Latin name: Amarantus
What is Amaranth?
The word Amarath comes from the Greek word amarantos, which means the “one that does not wither.” A bushy plant that grows 5 to 7 feet, amaranth grains grow very rapidly and their large seed heads can contain a half-million seeds. Although many species of Amaranth are considered weeds, people around the world value amaranth as a leaf vegetable and cereal. The seeds are the amaranth grains found in amaranth cereal and flour. Like other grains, amaranth is usually simmered until it has a porridge-like texture, and is also sometimes popped like popcorn.
Amaranth is called a pseudograin: It is similar in taste and cooking to grains, but is not technically a grain, which come from grass seeds. Amaranth is actually a member of the Chenopodiaceae family, making it a relative of beets, chard, and quinoa. Because of this, some of its nutritional aspects have more in common with dark green leafy vegetables than the “true grains.”
Amaranth was one of the staple foods of the Incas and also used by the ancient Aztecs for food and rituals, until the Spanish conquistadors forbid its use. Still used in Mexico, Peru, and Nepal, amaranth was rediscovered in the United States in 1970s. It has been proposed as an inexpensive native crop that could be cultivated by rural indigenous people for such benefits as easy harvesting, large seed production, high tolerance to arid environments, and excellent nutritional value.
What are the health benefits of Amaranth?
Amaranth seeds are considered a superior alternative or complementary source of food protein because of their balanced amino acid composition. Amaranth seeds, like buckwheat and quinoa, contain protein that is unusually complete for plant sources; in fact, amaranth is reported to have a 30% higher protein value than such cereals as rice, wheat flour, oats, and rye, but unlike these true grains, its protein is not of the gluten type.
Additionally, amaranth provides a good source of dietary fiber and dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and, especially, manganese. It contains about four times as much calcium as wheat, and is rich in the essential amino acid, lysine, which most cereal grains are very low in. Several studies have found that like oats, amaranth may be beneficial for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Where can I find Amaranth?
Amaranth can be found in most natural foods stores and some grocery stores.
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