It’s getting hard to keep track of the super grains, we know, but we promise, amaranth is worth learning about. This tiny-but-powerful food has some similarities to quinoa — both are good protein sources and are naturally gluten-free — but it also boasts some impressive nutritional stats of its own. Amaranth Grain.
Amaranth was cultivated by the Aztecs and in other tropical climates, but is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity as a gluten-free protein.
Botanical name: Amaranthus (Amaranth Grain)
Somewhat of an unknown quantity to many, amaranth is tall – often six feet – with broad green leaves, bright red or gold flowers, and around 60 different species. The flowers are made up of miniscule, grain-like buds, one reason why this plant often falls into the “grain” category. But amaranth isn’t technically a grain like oats, wheat, or rice. It’s sometimes referred to as a “pseudo-cereal” because its nutritional profile is very similar.
One of the most important aspects of this tiny grain is that it’s gluten-free. When ground, the flour is generally a pale ivory shade, although the red “buds” can be ground as well for a red-tinged and very healthful grain.
Being extremely dense, amaranth is too heavy to be used by itself. It’s best used with other grains for a lighter texture. And with a proven combination of ingredients like guar gum to impersonate gluten.
Not only are amaranth grains packed with protein, the protein they contain is also of exceptionally high quality. Research shows that amaranth grains contain significant amounts of all essential amino acids. Including lysine which is typically found only in small amounts in grains. Amino acids, as you may already know, are the building blocks of proteins, and in order to fulfill your body’s protein needs, you need to provide it with sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids.
Researchers concluded that the protein in amaranth is among the most nutritious vegetable-based protein and can be considered on par with protein from animal-based products.
Amaranth’s protein content is about 13 percent, or 26 grams per cup. Which is much higher than for most other grains. To compare, a cup of long-grain white rice has just 13 grams of protein.
Per cup, amaranth contains 251 calories and just 4 g of fat — none of which is saturated. It offers 29 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for iron. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, and 12 percent for calcium. It is high in magnesium, with 40 percent of the RDA, and 36 percent of the RDA of phosphorus. A cup of amaranth also offers 105 percent of the RDA for manganese which functions as an antioxidant and plays a role in energy metabolism, bone health and wound healing.
The anti-inflammatory properties of peptides and oils in amaranth can ease pain and reduce inflammation. This is especially important for chronic conditions where inflammation erodes your health, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Amaranth grain can effectively lower insulin levels in the body. And simultaneously releases a hormone in the body that effectively tells our body that we’re full. This is the opposite of the “hunger” hormone, which often causes people to snack between meals and gain weight.
Amaranth may boost immune function according to some studies, probably thanks to the potent vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
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 your 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.
Russian researchers used a 1996 study conducted on chickens as a model to determine whether or not amaranth would also show benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Patients who presented with coronary heart disease and hypertension not only showed benefits from the inclusion of amaranth in their diets, researchers also saw a decrease in the amounts of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL significantly.
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 your cardiovascular system, thereby lowering your 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.
Amaranth helps prevent premature graying, mainly due to the minerals this seed has in abundance.
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.