Our ancestors cultivated Amaranth for its nutritional values as long as 8,000 years ago. The Amaranth plant is classified as pseudocereals as it differs from other grains found in the market. Grown for their starchy and edible seeds, they do not belong to the family of cereals like rice and wheat. Incredibly versatile in its uses, Amaranth is rich in antioxidants, micro-nutrients, fiber, and protein. Let’s take a look at its nutritional value, health benefits, and some delicious ways to consume Amaranth.
What is Amaranth?
Amaranth was once considered a staple food for the people living in the ancient Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations. It provides a nutty and earthy flavor that pairs deliciously with a wide range of dishes. Amaranth is a highly nutritional pseudocereal that has a superior protein content in comparison to other cereals. Amaranth is a well-balanced food that has various functional properties like high nutritional value and aiding in proper digestion.
Does Amaranth offer Nutritional value?
Yes, it does. Amaranth needs to be cooked and prepared, just like any other grain. Cooked Amaranth of about a 100 grams provides 103 calories. It has a moderate amount of dietary minerals (iron, manganese, and phosphorus) and high lysine and protein components. The best part of Amaranth grains is that they are gluten-free, which allows gluten intolerant people to eat it without worries.
Let us look at the nutritional value of one cup (about 246 grams) of cooked Amaranth.
|Nutrient||Value in 1 cup (256 grams) of Amaranth|
According to ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), Amaranth contains some anti-nutritional factors like phenolic compounds, saponins, nitrates, and oxalates. Hence, cooking methods like boiling the Amaranth seeds in water and then throwing away the water might reduce the toxic effects of the grain.
What are the Health Benefits?
Even though Amaranth has gained popularity recently as healthy food, this super ancient grain was an essential part of the diet for various people around the world. It offers an impressive and vast nutrient profile, and it is associated with multiple health benefits. Let us take a look at some of the health benefits of Amaranth.
1. High in antioxidants
The human body contains harmful free radicals. Antioxidants are natural compounds that help in protecting the body against these free radicals. Amaranth carries high quantities of phenolic acid, vanillic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, and gallic acid that helps in protecting you against many degenerative diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
2. It may help reduce cholesterol levels
Cholesterol, a type of fat, which, if found too much in the blood, can narrow down the arteries. Some studies have shown that Amaranth might have some cholesterol-reducing properties. A survey showed that the oil of Amaranth had decreased “bad” or LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol by 22% and 15%, respectively. It also helps in increasing the “good” or HDL cholesterol at the same time.
3. Helps aid weight loss
In case you are thinking about shedding those few extra pounds, then you should start adding Amaranth to your diet regularly. Amaranth is rich in fiber and protein, both of which help in weight loss. A study proved that a high-protein breakfast helps in decreasing ghrelin levels, the hunger-stimulating hormone. The fiber in Amaranth moves slowly and undigested inside the gastrointestinal tract that helps in promoting the feeling of fullness. Increased fiber intake helps in lowering the risk of gaining body fat and weight.
4. Reduces inflammation in the body
Inflammation is a standard immune response that has been designed for protecting the body against infection and injury. However, in cases of chronic inflammation, it can contribute to various chronic diseases like autoimmune disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Multiple studies show that Amaranth has an anti-inflammatory effect on the human body. In one study, it was found that Amaranth has helped in reducing numerous markers of inflammation. Another study has shown that Amaranth has helped in inhibiting immunoglobulin E production, an antibody that causes allergic inflammation.
5. It is naturally gluten-free
Grains such as spelt, barley, and wheat contain a kind of protein called gluten. People with celiac disease cannot eat gluten as the body produces an immune response that causes inflammation and damage to the digestive tract. But they can eat Amaranth, a gluten-free grain, that also contains many essential nutrients in it.
Amaranth vs Quinoa
Even though they share various similarities, these ancient South American grains also differ in multiple ways. They are known as whole-grain foods but they are not entirely true cereal grains. Let’s look at how they differ from each other in the following ways.
