Published: 07/23/2014 - Updated: 11/03/2018
The Amaranth, this legendary and charitable plant, has been – along with beans and chia – one of the staple foods for Mayans, Aztecs and the Incas, and was their primary source of protein. In those times, it was eaten as a seasonal vegetable or as a popped grain. It was associated with religious rites, to the gods, and to the cosmic visions of those cultures.
Today, amaranth is generally consumed as a sprout, which is abundant with enzymes, minerals, fiber and chlorophyll. It’s also eaten popped, which is also used to make several snacks (combined with honey, peanuts, nuts, etc., and traditional Mexican sweets). It can also be used for delicious meals, such as muesli, tamales, cakes, tortillas, breads, hot cereals, smoothies, juices, pinoles (a traditional Mexican drink), malts, flan, marzipan, cookies, fizzy drinks, soups, stews, etc.
Amaranth is an extremely complete vegetable product. It stands as a very important source of proteins and vitamins A, B, C, B1, B, and B3. It is rich in pholic acid and important minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus. It is one of the riches foods in amino acids, like Lysine.
The percentage of high quality proteins from this seed – used to make Alegrías, a Mexican treat – is greater than that of most grains. It contains twice the amount of protein that corn and rice do, and 60 to 80% more than wheat. Amaranth would be a great option for solving world hunger, as it could easily provide the population with the required proteins and calories, which currently are only found in some vegetable species, like rice, wheat, bean, millet, sorghum, potatoes, soy, etc. Amaranth in undoubtedly one of the most promising foods in this world, and has been described buy the United States’ National Academy of Sciences as “the best vegetable food source for human consumption”.
This small plant, which is easily found in Mexico (pretty much growing on street corners, sprouting up anywhere there’s soil, sufficient light and water), has very medicinal uses as well. Its leaves are used to treat diarrhea, and when combined with prickly pear and broccoli, it can be used to prevent colon cancer.
It is widely recommended to prevent and help treat conditions like osteoporosis, anemia, diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypertension, constipation and diverticulitis. It’s also used in cases of chronic renal failure, hepatic (liver) insufficiency, and hepatic encephalopathy.
Amaranth is a wonderful option so that those with celiac disease can enjoy grains risk-free, as the don’t contain gluten. For athletes and those that participate in high intensity physical activity, amaranth comes highly recommended for its quality amino acids and vitamins.
- Collar, C., Conte, P., Fadda, C., & Piga, A. (2015). Gluten-free dough-making of specialty breads: Significance of blended starches, flours and additives on dough behaviour. Food Science and Technology International = Ciencia y Tecnologia de Los Alimentos Internacional, 21(7), 523–536.
- Cheng, A. (2018). Review: Shaping a sustainable food future by rediscovering long-forgotten ancient grains. Plant Science : An International Journal of Experimental Plant Biology, 269, 136–142.
- Tang, Y., & Tsao, R. (2017). Phytochemicals in quinoa and amaranth grains and their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential health beneficial effects: a review. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 61(7).
- Galan, M. G., Drago, S. R., Armada, M., & González José, R. (2013). Iron, zinc and calcium dialyzability from extruded product based on whole grain amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus and Amaranthus cruentus) and amaranth/Zea mays blends. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 64(4), 502–507.
- Zhu, F. (2017). Structures, physicochemical properties, and applications of amaranth starch. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(2), 313–325.
- Venskutonis, P. R., & Kraujalis, P. (2013). Nutritional Components of Amaranth Seeds and Vegetables: A Review on Composition, Properties, and Uses. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12(4), 381–412.