Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that you will definitely want to try.Used by ancient Aztecs, this grain is very popular today.Eating amaranth grains is very healthy and we will show you the health benefits of consuming this healthy grain.
What is amaranth?
This gluten-free grain was a major food crop of the Aztecs, and some estimate that it was domesticated between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. Because of the high proteins, minerals and vitamins present in amaranth, these ancient cultures depended on the grain as a major staple in their diets.
Amaranth is still the native crop in Peru, and it’s grown in Africa, India, China, Russia, South America and North America.
It’s a very tall plant with broad green leaves and vividly bright purple, red or gold flowers. Amaranth grows in harsh and lackluster nutrient conditions, such as in light soils, much like the grain sorghum, so it’s a very efficient grain crop.
Health benefits of consuming Amaranth:
1. High Source of Protein
The protein contained in amaranth is of an unusually high quality, providing nine grams for one cup of cooked grain. Protein is used in every cell in our bodies and is critical for building muscle mass, supporting neurological function, aiding in digestion, helping balance hormones naturally and keeping an upbeat mood. Protein foods are also beneficial for preventing weight gain since they make us feel full and require more work for the body to digest than fast-acting refined carbohydrates.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Amaranth has the power to reduce inflammation, which is associated with just about every health condition. When dietary and environmental toxins build up in the body, the immune system becomes overactive, and it stimulates defense cells and hormones that damage tissues. When the immune system overreaches and begins attacking healthy body tissues, we’re met with an autoimmune disorder like leaky gut syndrome and inflammation in otherwise healthy areas of the body. This is also the case for arthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as celiac and irritable bowel disease. Because grains and protein-rich foods help fight inflammation, amaranth is a great tool for your body.
A major health benefit of anti-inflammatory foods is the way they relieve pain induced by arthritis and gout. Arthritis is a joint disease that causes swelling and pain in the joints. One type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage between joints wears down and causes inflammation and pain. This type of arthritis generally occurs in the joints we most frequently use, such as knees, hips, spine and hands. A 2014 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research showed that amaranth inhibited inflammation in humans and mice. This suggests that amaranth serves as a natural treatment for arthritis and has the power to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
3. Supports Bone Health
The calcium present in amaranth grain allows the body to use this mineral for bone repair and strengthening. Including calcium-rich foods in your daily diet is so important because it helps heal broken or weak bones. A calcium deficiency increases your risk of a fracture and developing osteoporosis, which is when small holes or weakened areas are formed in the bone that can lead to fractures, pain and a Dowager’s hump.
4. Helps Lower Cholesterol
A 2003 study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research tested the effects of amaranth grain on cholesterol levels in animals models. Amaranth grain decreased very low-density LDL cholesterol by 21 percent to 50 percent. LDL is known as the bad cholesterol because it’s low in proteins and high in cholesterol. Thus, this grain is a cholesterol-lowering food.
Amaranth also aided digestion by increasing fecal excretion or frequency of bowel movements. This is due to the fiber content present in amaranth. The fiber binds cholesterol in the digestive system and causes it to be excreted by the body. Eating high-fiber foods helps the body lower cholesterol naturally. The fiber acts on the bile that’s made from cholesterol, pulling it out of the body with stool. Because of this process, the liver is required to make more bile, which uses the body’s cholesterol stores, lowering cholesterol overall.
5. Aids Digestive System
Because of amaranth’s high fiber content, it stimulates the digestive system and helps regulate the excretion of bodily waste. Due to its structure and our inability to absorb it, fiber passes through the digestive system unabsorbed by digestive enzymes within the stomach, taking with it toxins, waste, fat and cholesterol particles out of the gut. According to research conducted at Purdue University, 78 percent of the fiber in amaranth is insoluble fiber and 22 percent is soluble fiber, which is a higher proportion than what is found in wheat and maize. Soluble fiber is vital for proper digestion because it dissolves into a gluey mass and traps fats, sugars, bacteria and toxins. While aiding the digestive system, amaranth is also able to prevent other health conditions like leaky gut syndrome.
In order to understand leaky gut syndrome, think of the lining of your digestive tract like a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. Your gut lining works as a barrier — keeping out bigger particles that can damage your system. This leads to inflammation throughout the digestive system, and it causes fatigue, bloating, weight gain, headaches, skin issues and thyroid problems. It can also lead to multiple food sensitivities. This is because partially digested protein and fat can seep through your intestinal linking, making their way into the bloodstream and causing an allergic reaction.
By sprouting a grain like amaranth, you get a great source of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria, thereby working to treat leaky gut syndrome.
6. Helps Fight Diabetes
With just a cup of amaranth providing over 100 percent the daily recommended dose of manganese, it can be eaten as part of a diabetic diet that helps reduce high blood sugar levels. Manganese is needed to help with proper production of digestive enzymes responsible for a process called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis involves the conversion of protein’s amino acids into sugar and the balance of sugar within the bloodstream.
7. It’s Gluten-Free
Amaranth is gluten-free, so people with sensitivities or intolerances to gluten are free to eat this beneficial grain. Gluten sensitivity is a cluster of symptoms related to a reaction to the protein found in the wheat plant called gluten. The severe form of gluten sensitivity is celiac’s disease, but research suggests that non-celiac gluten sensitivity can also cause less severe symptoms, such as joint pain, headaches, fatigue and poor memory.
Symptoms of gluten intolerance may include fatigue, bone and joint pain, arthritis, infertility, miscarriage, depression, and skin rashes, just to name a few. A gluten-sensitivity diet includes grains like amaranth, quinoa and nutritious buckwheat.
8. Helps Pregnant Women
The folate in amaranth helps the body make new cells, specifically by playing a role in copying and synthesizing DNA. For pregnant women, a folate deficiency can lead to neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. A deficiency can also cause defects such as heart and limb malformations. Adequate intake of folate foods is needed for DNA replication, so without folate, the fetus’ cells are unable to grow properly. This is why folate is known as possibly the most critical vitamin for a healthy pregnancy.
Fortification of foods with folate by the FDA has decreased the risk for neural tube defects by 26 percent. It’s critical to have adequate levels of blood folate before getting pregnant because the fastest cell replication happens in the early stages.
How to Use Amaranth:
Amaranth is available to purchase in any local health food store. As it continues to gain popularity, you will likely find it at major supermarkets as well.
When cooking amaranth grain, use the ratio of 1.5 cups water to a half cup amaranth. Heat the mixture in a small saucepan until it begins to boil. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer, uncovered, until the water is absorbed. This typically takes about 20 minutes.
Amaranth has a nutty and toasted flavor, so it works well in many dishes — from breakfast to dessert. Here are a few ideas about how to include amaranth into your everyday diet:
*Mix amaranth with fruit, nuts and probiotic yogurt for breakfast
*Serve amaranth instead of rice, pasta, orzo, couscous or risotto
*Add amaranth to soup or chili to create a thicker texture
*Make “rice cakes” with amaranth and honey
*Make “rice pudding” with amaranth
*Use amaranth flour to make gluten-free baked goods
*Add amaranth to a smoothie for a nutty flavor