Amaranth contains more protein when compared to quinoa. A cup of Amaranth serves 9g of protein, while a cup of quinoa serves 8g of protein. However, both of them serve almost double the amount of protein that you can get from whole wheat, oats, and brown rice. Even the protein quality in both quinoa and Amaranth is better than nearly all the whole grains that are also low in lysine, an amino acid.
In addition to that, both the grains are good sources of zinc, magnesium, iron and are considered vital sources of the essential vitamin B6.
|One cup of Quinoa||One cup of Amaranth|
|3mg Iron||5mg Iron|
|18% Vitamin B6 RDA||22% Vitamin B6 RDA|
|15% Riboflavin and Thiamine RDA||3.75% Riboflavin and Thiamine RDA|
Even though both Amaranth and quinoa offer a nutty flavor after cooking them, Amaranth is more flavourful. The seed of Amaranth while cooking releases an intense grass aroma that translates to an herbal, nutty flavor reminiscent of hay. But in the case of quinoa, it releases a mild flavor that can easily take on the attributes of the food it is being served with.
Delicious Amaranth recipes
Amaranth is a power-packed grain with numerous healthy properties that include fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Amaranth grains can be added in various dishes as a vital ingredient to bring out the flavor, aroma, and taste of the grains. Here is a list of some Indian recipes which you can try to add Amaranth in your daily diet.
1. Amaranth Tikki
- One cup of Amaranth seeds
- Two cups of water
- One tbsp of oil
- Three cloves of finely minced garlic
- One cup of finely chopped onion
- Half cup of finely chopped zucchini
- Half cup of red bell pepper finely chopped
- Salt, chili powder, and amchoor powder
- One tbsp of garam masala
- Half tsp of coriander powder, lemon zest
- Freshly ground black pepper
For cooking Amaranth seeds:
- First, you need to boil two cups of water. Then add the Amaranth seeds in the water and stir well.
- After boiling the Amaranth seeds, cover the bowl. Then lower the flame and let the seeds simmer for around twenty minutes.
- After Amaranth is cooked, season it with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and keep aside.
For making the masala:
- Heat 1tbsp of oil in a pan and saute the onions and garlic until glossy. Then add zucchini and red pepper and stir-fry them for about three minutes.
- After that, add some lemon zest, red chili, coriander powder, garam masala, and stir fry. Then add some black pepper and amchoor. Now, set aside the mixture by removing it from the heat.
- Take the boiled Amaranth and add it to the mixture. Set it aside to cool down.
- Then make the patties and coat them in breadcrumbs.
- Finally, pan-fry them till golden using two tbsp of oil.
The total cooking time for this dish is forty-five minutes.
2. Amaranth Ki Chikki
- 250 grams of Amaranth
- 750 grams of jaggery
- Three and a half cups of water
- A greased surface for setting the chikki
- Take a pan and heat it on high flame. Then add the whole Amaranth in it. The Amaranth would start popping up immediately after you add them to the pan.
- After it has popped up, remove the Amaranth from the pan and keep it aside.
- Now take some water and jaggery in the pan while dissolving the jaggery in the water over a flame.
- After the jaggery has dissolved completely, increase the flame, and bring the mixture to a boil. After that, cook it on high heat till you get a 2/3rd consistency.
- Now, mix the Amaranth into the jaggery mixture.
- Finally, transfer the mixture at once on a greased surface. Then level it by patting and leave it aside to cool down.
- Once cool, break it down into desired size pieces and store in an air-tight container.
The total time taken for cooking this dish is forty minutes.
Even though Amaranth has existed for a long time, it has gained popularity among people in recent times as it contains quality minerals and proteins. Its utmost specialty is that it is gluten-free and allows a whole lot of gluten intolerant people to include Amaranth in their diet. Amaranth is highly beneficial for your health as it includes a wide range of nutrients in it. You can even cook Amaranth into a variety of dishes that are both healthy and tasty.