Amaranth: Properties and Benefits

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Amaranth

The herbaceous plant of Amaranth belongs to the large family of Amaranthaceae which includes more than 500 species and is native to Central America. Among the species that produce edible seeds we mention Amaranthus hypochondriacus, Amaranthus caudatus and Amaranthus cruentus.

Amaranth: properties and benefits
Amaranth: properties and benefits

Amaranth, along with corn and quinoa, represented the basic food for the Maya peoples, Inca and Aztec already more than 3.000 years ago. This is demonstrated by the discoveries made during archaeological excavations carried out in Central America.

Index

In addition to its small and precious seeds, the amaranth plant is cultivated for its leaves and its dark red flowers. For a long time this food was almost forgotten by the world population. It was then rediscovered in the 1960 in America.

Today it is grown in all parts of the world, even for ornamental purposes .

Chemical Composition

Chemical composition per 100 g of amaranth
Water g 11,3
Protein g 13,5
Carbohydrates g 65,2
Fibers g 6,4
Sugars g 1,65
Ashes g 2,8
Starch g 56,4
Fat g 7
Minerals
Calcium mg 156
Phosphorus mg 558
Magnesium mg 245
Potassium mg 508
Zinc mg 2.9
Copper mg 0,5
Manganese mg 3,1
Sodium mg 4
Iron mg 7,5
Selenium mcg 18.7
Vitamins
Vitamin A IU 2
B1 mg 0,1
B2 mg 0,2
B3 mg 0,9
B5 mg 1,4
B6 mg 0,5
Vitamin C mg 4,2
Vitamin E mg 1,2
Vitamin J mg 69,4
Beta Carotene mcg 1
Betaine mg 67,3
Lutein Zeaxanthin  mcg 28
Folate mcg 82

One of the main characteristics of amaranth is that it does not contain gluten. For this reason it is particularly indicated in the diet of people with celiac disease. Its beneficial properties are due primarily to the presence of “benevolent” substances.

Amino acids: arginine, tyrosine, threonine, lysine, cystine, tryptophan, glycine, phenylalanine, valine, leucine, histidine,  serineglutamic acidalanine and aspartic acid.

Calories

100 grams of amaranth  have  103 kcal.

Amaranth: Properties and Benefits

Highly Digestible

Given the complete absence of gluten and the abundance of fiber, amaranth is a highly digestible food. For this reason it is introduced in the diets of people with intestinal problems and in the weaning of children.

Very often for this property, it is used as a staple food in the preparation of meals for children and the elderly. Thanks to its digestibility and its excellent nutritional properties, it is recently used as a support food in diets aimed at supporting delicate treatments in the treatment of various diseases, including cancer.

Vegan Food

Thanks to the abundance of  nutrients and the presence of proteins, it is a valid ingredient in the diet of all those people who for one reason or another decide not to eat foods of animal origin anymore. Recent studies claim that the proteins present in this cereal are the most nutritious among those of plant origin. They can therefore be considered on a par with those of animal origin.

One of the many benefits of this cereal is the reduction of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The study on the subject was published in Lipids in Health and Disease, in January 2007.

Some Canadian researchers have found that the lowering of cholesterol is mainly due to the action of phytosterolsAmaranth contains phytosterols, a group of sterols which has properties useful to counter the formation of bad cholesterol and for high blood pressure.

Amaranth seeds

Lower Blood Pressure

In a 2007 study, patients with heart disease and hypertension showed improvements after being included in their own amaranth diet. The fiber and phytonutrients present in amaranth, according to recent studies, would in fact be able to lower blood pressure while oils and peptides would have anti-inflammatory properties.

Calcium Absorption

The good content of lysine, an essential amino acid not always present in vegetables and cereals, helps the body absorb calcium and produce energy.

An Australian research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also informs us that amaranth leaves contain good levels of beta-carotene.

