July 25, 2024

Amaranth is a plant that produces edible starchy seeds that look similar to grains. The seeds resemble quinoa and are popular for their fiber and protein content.

Because amaranth is a good source of protein, some people use it as a substitute for animal-based proteins. It is also relatively affordable, easy to cook, and has a long shelf-life.

Some researchers and alternative health advocates also believe it may have medicinal benefits. However, research on this subject is not conclusive.

Read on to learn more about amaranth, its uses, and its potential benefits.

There are several purported benefits of amaranth. They include the following:

Protein content

Amaranth is a pseudo-grain. This means that even though it is technically a seed, it looks and tastes similar to a grain.

Although it is a good substitute for other cereal grains, it has a higher protein content. It is also a complete protein, making it a beneficial choice for people who do not consume or cannot afford animal protein sources.

Protein is vital for a person’s health and is important in muscle and brain development, immunity, blood vessel health, and pregnancy.

Fiber content

Amaranth contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Fiber plays an important role in digestion. It can help relieve diarrhea and constipation by ensuring a person has a consistent stool texture. Additionally, it helps the body manage blood sugar, so it is especially important for people living with diabetes.

Accessibility

Amaranth may provide more accessible, affordable nutrition, especially in areas where animal protein is not affordable.

It also has a fairly long storage life. According to the Oldways Whole Grain Council, it can keep for up to 8 months in a freezer or 4 months in a pantry.

Medicinal benefits

Amaranth’s use dates back to at least 7,000–8,000 years ago. It was one of three major crops the Aztec Empire cultivated and has continued to play an important role in many cultures.

Traditional folk medicine practitioners have long used amaranth as a medicine. However, scientific research into its benefits is still new. Some potential medicinal benefits include:

  • Anemia prevention: Amaranth contains iron, so it may help prevent or treat anemia.
  • Antioxidant content: Amaranth contains antioxidants that may help prevent oxidative damage. Some research suggests antioxidants could reduce a person’s risk of cancer.
  • Antimicrobial benefits: Certain strains of amaranth may help to kill microbes in a laboratory setting, particularly Escherichia coli. It may also help fight candida, the fungi that cause yeast infections.

Amaranth contains protein, fiber, and iron, though the precise nutritional content will vary depending on the type of amaranth and how a person prepares it. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 100 grams (g) of cooked amaranth contains the following:

Research has not discovered any specific risks associated with amaranth. For example, amaranth does not contain gluten, making it a suitable grain and protein source for people with celiac disease.

However, it is possible for any substance to cause an allergic reaction or to irritate the stomach. People who develop a rash, difficulty breathing, or other signs of a severe allergic reaction after eating amaranth should seek emergency medical care.

Consuming large quantities of fiber may also cause bloating and gas in some people.

The main risk of amaranth, as with any supposedly medicinal substance, occurs when a person uses it to treat a medical condition rather than seeking medical help. People who want to try amaranth should consider starting with a small quantity if they have a history of digestive problems.

However, for most people, amaranth is safe to consume.

To cook amaranth, add water in a 2:1 ratio — for example, two cups of water per cup of amaranth. It is also possible to cook with amaranth flour.

A person may wish to try the following to incorporate amaranth into their diet:

  • Use amaranth flour when baking.
  • Sprinkle cooked amaranth over a salad for additional crunch.
  • Use amaranth and ginger in a muffin recipe to make amaranth muffins.
  • Use amaranth to add texture to soup, such as a vegetable or bean soup.
  • Mix cooked amaranth, bananas, and brown sugar into oatmeal.

Amaranth is an ancient whole grain with a high protein and fiber content, especially compared with other grains. It is also high in iron and antioxidants, pointing to potential health and medicinal benefits.

As with many forms of alternative and folk medicine, experts have not yet tested amaranth’s potential medical uses.

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