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Health Benefits of Amaranth

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on August 06, 2020

The word amaranth means “unfading” in Greek. The flowers of the plant are a vivid crimson all summer long, making it a striking sight. However, the flowers aren’t amaranth’s big draw — it’s the seeds. After harvesting, they’re used in a similar way to grains like rice and oats.

Amaranth is native to Mexico and Central America. It was a staple food of the Aztecs, and it remains a part of the Central American diet. Amaranth has increased in popularity throughout the U.S.  as more people have become aware of its impressive nutritional profile. 

It’s easy to see why. Amaranth’s nutty, pleasantly sweet flavor and its versatility make it a perfect choice for many recipes. 

Health Benefits

The nutrients in amaranth can offer significant health benefits as a part of a healthy diet. It’s a source of vitamin C, which is vital to the body’s healing process because it helps process iron, form blood vessels, repair muscle tissue, and maintain collagen. 

Here are some other health benefits of amaranth:

Naturally Gluten-Free

Amaranth is a good option for people with Celiac disease, a condition in which an immune system reaction to wheat gluten can damage the small intestine. .

High in Protein

Amaranth is one of the richest plant forms of protein available. The protein is easily absorbed by the body and contains all amino acids — even lysine, which is often missing from cereal grains. Studies have shown that, in the plant kingdom, amaranth proteins are among the most similar to animal proteins.

Antioxidant-Rich

Amaranth is rich in antioxidants, including gallic acid and vanillic acid. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which are damaging byproducts of normal cellular activity, helping to reduce everything from signs of aging to heart disease

Eases Inflammation

Some allergic reactions lead to uncomfortable inflammation through the production of immunoglobulin E. Early studies show that amaranth can slow down the body’s production of immunoglobulin E, reducing inflammation.

Lowers Cholesterol

Two studies in animals show that amaranth and its oil have the potential to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol significantly without lowering “good” HDL cholesterol. But scientists need to research how amaranth affects cholesterol in humans.

Nutrients per Serving

A quarter-cup serving of dry, uncooked amaranth contains:

Amaranth is rich in protein, with nearly double the amount found in corn or rice. Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and blood supply in the body. 

Amaranth is also an impressive source of:

Amaranth contains your daily dose of manganese, an important micronutrient, in a single serving. Manganese plays a key role in more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body, including immune responses, hormone creation, and even blood and bone formation.

How to Prepare Amaranth

Amaranth is in season from midsummer until the first hard frost. However, most amaranth is sold in dried form, so you can easily find it all year round. It’s most commonly found in South American grocery stores, but it’s becoming more common in health food stores, farmers’ markets, and even large supermarkets.

If you’re growing your own amaranth, it’s ready for harvest if seeds easily fall away when you roll it between your hands. You can either dry the seeds or eat them fresh. 

To keep amaranth for a long period of time, it’s best to seal it in an airtight container. If you want to use amaranth as flour, you can grind it in a food processor and freeze the result. It will stay fresh for 6 to 9 months in the freezer. 

There are plenty of ways to enjoy amaranth as a part of your daily diet:

  • Boil whole amaranth grain in a 3/1 ratio of water to amaranth to make porridge
  • Pop dried amaranth like popcorn and eat it as a snack
  • Put popped amaranth on salads or in soups
  • Add amaranth to your rice for a protein boost
  • Blend amaranth into a smoothie for a nutty flavor
  • Make amaranth flour and bake with it
  • Bread fish or meat with amaranth flour 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cytotechnology: “Amaranth Grain Inhibits Antigen-Specific IgE Production Through Augmentation of the IFN-gamma Response in Vivo and in Vitro.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research: “Cholesterol-Lowering Properties of Amaranth Grain and Oil in Hamsters.”

National Institutes of Health: “Manganese.”

Plant Foods for Human Nutrition: “Protein quality evaluation of amaranth in adult humans.”

Whole Grains Council: “Amaranth — May Grain of the Month.”

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