Amaranth, The Ancient Grain
Did you know that amaranth has been a dietary staple in certain parts of the world for millennia? It might have gained popularity recently as a health food, but this is an ancient grain. This grain was considered a staple food in the Inca, Maya and Aztec civilizations.
Amaranth is classified as a pseudocereal, which means that it’s technically not a cereal grain like wheat or rice, but it has similar nutritive value as that of cereal grains and can be used in similar ways. This is also one of the reasons for using this grain in fasting meals preparations in various parts of India. It has an earthy, nutty flavour that works well in a variety of dishes.
This grain is incredibly versatile, nutritious, naturally gluten-free, rich in protein, fibre, micronutrients and antioxidants. Amaranth is also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
The nutritive value of one bowl (246 grams) of cooked amaranth grains contain:
- Calories: 251
- Protein: 9.3 grams
- Carbs: 46 grams
- Fat: 5.2 grams
- Manganese: 105% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 40% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 36% of the RDI
- Iron: 29% of the RDI
- Selenium: 19% of the RDI
- Copper: 18% of the RDI
Amaranth is packed with manganese, exceeding our daily required allowance in just one serving. Manganese is an essential nutrient for brain function and known to protect against certain neurological conditions. It’s also rich in magnesium, which is an essential nutrient involved in almost 300 reactions in the body, including DNA synthesis and muscle contraction.
What’s more, high phosphorus content in amaranth also promotes good bone health. The high iron content in amaranth also helps your body produce blood.
Rich in Anti-Oxidants
Amaranth is a good source of health-improving antioxidants. One study reported that amaranth is high in phenolic acids, that include gallic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid and vanillic acid which are plant compounds that act as antioxidants. All of these are known to protect against diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Amaranth Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal immune response to protect the body against injury and infection. However, chronic inflammation may contribute to chronic disease and has been linked with conditions like cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders.
Several studies indicate that amaranth could have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
It helps control Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a kind of fat that is found throughout the body. High levels of cholesterol can build up in the blood and cause arteries to narrow. Interestingly, some studies have found that amaranth may have cholesterol-lowering properties.
Gluten is a type of protein that is found in various grains like wheat, barley, spelt and rye. For those with gluten sensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome and any celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the body, causing damage and inflammation in the digestive tract. Amaranth is gluten-free naturally and can be enjoyed by those on a gluten-free diet.
Other ranges of naturally gluten-free grains include quinoa, millet, oats, buckwheat, brown rice and black rice all of which are available at NutraC, the Organic Food Store in Hyderabad.
How to use Amaranth?
Amaranth is a versatile grain and can be used in many different dishes. Before cooking amaranth, it can also be sprouted by soaking it in water and then allowing the grains to germinate for one to three days.
This process makes it easier to digest and breaks down antinutrients, which can impair mineral absorption
To cook amaranth, mix water and amaranth in a 3:1 ratio. Heat it until it reaches a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until the water is absorbed.
Amaranth flour can be used to make pancakes, rotis and desserts
Here are a few simple ways to enjoy this nutritious grain:
- Add cooked amaranth grain or amaranth flour to smoothies to boost the fibre and protein content
- Use it in dishes in place of semolina, rice or wheat flour
- Mix it into soups, gravies or stews to add thickness
- Make it into a breakfast cereal by stirring in fruit, nuts, dried fruits or cinnamon
Visit our health and supplement store and get creative to enjoy a wholesome dish made of amaranthus!
Ashwini Sagar is a renowned diet and nutritional consultant. She has been in this field for more than a decade now. During all these years, she has developed brilliant expertise in this field and comes up with the best possible diet plans. She possesses the ability to communicate complex and sensitive information about dietary matters in an understandable form to individuals. She has a proven track record of successfully promoting healthy eating habits and suggesting diet modifications.
Ashwini is available of nutrition consultations at NutraC on prior appointments.