There are a lot of cereal grains out there to choose from, and many of them are talked about pretty regularly. One that has slipped under the radar a bit, however, is amaranth. This grain has grown for thousands of years, but it’s only really started to take off in the United States in the past couple of decades. Now, you might see amaranth more frequently at shops that specialize in health foods, especially those that have grains in bulk containers.
Though you can’t eat raw amaranth (since it’s not easily digested this way), it’s very easy to cook it via boiling. Doing so is a great alternative to some of the other grains that you see, especially since amaranth is gluten free. This is why we’ve seen a bit of an uptick in its popualrity recently. So what makes amaranth such a great grain compared to others? Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional value and the proven health benefits you get from adding amaranth to your diet.
Nutrition of Amaranth
A one ounce serving of amaranth doesn’t have too many calories to sabotage your diet, with just over 100 total. That same serving also delivers nearly 10 percent of both your daily recommendation for protein and dietary fiber. While amaranth doesn’t have one particular vitamin with a lot of content, it is a significant source of several. Vitamin B6 is the most abundant at eight percent daily recommended value, while others that come in around five percent include vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, folate and pantothenic acid.
Minerals are where amaranth really makes its mark, delivering half a day’s worth of manganese. Iron, magnesium and phosphorus are all at more than 10 percent daily value, while you get between five and 10 percent in calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium. Amaranth contains very little fat at just two grams, only 0.4 of which are saturated. There’s also no cholesterol and a high amount of phytosterols.
Good For the Heart
We mentioned how amaranth contains phytosterols in lieu of cholesterol, which is something that’s good for the heart. While some researchers are on the fence about phytosterols, there has been extensive research to show that they’re good for your heart. In this research, we’ve seen that phytosterols have an effect on lowering the overall LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in your system, which leads to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Amaranth is also a significant source of many minerals that help your heart, including potassium. Even though it’s more thought of for muscle cramps, potassium helps get rid of excess sodium in your heart, making your blood pressure more stable. Many of these minerals combine for better overall heart health by relieving stress and inflammation, making sure that your numbers are normal.
Amaranth has a solid amount of dietary fiber in each serving that does wonders for your digestive system. Getting enough fiber makes sure that you have enough probiotics in your gut that can get rid of harmful bacteria and relieve a multitude of problems. Among these problems are indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Out of the grains, amaranth has the most soluble fiber, which is better for digestive health.
However, the reason most people have turned to amaranth as a digestion tool is because it doesn’t contain gluten. Those who suffer from Celiac disease can experience a wide range of digestive problems when being exposed to gluten, making amaranth a safe alternative. Some even pop amaranth similar to corn to make a healthy fiber filled snack without the worries of gluten.
Fiber also plays an important part in allowing you to manage your weight more effectively. Fiber helps you feel more full throughout the day, and studies have shown that people who eat the recommended amount of dietary fiber on a daily basis tend to weigh less than those that don’t. As a popped snack, amaranth is fairly low in calories, which combined with being fiber filled makes it a great weight loss snack.
Another great way to make sure that you’re losing weight is by increasing your muscle mass. Amaranth contains a high amount of effective protein since it contains lysine. Amaranth better utilizes its protein compared to other grains, ensuring that you build muscle easier, which in turn burns more fat and calories overall. Eating more fiber also gives you an added metabolism boost to make this food a fat burning machine.
Another one of the fantastic things that fiber does for your body is regulate your blood sugar levels, both lowering your risk for diabetes and allowing you to manage the disease if you already have it. Amaranth has a low glycemic index number that lowers resting insulin levels so that you avoid spikes and crashses throughout the day. It’s not just fiber, either, as the high level of manganese in amaranth plays a big role.
Studies have shown that people who are at risk for diabetes typically have low levels of manganese and reduce their chances by adding more to their diet. Those with low blood sugar (also known as hypoglycemia) will want to speak with a doctor before using amaranth since it has the properties to lower it even further. For those with hyperglycemia, though, amaranth is one of the best natural ways to control your blood sugar levels.
There are three minerals that you really need to be focusing on if you want to build stronger bones for long term health. These minerals are calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and all of them can be found in amaranth. Many people think they just need calcium for stronger bones, but the other minerals help your body absorb calcium more efficiently. When you combine these, you’re lowering your risk for bone loss and osteoporosis down the road, while the anti-inflammatory properties of amaranth can also relieve painful arthritis symptoms.
Summing it Up
Many of us worry about seemingly healthy foods having a lot of side effects or drawbacks, but that’s not really the case with amaranth. As it sits now, there aren’t any known side effects both minor or severe. Instead, researchers just suggest that you soak amaranth overnight and cook it so that you’re able to easily digest it. Otherwise, some people might run into minor problems with indigestion, but this is only a minor setback that will happen to a minority of people.
The other suggestion is that women who are pregnant or nursing speak with a doctor before using amaranth, as it’s unknown if there are any side effects. Amaranth isn’t expected to have any negative ones, but it’s always better to play it safe. With all of that in mind, amaranth makes for a great addition to any diet, and very easy to incorporate. Keep these health benefits in mind when you’re at the store next time, as amaranth can deliver all of them and more!