The health benefits of Amaranth grain are such that it helps in optimising the metabolism, prevents heart attacks, helps in improving digestion, provides hair care, boosts the immune system, supports patients suffering from Celiac Disease, controls diabetes, promotes growth of muscles, prevents cataracts, combats Anaemia, has anti-carcinogenic property, prevents osteoporosis.
Amaranth, which is classified as a pseudocereal, is grown for its edible starchy seeds like cereals, but it does not belong to the family of cereals such as wheat and rice. The yield of grain amaranth is comparable to that of rice or maize. It was a staple food of the Aztecs and an integral part of Aztec religious ceremonies. The cultivation of amaranth was banned by the conquistadores upon their conquest of the Aztec nation. However, the plant has grown as a weed since then, so its genetic base has been largely maintained. Grain amaranth is also grown as a food crop in limited amounts in Mexico, where it is used to make a candy called alegría (Spanish for joy) at festival times.
A 100g of Amaranth grain serves with 102 calories of energy. The fat content is 1.6g, sodium is 6mg, carbohydrate is 19g, fibre is 2.1g, protein is 3.8g, calcium is 5%, iron is 12%. Among the vitamins present in amaranth grains, Folate is 22.00 mcg, Niacin is 0.235 mg, Riboflavin is 0.022 mg, Thiamine is 0.015 mg, Vitamin B6 is 0.113 mg, Vitamin E is 0.19 mg, Alpha Tocopherol is 0.19 mg, Beta Tocopherol is 0.38 mg, Gamma Tocopherol is 0.24 mg, Gamma Tocotrienol is 0.02 mg. Among the minerals present, Copper is 0.149 mg, Calcium is 47.00 mg, Magnesium is 65.00 mg, Manganese is 0.854 mg, Potassium is 135.00 mg, Phosphorus is 135.00 mg, Selenium is 5.5 mcg, Sodium is 6.00 mg, Zinc is 0.86 mg. The Carbohydrate content is 18.69g and fibre is 2.1g.
One of the most desirable elements of amaranth grain is the fact that it features lysine in much larger quantities than other grains. Lysine is an essential amino acid (protein) for the human body, which makes amaranth a “complete protein”. This is very desirable for human health, as it delivers all the essential amino acids to create usable proteins within the body, thereby optimizing the metabolism and ensuring proper growth and development. This is why for indigenous cultures and those with limited access to diverse food sources, amaranth grain represents a vital component of their diet.
Amaranth contains a special amino acid called lysine. It also contains nutrients and minerals like magnesium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins C & E, to help eradicate free radicals that cause aging and lead to the formation of cancerous cells.
The phytosterols found in amaranth grain have been connected to lowering cholesterol levels, while the significant levels of dietary fiber also help to balance the cholesterol levels in the cardiovascular system, thereby lowering the chances of developing atherosclerosis and subsequently suffering from heart attacks or strokes. The rich potassium levels found in amaranth grain further boost heart health by relaxing the blood vessels. Potassium is a vasodilator, which means that it reduces strain and tension in the arteries and blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and reducing the chances of coronary heart disease.
As mentioned above, amaranth grain contains a high level of dietary fiber, which can help to optimize the digestive system and eliminate constipation, bloating, cramping, and more serious conditions, like colon cancer and gastric ulcers. Dietary fiber also helps to increase nutrient uptake efficiency, and with the high concentration of nutrients in the grain, this is a very important side effect of that dietary fiber.
The unique chemical makeup up amaranth grain has some rather unexpected benefits as well, including being a wonderful way to flatten wiry hair and increase luster and quality. Lysine is a critical amino acid that our body is unable to produce, so we must get it from our diets. Amaranth has higher levels of lysine than other grains, which makes it very important for hair health. Lysine has been linked to stronger, healthier hair, better roots, and a reduction in hair loss. One can reduce greying and hair loss by adding amaranth grains in their diet, although the exact pathway that benefit comes from is somewhat unclear.
