Today we're taking a deep dive into the benefits and uses of the protein-packed, bone-building pseudo-grain amaranth.
Amaranth is gluten-free, works in place of many other grains, and offers a variety of health benefits that support your bones and overall wellness.
We'll review the wide range of nutrients found in this grain, what it can do for your health, and how to make sure you're getting the most out of amaranth.
Facts About Amaranth
The amaranth plant was cultivated over the past 8,000-plus years into an incredibly nutritious and versatile “ancient grain”. But in fact, it's not a grain at all. Amaranth belongs to the same plant family as beets, chard, and spinach.
The leaves and sprouts of the plant are edible, but today we're talking about the part of the plant that is most widely sold and consumed: the seeds.
Amaranth seeds are commonly grouped with grains because their culinary uses are much like those of grains. But unlike most grains, amaranth is a complete source of protein, gluten-free, and alkalizing! This makes amaranth a must-have staple in every Saver's kitchen.
Amaranth seeds are grouped with grains because of how they are used in cooking. But unlike most grains, amaranth is a complete source of protein, gluten-free, and alkalizing!
Nutritional Breakdown Of Amaranth
Amaranth packs a lot of useful compounds into a tiny package. Notably, this “grain” contains a significant amount of protein at 9.3 grams per cup cooked. The particular mixture of amino acids in amaranth provides all the building blocks your body needs to construct the protein your body uses to build muscle. That makes amaranth a plant-based “complete protein” source.
The list below is full of stand-out values. A cooked cup of amaranth contains 105% of your daily value of manganese and nearly half of your daily magnesium. It's also an excellent source of fiber, zinc, iron, and copper.
One cup (approximately 246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains approximately:
- 9.3 grams protein
- 5.2 grams fiber
- 54.1 micrograms folate (14% DV)
- 0.3-milligram vitamin B6 (14% DV)
- 2.1 milligrams manganese (105% DV)
- 160 milligrams magnesium (40% DV)
- 364 milligrams phosphorus (36% DV)
- 5.2 milligrams iron (29% DV)
- 13.5 micrograms selenium (19% DV)
- 0.4 milligram copper (18% DV)
- 2.1 milligrams Zinc (14% DV)
- 332 milligrams potassium (9% DV)
- 116 milligrams calcium (12% DV)
A cooked cup of amaranth contains 9.3 grams of protein, 105% of your daily value of manganese, and nearly half of your daily magnesium. It's also an excellent source of fiber, zinc, iron, and copper.
Health Benefits Of Amaranth
The powerful quantity and combination of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients in amaranth results in a wide variety of significant health benefits. It's incredible to see how much good such a tiny seed can do.
Reduces Inflammation – Studies have found that amaranth may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Reducing inflammation can alleviate pain, and allows many bodily systems to function more effectively– including the bone remodeling process.1
Reduces Cholesterol – A study on amaranth oil showed that it reduced total cholesterol by 14% and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol”) by 22%, while increasing High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). This effect may be due in part to amaranth's high fiber levels.2
Prevents diabetes – The full serving of manganese in amaranth makes it a powerful tool for managing blood sugar levels, which is critical for fighting diabetes. Manganese is needed for the gluconeogenesis process that helps balance sugar levels in the body. Furthermore, studies have linked low manganese levels with an increase in diabetes and renal dysfunction.3
Supports Digestion – The high fiber content of amaranth supports healthy digestion. A high-fiber diet allows the body to expel more unwanted and harmful compounds more effectively. It also improves the efficacy of the digestive system– optimizing the body's ability to absorb the nutrients it needs.
Strengthens Bone – Amaranth provides a powerful combination of bone-building minerals and macronutrients. It's a great source of the major minerals that comprise bone, including calcium and magnesium. Amaranth is alkalizing, making it an easy addition to a pH-balanced diet. It plays the role of a grain on your plate, but unlike almost any other grain, it doesn't contribute to acidification.
Furthermore, amaranth offers a network of minerals and vitamins that support bone health in numerous ways. The boost of zinc and copper in amaranth, for example, supports the production of the master antioxidant, glutathione, which protects cells responsible for strengthening bone.
The health benefits of amaranth include reducing inflammation and cholesterol, fighting diabetes, supporting digestion, and strengthening bones.
How To Add Amaranth To Your Meals
Imagine a dish that involves a grain. Now substitute amaranth for that grain.
That equation works basically every time. This incredibly versatile seed can take the place of oats, rice, pasta, orzo, couscous, risotto, and more. You can even get naturally gluten-free amaranth flour that can replace less nutritious wheat flour.
Amaranth can be used in place of oats as a breakfast cereal, in place of couscous in a salad, as a flavorful thickener in soups or chilis, and as a nutty add-in for smoothies. You can even pop amaranth in a skillet like corn!
Cooking amaranth seeds is a simple process, familiar from other grains:
- Put amaranth and water in a saucepan. Use two and a half cups of water for each cup of amaranth.
- Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered, until the water is absorbed.
You can adjust the amount of water to alter the consistency of the cooked amaranth– experiment to find your favorite proportions.
You can use amaranth basically anywhere that you would use another grain. It's great for breakfast cereals, in place of pasta, as a thickener in soups, and as an add-in for smoothies. See above for cooking instructions.
A Veggie Patty With Amaranth
Here's a delicious recipe to get you started using amaranth in your home cooking. These patties are a satisfying treat, and thanks to amaranth, they're full of vitamins and minerals your bones need to thrive.
Vegetarian Protein Patties
- 1 cup cooked lima beans, blended into a puree
- ½ cup cooked amaranth
- 1 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Extra-virgin olive or avocado oil as needed
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Then mix in the beans and amaranth.
- Blend in all the other ingredients, except oil. If the texture is too moist, add more amaranth or quinoa. The patties should be easy to form.
- Heat some olive or avocado oil in a frying pan and place 1 tablespoon of the mixture for each pattie.
- Fry them for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
- When ready, blot with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
What This Means To You
If you don't already have a designated spot in your pantry for amaranth– now is the time. You can find it at most groceries. Eat it for its nutty flavor and its bevy of health benefits.
If you're hungry for bone-building recipes to try with your new favorite pseudo-grain, check out Bone Appétit. Bone Appétit is the Save Instiute's cookbook and meal planner. It has more than 200 delicious recipes perfect for every occasion and every palate.
Isn't it nice when doing the “right” thing for your health is so easy and delicious?