A study on amaranth reported that its seeds contain not only important nutritional properties, but also phytochemical compounds like rutin and nicotiflorin, and peptides with the ability to help lower hypertension and incidences of cancer.
The high amount and quality of protein may be the most famous health benefit of amaranth grains, but it is hardly the only reason amaranth grains are so good for you.
Researchers suggested further investigation on the function of health-beneficial peptides in amaranth, particularly lunasin, which was previously identified in soybeans and thought to have cancer-preventing benefits, as well as lowering incidences of chronic diseases, such as inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Amaranth is defined as a “never-fading flower” in Greek. Various Amaranthus species were grown by the Aztecs 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, prior to the disruption of the South American civilization by the Spanish conquistadors. Both the grain amaranth and leaves are utilized for use for human as well as for animal food. The nutritional value of amaranth has been extensively studied. Grain amaranth has higher protein than other cereal grains and has significantly higher lysine content. It has been shown that amaranth leaves are an excellent source of protein, with its maximal accumulation in the blossoming phase.
Somewhat of an unknown quantity to many, amaranth is tall – often six feet – with broad green leaves, bright red or gold flowers, and around 60 different species. The flowers are made up of miniscule, grain-like buds, one reason why this plant often falls into the “grain” category. But amaranth isn’t technically a grain like oats, wheat, or rice. It’s sometimes referred to as a “pseudo-cereal” because its nutritional profile is very similar.
Amaranth grains are a good source of minerals, but if you’re looking for a real mineral boost, make eating amaranth leaves a habit! Amaranth leaves are rich in the same minerals as amaranth grains (i.e. iron, magnesium and phosphorus), but they are also supercharged with two additional minerals: calcium and potassium. Especially the calcium content of amaranth leaves deserves special attention as there are only a few other vegetables ‐ including the superfoods mache lettuce and grape leaves – that contain more calcium than amaranth leaves. It is important to note, however, that amaranth leaves also contain oxalates, anti-nutrients that can hinder the absorption of the calcium in the intestines.
If you’re not yet convinced about the health benefits of amaranth leaves, then consider this: amaranth leaves are also loaded with numerous vitamins! In fact, this unsung superfood is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin K, a nutrient that plays an important role in keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. Amaranth greens are also supercharged with carotenoids and vitamin C, plus they provide plenty of folate and a fair amount of vitamin B6, too.
Amaranth grain consists of 6 to 9% of oil which is higher than most other cereals. Amaranth oil contains approximately 77% unsaturated fatty acids and is high in linoleic acid, which is necessary for human nutrition. Vegetable amaranth has received significantly less research attention than grain amaranth. However, it has been rated considerably higher in minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorous and caretonoids than most vegetables. Pharmacological properties of different amaranth species also have been investigated. It was determined that Amaranth paniculatus and Amaranth cruentus are good sources of flavanoids, especially for rutin, which are mostly produced in the stage of blossoming.
One of the most important aspects of this tiny grain is that it’s gluten-free. When ground, the flour is generally a pale ivory shade, although the red “buds” can be ground as well for a red-tinged and very healthful grain.
Because an unbalanced diet is an important risk factor for several illnesses, interest has increased in finding novel health-promoting foods. Amaranth produces seeds that not only have substantial nutritional properties but that also contain phytochemical compounds as rutin and nicotiflorin and peptides with antihypertensive and anticarcinogenic activities. It is reported that the cancer-preventive peptide in amaranth has activities similar to those of soybean lunasin. The amaranth lunasin-like peptide, however, requires less time than the soybean lunasin to internalize into the nucleus of NIH-3T3 cells, and inhibits histone acetylation (H(3) and H(4) in a 70 and 77%, respectively). The amaranth lunasin-like peptide inhibited the transformation of NIH-3T3 cells to cancerous foci.
Studies indicate that Amaranth oil can be considered as an effective natural antioxidant supplement capable of protecting cellular membranes against oxidative damage.
Ultimately, amaranth is a true powerhouse, known to help prevent a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Luckily, it can be found in most supermarkets.