Manganese

Amaranth is rich in manganese, a particularly important mineral for brain function. (1) According to a recent study, it seems that its intake protects against various neurological diseases.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants help the body to counteract the harmful effect of free radicals that can cause serious chronic diseases. Amaranth has a good antioxidant content. According to some studies this plant is rich in phenolic acids, plant compounds with antioxidant activity. Among these are vanillic acid and gallic acid, both of which can protect the body from heart disease and cancer. (2, 3)

According to other studies the antioxidant content is greater in raw amaranth rather than in cooked one. (4)

Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of several very dangerous chronic diseases. A test tube study suggests that this pseudo cereal is able to reduce several markers of inflammation. (5)

There is also a study conducted on animals that shows how amaranth has inhibited the formation of immunoglobulin E. This compound is one of the antibodies involved in allergic reactions. (6)

Cholesterol

A study conducted on hamsters showed that the oil obtained from this vegetable reduced the level of bad LDL cholesterol by 22 %. At the same time, while reducing the LDL, increases levels of HDL or good cholesterol. (7)

Weight Loss

Good protein and dietary fiber content can help those trying to lose weight. A study has shown that a high protein breakfast can reduce levels of ghrelin, which is the appetite-stimulating hormone. (8)

To confirm what is written above there is another study conducted on 19 people that demonstrates the benefits of a protein diet. (9) The latter in fact seems to reduce appetite and caloric intake. The fiber is also a component that contributes to increasing the sense of satiety. There is evidence of this in a study conducted on 252 women who showed that increasing fiber in the diet prevents the risk of obesity. (10)

How to Prepare

After washing, the amaranth is cooked in two parts of water and one teaspoon of sea salt for about 50 minutes (30 in a pressure cooker). After cooking, let it rest for another 10 minutes. Its appearance, once cooked, is similar to a gelatinous mass and it is preferable to consume it in combination with cereals such as rice and barley or together with vegetables.

It can be found in stores in the form of beans, flour and even blown seeds. Its taste is a little bit reminiscent of hazelnut and for this reason it combines well with cereals.

Also on chickens the amaranth based diet has shown beneficial effects. The results of a study conducted on these animals resulted in a reduction of up to 70% of LDL cholesterol. (11)

Obviously the tests conducted on animals are not reliable for humans. This calls for further studies conducted on humans to confirm the properties.

Curiosity

Amaranth, when heated, has a behavior similar to that of corn for popcorn: bursts. It is possible in fact heating it in pans, to obtain a sort of popcorn that can be used in various ways.

Given the high protein content it is best to be careful not to overdo its use; in fact it is not recommended to take it in combination with meat, dairy and egg dishes.

Amaranth, considered by many people as a sacred plant, includes the origins of its name from the Greek word amarantos which literally means that does not fade .

The ancient Romans thought that the plant, among its properties, also had that of keeping envy and misfortune away. Later it was used as a decorative element for clothes as it was believed that this plant was able to guarantee physical well-being.

Currently the countries that cultivate the Amaranth in commercial purpose are Mexico, China, the US, South America, Poland and Austria.

Maybe Not Everyone Knows That

In India, where many children suffer from iron deficiency, they are often fed with amaranth  leaves that contain more than the same spinach. The method of cooking and preparing amaranth leaves is the same as that used for spinach.

Not being part of the Graminacee familyamaranth cannot be considered a cereal, just as buckwheat and quinoa are not.

Amaranth: Properties and Benefits

Italian language version

Disclaimer:

This is not a medical newspaper, the information provided by this site is for informational purposes only and is of a general nature, it cannot in any way replace the prescriptions of a doctor or other health professionals authorized by law. The notions of dosage, medical procedures and product descriptions on this site have an illustrative purpose and do not allow to acquire the necessary experience and manual skills for their practice or their use. If you have been prescribed medical care I urge you not to interrupt or modify them, because all the suggestions you find on www.mr-loto.it  must always and in any case be compared with the opinion of your doctor.

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