Amaranth has become an important part of my diet since I participated in the Cook! SF detox. Amaranth was cultivated by the Aztecs and in other tropical climates, but is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity as a gluten-free protein. Though amaranth is derived from the fruit a flowering plant, it is often referred to as a grain–so we’ll call it a grain here. Here are reasons to use amaranth grain and even the leaves into your diet.
10 Amaranth Benefits
1. Amaranth Is Gluten-Free
Cook amaranth grain as a hot cereal to eat in the morning (recipe below). Find it as flour and use if for baking. Some even pop it like popcorn and bread fish with it.
2. It Has More Protein Than Other Grains
One cup of amaranth grain has 28.1 grams of protein compared to oats at 26.1. It’s healthier to receive protein from plant-based sources rather than animals, because the latter often comes with fat and cholesterol.
3. Amaranth Provides Essential Lysine
Amaranth has far more lysine, an essential amino acid that the body can’t manufacture, than other grains. Lysine helps metabolize fatty acids into energy, absorb calcium, and even keep the hair on your head in tact.
4. Helps With Hair Loss And Greying
Expanding on the above, eating it helps with hair loss, juice the leaves and apply it after shampooing. I’ve never done it but people swear it helps moisturize and flatten wirey grey hair.
5. Lowers Cholesterol And Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
Amaranth seeds and oil (found in the seed) have fiber which contributes to lower cholesterol and risk of constipation. It’s also rich in phytosterols, also known for lowering cholesterol.
6. It’s High In Calcium
Amaranth helps reduce risk of osteoporosis and other calcium deficiencies because it has twice the calcium as milk.
7. Amaranth Is Full Of Antioxidants And Minerals
It’s the only grain to have vitamin C, but it’s high in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium which are necessary for overall health. The leaves are high in vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.
8. Works As An Appetite Suppressant
Protein reduces insulin levels in the blood stream and releases a hormone that makes you feel less hungry. Since amaranth is roughly 15% protein, the fact that it aids in weight loss or maintaining weight is one of the health benefits.
9. Improves Eyesight
While I can’t find an article to back this up, some cultures believe that amaranth greens are a natural way to improve eyesight. Eat them as salad or brew them in tea.
10. Amaranth Is Easy To Digest
Amaranth is traditionally given to patients recovering from illness or people coming off of fasts. It’s the mix of amino acids that allows for very easy digestion.
How Does Amaranth Grow?
Amaranth is a gorgeous perennial plant that flowers in the summer. Some species of amaranth get a bad rap for being invasive plants. Some argue that this feature allows us to grow it with ease, therefore, we should be incorporating it more into our diets. It’s hearty and requires little care to grow.
How to Cook Amaranth
I buy amaranth in bulk at Whole Foods and prepare it in advance for breakfast. Use a 1:3 ratio of amaranth to liquid. The liquid could be water, almond milk, milk or coconut milk in a breakfast dish or prepared differently for a snack or savory meal. All you need to do is measure out the right amount of amaranth and rinse it with water. Drain the water. Put the amaranth in a pot with the liquid and cook on medium until the liquid is absorbed. Have a look at my favorite amaranth breakfast recipe.
Amaranth leaves taste like spinach, but with a stronger flavor. Sprinkle them in salad or use them in a stir fry.
How do you eat amaranth?