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Amaranth “The Other Power Grain”

Amaranth
Amaranth is native to South and Central America. It was a staple in the Aztec diet and used in religious rituals. It provided a rich source of protein and nutrients for the people of this region. However, its use as a staple diminished considerably when Spanish colonizers considered it heathen food and banned its use. This did not prevent Amaranth from spreading throughout the world.

Since the 1970s, Amaranth has regained its standing as a potential staple crop and is considered a pseudo-grain because of its similar nutritional profile to grains and cereals, although it contains more protein and is gluten-free.

General Information

The Amaranth plant can grow up to 3 m, has broad green leaves that are used in cooking, particularly in India where it is used in delicious vegetarian dishes like saag. It produces bright flowers of purple, red or gold. Amaranth flowers maintain their vibrancy even after they are harvested and dried. They are grown commercially and sold as ornamental flowers and much loved in Europe. Indeed, the name Amaranth is from the Greek word amarantos which means ‘the never fading’.

Amaranth plants are also grown in the United States, where surprisingly they can grow under a range of conditions. The National Academy of Sciences considers Amaranth a perfect crop for improving the health and well-being of people in developing countries.[1] Clusters of tiny Amaranth seeds are formed in the plants that are then harvested. They are dried and can be popped to make puffed Amaranth, or ground to make Amaranth flour. Amaranth seeds can be prepared like rice and makes a delicious substitute.

Nutrients and Applications

Amaranth contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Unlike grains Amaranth is documented to contain

Vitamin C.[2] It is rich in amino acids, which are essential for human growth, the well-being of bone tissue, and provides energy for breaking down fats.[3]

Studies have shown that the protein levels of Amaranth seeds are higher than that of grains and cereals, therefore making it a super food and potentially a staple that may help to improve nutrition throughout the world.[4] A study in Canada showed that Amaranth contains phytosterols that may help to maintain normal cholesterol levels.[5] Importantly, Amaranth is gluten-free, making it a perfect addition to flour blends, sauces, soups and stews.

References:

[1] Speaking of Science: Amaranth: A Comeback for the food of the Aztecs? Jean L Marx; Science, New Series, Vol 198; 1977.

[2] Whole Grains Council; http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

[3] http://www.aminoacidsguide.com/

[4] Whole Grains Council; http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

[5] As above

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Chadwick March 19, 2017, 12:04 AM

    I am regular visitor, how are you/everybody? This article posted at this
    site is in fact nice.

    • Anthony Ippolito May 3, 2017, 11:11 AM

      Thanks for the kind words Chadwick!! Ancient Grains are great!! #GONATIVE

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