Amaranth is rare for grains, in the sense that it has vitamin C, and this gives it an immune system-boosting edge over its dietary competitors. With high levels of vitamin C, amaranth grain can help boost the overall immune system, as vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production, and can also contribute to faster healing and repair of cells, due to its functional role in the production of collagen.
Like some other grains and grasses, amaranth grain is gluten-free, which is good news for those who suffer from Celiac disease. This disease prevalence has increased dramatically in recent years, partly explained by improved detection and testing techniques, but also due to a general change in our species’ dietary tolerances due to a wide range of environmental and dietary factors. In the coming years, the number of those suffering from Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) is expected to increase, making gluten-free grains like amaranth increasingly important.
Amaranth grain has the ability to lower insulin levels and control blood sugar intake through appetite control/suppression. This is an ideal situation for those at risk for diabetes, as elevated insulin levels and obesity are two of the causes or “red flags” for diabetes. Given the global pandemic nature of diabetes at present, anything able to lower those insulin levels is considered vitally important.
Acquiring protein in our diet is one of the most reliable ways to keep our bodies toned, developed, and functioning properly. The unusually high levels of plant proteins in amaranth make it an ideal addition to the diet if one wants to ensure the healthy growth of cells, muscles, tissues, and skin.
The vitamin A found in amaranth has a major effect on the health of our ocular system. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that prevents the development of cataracts and can slow the onset of macular degeneration.
Amaranth is a rich source of essential nutrients and one of the richest sources of iron, with more than five times the iron than wheat. Amaranth leaves instigate coagulation and have been known to boost blood haemoglobin content and RBC counts.
Amaranth is one of the richest sources of calcium. It has been found to decrease the risk of calcium deficiencies, and in turn reduces the risk of bone diseases like weak joints (osteoporosis) and rheumatoid pains. It is one of the best replacements for all lactose-intolerant people.
Amaranth is a plant which has wide use in medical science. The leaf contains a small amount of vitamin C. Amaranth is used for the treatment of ulcers, diarrhoea, and swollen mouth and throat. It is also used to treat high cholesterol. In foods, amaranth is used as a cereal grain.
Amaranth has no known toxicities and is good for general consumption. However, it should not be eaten raw because it does contain certain natural anti-nutrients components, such as oxalates and nitrates, which can be eliminated by boiling and proper preparation. Precautions should be taken by people with special conditions. For people with intolerance to lysinuric protein, eating amaranth may cause diarrhoea and stomach pain. Moreover, another side effect of lysine increase body’s calcium absorption, and bring free, damage-causing amount of calcium in the body. So avoid taking large amounts of calcium and lysine at the same time. For people with hypoglycaemic concerns, eating too much amaranth could be potentially dangerous because of its ability to lower insulin levels. Care must be taken in this case.
Amaranth is thought to have represented up to 80% of their energy consumption before the Spanish conquest. Another important use of amaranth throughout Mesoamerica was to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses, or chocolate to make a treat called alegría, meaning 'joy' in Spanish.
Because of its importance as a symbol of indigenous culture, its gluten-free palatability, ease of cooking, and a protein that is particularly well-suited to human nutritional needs, interest in grain amaranth (especially A. cruentus and A. hypochondriacus) revived in the 1970s. It was recovered in Mexico from wild varieties and is now commercially cultivated. It is a popular snack sold in Mexico, sometimes mixed with chocolate or puffed rice, and its use has spread to Europe and parts of North America. Amaranth and quinoa are not grasses and are called pseudocereals because of their similarities to cereals in flavor and cooking.
Several species are raised for amaranth 'grain' in Asia and the Americas. Ancient amaranth grains still used include the three species, Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus, and Amaranthus hypochondriacus. Although amaranth was cultivated on a large scale in ancient Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru, nowadays it is only cultivated on a small scale there, along with India, China, Nepal, and other tropical countries; thus, the potential exists for further cultivation in those countries, as well as in the U.S. In a 1977 article in Science, amaranth was described as 'the crop of the future'.