The natural ingredient we will focus on today is one of the most complete foods of natural origin in the world.
It is a small seed that is packed with an infinity of benefits for our health. It is one of the most complete vegetable foods due to its high content in vegetable protein. This is why today we want to focus on this plant native to Mexico and Central America which has a very long history. Dare to guess which one it is?
What is amaranth?
Amaranth is a genus of plants that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, within the genus Amaranthus L. spp. There are approximately 70 species within the genus, some are cultivated as a grain, some as a vegetable and others as ornamental plants.
In fact, chard and spinach also belong to the Amaranthaceae family, so you can already imagine what these plants may have in common with amaranth.Esta planta de hojas abundantes tiene flores que varían de púrpuras y rojas a anaranjadas y doradas. Se cultiva en Centroamérica desde hace más de 4 mil años, aunque en la población de Zohapilco ya se usaba (¡en el año 5000 a.C. aproximadamente!).
Where do amaranth seeds come from?
Amaranth has historically been one of the staple foods of the indigenous people. While in the Mayan culture amaranth was considered a food (which they called “alegría” (happiness), tez o xtes, by the way), the Aztecs always linked this plant to religious rites.
Unfortunately, after the arrival of the Spanish Crown, amaranth grains were prohibited because they were a symbol of paganism. In the year 1577 the most important crop for the natives was amaranth whereas in the year 1890 it had almost completely disappeared.
Amaranth seeds are very similar to quinoa but even smaller. They are obtained directly from the panicles or inflorescences of the plant.
Composition of amaranth
As we anticipated in the introduction, amaranth is one of the most complete products of vegetable origin for human consumption.
It is a very important source of protein, natural vitamins and minerals. Among these, folic acid, niacin, iron, phosphorus and calcium stand out, as well as vitamins from groups A, B and C.
Because its grain has around 60% carbohydrates, it is most common to see it classified as a pseudo-cereal. Dicotyledonous species that produce seeds with a starch content and a physical appearance similar to that of cereals are considered pseudo-cereals.
For every 100 grams of amaranth, there are:
- 63.5 gr of carbohydrates
- 13.6 gr of protein
- 6.7 gr of fiber
- 7 gr of fat
Benefits of amaranth consumption
Now that you know the composition of amaranth seeds (or a bit about it at least), we’ll see how each component helps your health:
- The presence of phenolics in amaranth and all the products derived from this plant have an antioxidant effect.
- Its content in phytosterols such as beta-sitosterols help maintain or reduce levels of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) without affecting HDL-cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
- Folic acid helps cell regeneration and takes care of our internal tissues, as well as helping the formation of red blood cells. The only “problem” is that folic acid is water soluble, and therefore your body is not able to store it, and the unabsorbed remains are eliminated in the urine. This means that you need to consume it regularly.
- Niacin is a B vitamin that helps increase good cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels.
- Iron, as you probably already know, is essential for your body to make hemoglobin. At the same time, hemoglobin is essential to move oxygen from the lungs to different parts of your body, so you can already get an idea of how necessary iron is in your diet.
- Phosphorus also fulfills a very important function in our body, which is none other than the formation of bones and teeth. It also helps the proper functioning of cell membranes.
A very relevant note here is that, although a deficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral can affect your health in a negative way, a surplus will not have a positive effect either.
Let’s use an example to make it clearer: consuming less iron than you should can cause anemia, but consuming more than the recommended amount will not make you a superhero. Quite the contrary… A high iron intake can cause toxic damage to your liver, joints and heart.
And, just as it happens with iron, it also happens with many other components. Of course, there are exceptions, such as folic acid (excessive consumption of B9 or folic acid has been proven to be harmless). In any case, it is always necessary to check with a specialist before taking vitamin supplements on a regular basis. It is not always recommendable.
It should be noted that there are studies where it has been shown that Amaranth has a wide range of health properties such as: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic, antihypertensive, effect on liver function, antianemic, antiallergic, regulator of the immune system and antitumor.
How to prepare amaranth at home
Amaranth seeds can be consumed in many ways. Sprouted, floured, toasted, boiled, puffed, and more. In fact, there is something that we have not told you yet, and that is that the leaves of this plant are also edible.
Remember that amaranth belongs to the same family as plants like chard or spinach, so it should not be surprising to learn that its leaves are edible.
The first step you have to follow to eat amaranth seeds is essential: wash it well.
Since amaranth is a pseudo-cereal, it can be cooked in a very simple way. You can prepare them just as you would do with rice or quinoa.
In some areas of the world it is very common to consume the amaranth plant (the leaves) steamed, as they do in India. They call this dish ‘laal math’ or ‘chawli leaves’. It is also commonly grilled, especially in China, where they refer to it as ‘yin choy’ or ‘Chinese spinach’.
Amaranth seeds is also used in multiple applications such as bakery products, or as a binder for hamburgers, a salad dressing, creams, sauces and even to obtain vegetable drinks.
It is important to mention that in each of these dishes and derived products, they could be using different amaranth species. At Qomer we market Amaranthus Caudatus seeds.
At Qomer you’ll find both organic and conventional amaranth seeds. Perfect seeds for a vegetarian and vegan diet. Suitable for gluten-free or celiac diets. Our amaranth seeds are produced in LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) and Asia. Get in touch for more information!