Leaves of amaranth superior in taste to spinach and is considerably higher in calcium, iron and phosphorous. Did you know amaranth is easy to digest.. Let us discuss the nutritional potential of health promoting foods called pseudo cereals, amaranth being one of them.
The word “amaranth” in Greek means “everlasting”. In India it is commonly known as cholai or ramdana. Other names are rajgeera, bathu, chalari, siliara, dhankar, seul, tulsi, kalgi, chua, marchu, ganhar and Lissa. It is one of those rare plants whose leaves are eaten as a vegetable while the seeds are used as cereals. Leaves of amaranth superior in taste to spinach and is considerably higher in calcium, iron and phosphorous. Did you know amaranth is easy to digest and popped amaranth grains soaked in milk makes an excellent breakfast.
Benefits of nutrition rich amaranth are:
- It has high level of protein (12-19%), high level of lysine (generally low in the cereals), complementary amino acid profile, unique micro crystalline starch granules. In fact, due to its high lysine content 150 grams of the grain is all that’s required to supply an adult with 100% of the daily requirement of protein.
- It is rich in fibre content, thus an effective agent against cancer and heart disease. It is also said to contain fairly high amount of phytosterols which play a major part in the prevention of all kinds of diseases.
- Amaranth is also rich in many vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, and folate), and dietary minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
- Amaranth has oil component squalene, which is equivalent to whale or shark liver oil. Amaranth grain contains 6 to 13% oil, mostly within the germ. It is predominantly unsaturated oil (76%) and is high in linoleic acid, which is necessary for human nutrition. ‘Squalene’, a high priced material, is usually extracted from shark livers and used in cosmetics and as lubricants for computer diskettes. Due to fairly high levels of poly-unsaturated fats, it is always good to store amaranth products with oxygen absorbers in an air-tight container or in refrigerator after opening the container in order to extend their storage life.
- Amaranth flour lacks gluten, hence ideal for people with celiac disease or gluten allergy. Pure amaranth flour can be used to make biscuits, muffins, pancakes, pastas or flat breads. Amaranth flour also makes a nice thickener for gravies, soups and stews. Sprouted amaranth goes well in salads especially when mixed with lemon and thin slices of onion and green pepper. It is always better to cook amaranth before it is eaten as it improve its digestibility by 90% and improve absorption of some nutrients in our digestive system which are otherwise block when eaten raw.
- The topopherol fraction of amaranth oil contains important cholesterol lowering agents, some of which could be useful in treating cardio vascular diseases.
- The plant is used in piles, to purify blood and in stranguary as diuretic. It is useful as antisorbutic. The leaf juice being hot in nature, used to relieve chest congestion by tribal in mountains.
Protein value score for amaranths in comparison with other foods (score of 100 considered ideal)
Source: Lehmann, J.W. (1996)
We need to consume diverse foods to tackle nutritional deficiency and looking at nutritional richness of amaranth, it can become a prominent part of our diet.
About the author
Dr. J C Rana is a Scientist currently the heading the Division of Germplasm Evaluation, ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, Pusa Campus, New Delhi. He has received several awards & honours, few of which are:
Fellow Indian Society of Genetics & Plant Breeding
Fellow Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources
Bharat Joyti Award -2013