Amaranth: a plant lesser known with prominent health benefits
Ever heard of “the bread of Aztecs”? That’s what Amaranth is called. For over 8,000 years, the people of South America cultivated it, like we did wheat. In Ukraine, the densely growing plants with Catkin-like cymes were traditionally considered weeds, but as of late their health benefits have been increasingly brought up. Incredibly, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has even gone so far as to declare amaranth the crop culture of the 21st century.
An annual plant of Amaranthaceae family, which spans over 100 genera. Originates from South America. It was Spanish Conquistadors fought its cultivation because of its use in heathen rituals. Still, Amaranth made its way to Europe and was cultivated there as an ornamental plant.
Amaranth has a variety of common names in English like pigweed, redroot, and love lies bleeding. Several varieties of the plant were bred, including vegetable, crop, and forage ones. Amaranthus L. has primarily medicinal use.
Amaranth has a unique biology. All its parts grant certain health benefits, the richest one being grain, which has a much richer composition as compared to wheat. From amaranth grain, oil, flour, shorts, and starch are made.
Amaranth grain contains:
- 13-21% of a protein that is particularly well-suited for human nutritional needs and has higher nutritional value than cereals and even milk. In addition, it contains essential amino acids, as well as globulins and albumins.
- Lysine, an essential amino acid. There is twice as much of it in amaranth as in wheat. Consumed in sufficient quantities, this one improves collagen synthesis and preserves the elasticity of blood vessels and skin.
- 6-9% of fat with a high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids, e.g. linoleic, linolenic, and oleinic acids.
- Squalene, an unsaturated hydrocarbon that is unique to amaranth oil and used in atherosclerosis therapy. As evidenced by medical trials, this substance regulates steroid and lipid metabolism in the human body, saturates cells with oxygen, exhibits great antioxidant properties, hinders cancerous growth, and even slows aging. Shark liver is 2% squalene, and cold-pressed amaranth oil—8%.
- Insoluble protopectin. Fosters excretion of radionuclides and heavy metals and protects the liver from toxins.
- Tocotrienol. An enzyme inhibiting cholesterol synthesis, which is a great help in cardiovascular disease prophylaxis.
- Valuable vitamins: Vitamins A, B, C, E (in a rare form of a powerful antioxidant), and P, as well as carotenoids. Amaranth grain is richer in vitamins than oat bran.
- Microelements, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron.
The aerial part of the plant offers a lot of benefits, too. Amaranth leaves contain:
- Up to 6% of potassium and as much pectin
- About 15% of protein. One of the best vegetable proteins out there, considering its essential amino acidic structure. Easily extractable and soluble
- Ascorbic acid
- Polyphenols, including rutin, trefolin, and quercetin
- Vitamins B, C, A, etc.
Scientists are still hard at work trying to crack the mystery of amaranth’s health benefits and studying the nuances of antioxidant and other beneficial effects of the plant. Amaranthus L has been repeatedly proven to have a host of medicinal properties:
- Fosters immunity, e.g. during disease treatment, and has an invigorating effect.
- Regulates lipid metabolism and normalizes the body’s metabolism overall.
- Exhibits hepatoprotective action.
- Decreases cholesterol.
- Helps control blood sugar.
- Has anti-inflammatory and anti-mycotic properties.
- Prevents clotting.
- Suppresses cancerous growth.
- Reduces elevated blood pressure by about 20%.
- Helps improve the condition of those suffering from atherosclerosis, hypertension, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, gastrointestinal ulcers and erosions, and musculoskeletal disorders.
- Used in the treatment of psoriasis and neurodermatitis.
- Helps treat gynecopathies.
- Helps improve sexual potency in men.
- Helps preserve eyesight.
- Helps lose weight when consumed as a part of amaranth oil-based diet.
- Rejuvenates skin, strengthens hair, prevents premature greying.
The use of amaranth may vary depending on its form. Amaranth grain, flour, and oil offer the most health benefits.
- Amaranth grain is a great alternative to your usual cereals. It doesn’t have as much fibrin and is completely gluten-free. Besides, it is rich in protein, minerals, and essential amino acids, as described above. A great option for people suffering from coeliac disease and diabetes mellitus.
- From just one cup of amaranth grain, one can get about 82% of a daily intake of iron, 31% of calcium and 14 of vitamin C. It can be cooked separately, but for no more than 40 minutes, or added to pastry. As a hot cereal, it has a nutty flavor. Can also be consumed with honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and fruits.
- Rich in squalene and vitamin E, amaranth flour is a great vitamin-protein supplement. It can be easily incorporated into your daily diet. Just add it to your usual wheat flour (up to 20%)—pastry from this kind of flour mix will not get stale for a longer time. It is also a great option for coating and sauces, cream soups, minced meat, and makes for delicious pancakes. It takes just a little bit of imagination.
- Or you can go the easy way and take a teaspoon of flower thrice per day with water. Consumed regularly, it has an invigorating effect and helps reduce the risk of cancerous growth and improve digestion. Besides, gone will be your headaches, and you will get much better sleep.
- Picking amaranth oil, make sure it is a cold-pressed one. This way it will be 100% natural and brimming with all valuable biologically active substances. Such oil will have a squalene content of 8%.
- Amaranth oil can be taken by a teaspoon 2–3 times a day before a meal or used as a dressing for salads, hot cereals, etc. In addition, amaranth oil also comes in capsules.
- In the beauty industry, it is often added to creams, beauty masks, body lotions, and shampoos, and used as a massage oil. Amaranth-containing salves help heal scars and injuries and are used in the treatment of all kinds of dermatitis in adults and children.
Amaranth-containing products tend to grow in price globally now, especially when it comes to cold-pressed oil. The more healing properties of the plant are discovered, the stronger gets the demand from those longing for natural revitalization.