune response to any injury or infection. The affected area becomes red and swollen, and it can hurt a bit.
Since this protein is highly bioavailable, it is even easier to digest as compared to other seeds and grains.
The superfood is also a rich source of a wide range of vitamins like A, K, B and B6. Being packed with calcium and fibre also makes amaranth extremely good for bones as well as easy to digest. Hence, those with constipation troubles can also eat it easily.
Plus, amaranth is also a good source of zinc, copper, selenium, potassium and folate.
Such a packed nutrients resume makes it one of the choicest foods for those mindful of what goes into their body and the ones with certain health issues.
Rich in antioxidants
Amaranth is an all-rounder in giving a positive effect to keep heart health always smiling. From boosting immunity to keeping almost every heart disease at bay, amaranth is undoubtedly the superfood of the hour.
Being loaded with antioxidants, it shields the body from free radicals in the body. These free radicals can cause immense damage to cells as well as aid in harbouring certain chronic conditions.
Keep cholesterol under check
This is one of the healthy grains that aid in reducing cholesterol levels and prevents blood pressure from shooting up. Healthline states that recent studies on various animals have shown amaranth to lower bad cholesterol by nearly 30 per cent.
A gluten-free grain
One of the benefits of amaranth is that it is devoid of any kind of gluten protein commonly found in flours like rye, barley and wheat. Hence, it is one of the most versatile and integral components of a gluten-free diet. In fact, amaranth flour constitutes a sizable component of gluten-free flour mixes.
An easy substitute for wheat flour, this can be used without any second thought by those who consume only plant-based protein.
Healthline says, “For those with celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the body, causing damage and inflammation in the digestive tract.” Additionally, “Those with gluten sensitivity may also experience negative symptoms, including diarrhoea, bloating and gas.”
Therefore, amaranth is quite a champion food substance with its multi-hyphenated role.
How to use amaranth
According to an SBS report, accredited practising dietitian, Joel Feren says, “Amaranth has a really impressive nutritional profile and it should be considered as part of a healthy, balanced diet alongside a range of other foods.”
So why limit it to only bland porridges and boring salads? A whole world of tasty and healthy food awaits you. With health food stores brimming with amaranth flour and seeds, you can use your culinary skills and transform any dish of your liking into a guilt-free delight.
Simply boil it and add to smoothies, mix it with wholesome stews and soups for the thick consistency or have it as a breakfast cereal with your choice of fruits, berries, nuts and cinnamon.
Since it behaves much like wheat, amaranth flour can be incorporated into baking cookies as well as making healthy pasta, bread, wafers, and waffles. The seed can also be consumed on its own or added to salads for some crunch.
In curries, too, you can add amaranth to your lentil soup and daal. Its leaves can also be sauteed with light garlic and onion or even prepared with grated coconut, curry leaves and spices.
(Main and feature image credit: Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)