I’m sure many people will be surprised of wonders Amaranth leaves and its seeds can do. One thing I do notice when people marvel about things they see, eat, use etc. daily is that, many people have no idea or probably have little understandings of what they eat or use on a daily basis. Well, I won’t criticize or crucify anyone for that, because I was also guilty of such act. Honestly, I was guilty when I was in the category of people who never cared about food, plant etc. discovery before becoming a professional Integrative Nutrition Health Specialist (INHS). Like I always say in my health articles/tips, there are lots of plants, seeds, and fruits we consume leaving the skin/peels, or seeds untouched or unused. One of this plants is Amaranth.
Amaranth leafy vegetable is also one of the most commonly found green leafy vegetables in part of the world. Today, it’s grown in Africa, India, China, Russia, throughout South America, and emerging once again in North America. It’s known as “Tete/soko” in West Africa, Nigeria precisely. The seed, oil, and leaf are used as food. The entire plant is used to make medicine. Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables and seeds plants. Most of the Amaranthus species are summer annual weeds and are commonly referred to as pigweeds. Amaranth vegetable contains unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and lysine. The leaves can also be eaten raw adding to vegetable . To maximize weight loss, be sure to pair amaranth with an overall healthy diet and active lifestyle. In summary, Amaranth is high in protein and fiber, both of which may help reduce appetite and increase weight loss. A diet that includes amaranth can reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood up to 30%, The seed, oil, and leaves of amaranth are likely safe when used in food amounts.
I discussed briefly about Amaranth leaves for more understanding. Now that we all have a precise understating of what Amaranth vegetable is, let’s jump right into the main discussion. This article is not really about Amaranth leaves, but the seeds. Amaranth plant is breathtaking, with conical seed heads bearing pink or purple flowers. The seed is a tiny, pale golden pseudo-grain seeds. Amaranth seed is an ancient grain that’s considered as a staple food of the early Aztecs (a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico). It makes a delicious hot cereal or polenta, or you can add its pleasant texture and extra nutrition to baked goods or homemade granola. Many people that know about these seeds get it wrong saying the seed is grain. It’s not truly a grain at all, but a seed. Amaranth seeds are slightly large seed, and can be cooked like rice, or popped like popcorn. These seeds have a nutty, slightly sweet taste, and a sticky texture. These seeds are staple food in some part of North America, Mexico precisely. Is a versatile and nutritious group of seeds that has been cultivated for thousands of years. There are many things you can do with theses seeds. Using amaranth in baked goods increases the nutritional value, mainly the fiber and protein. Amaranth will tolerate drought, but it is more productive with adequate moisture. The seeds mature over a long period, so they must be collected several times for best production. You may also cut the plants and hang them upside down indoors, collecting seeds on a tarp as they fall. (Some threshing may be necessary.) This crop is easy to grow, quite colorful and makes delicious greens and grain.
Seed Starting–Amaranth is a warm weather crop that needs soil temperatures of 65-75 degrees to germinate. Surface sow seeds directly in the garden and cover with a very fine layer of soil. Thin seedlings to 18 inches apart.
Growing–Amaranth is easy to grow. The plants grow best in moist, well drained soil, but they will tolerate poor soil quality and drought. Amaranth thrives in full sun and will grow to be 5 to 8 feet tall in ideal conditions. Can be planted in rows or used as a natural trellis for beans or used in place of corn in a three sisters garden.
Pests/Special Considerations–Keep up with weeding around young seedlings. Once plants become well established, they will be able to out compete weeds. Flea beetles can be a nuisance to amaranth when seedlings are young and tender; try covering seedlings with floating row cover until plants have reached 2 feet tall and can better handle insect damage. Diatomaceous Earth or Kaolin clay can also be applied for extreme flea beetle infestations.
Harvest–The young leaves make an excellent spinach substitute and are highly nutritious; pick individual leaves off to allow the plant to continue to grow. The seeds are high in protein and delicious and can be stored for later use. It is time to harvest when you can gently shake seeds off of the flower stalk. You may notice small birds starting to harvest your seeds; this is a good indicator that it is time! Cut entire flower stalk down when plants have matured; place in a large bag and shake vigorously to remove seeds. You can also place a colander on top of a bowl and massage the flower heads until the seeds drop; gently shake the seeds back and forth while blowing the light-weight plant pieces away from you. This leaves only the seeds and removes all of the unwanted plant pieces.
Seed Saving-Amaranth is pollinated by the wind; different varieties should be 1000 feet away from other types in order to avoid cross pollination. Also, keep related plants like celosia, cockscomb, lambs quarter and pigweed away to avoid cross pollination. Amaranth seeds remain viable 5-7 years after harvest.
TYPE OF AMARANTH:
Red Spike Amaranthus Seeds
Aurelia’s Verde Amaranth
Chinese Multicolor Spinach
Green Calaloo Amaranth
Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth
Opopeo – Amaranth
Hopi Red Dye Amaranth
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCEON ON USES:
You might have one way or the other came across many information on the benefits of Amaranth and the use. Some health articles on website show that Amaranth work for ulcers, diarrhea, and swelling of the mouth or throat, but I tell you there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. However, the fiber and protein, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron as well as many important micronutrients found in the seeds make them nutritious. The seeds are high in several antioxidants which help protect against disease. The studies show that amaranth may have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Amaranth oil decreased total and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 15% and 22%, respectively. Furthermore, amaranth seed reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol. The high amount of protein and fiber in amaranth may help reduce appetite and increase weight loss. Now let’s look at the Nutrition facts of this wonder species below.
Amazing Health Benefits of Amaranth:
Now let’s look at the benefits of this nutritious vegetable.
1.The seed is Gluten free and a source of complete protein and lysine, which is lacking in most grains.
2.The seed contains all the essential amino acids such as leucine and threonine.
3.Amaranth grain is free of gluten, which makes it a viable grain for people with gluten intolerance .
4.This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It lower total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, while raising “good” HDL cholesterol.
5.Amaranth is high in several antioxidants, such as gallic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid and vanillic acid, which may help protect against disease.
6.Amaranth is rich in minerals and vitamins which contribute immensely to health and wellness.
7.It is also a good source of Niacin, and a very good source of Protein.
8.Amaranth greens (Leaves) have the highest concentrations of vitamins of all the edible green-leafy vegetables, such as vitamin-K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6,
9.Mineral such Iron is an essential trace element required by the human body for red blood cell (RBC’s) production and as a co-factor for the oxidation-reduction enzyme, cytochrome oxidase during the cellular metabolism. It has higher levels of other minerals than spinach such as Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
The appropriate dose of amaranth depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for amaranth. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS & WARNINGS:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if amaranth is safe to use as a medicine when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Amaranth leaves, like spinach, carry higher contents of oxalic acid (1.09 g/100g), the oxalic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in some vegetables, which may crystallize (form) as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. People with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised to avoid eating certain vegetables belonging to Amaranthaceae (spinach, beets) and Brassica family (cabbages, or mustard plants). Adequate intake of water is therefore advised to maintain normal urine output.
Because of its high vitamin-K content, people taking anti-coagulants such as “warfarin” are encouraged to avoid amaranth in their food since it interferes with drug metabolism.
Before cooking amaranth, you can sprout it by soaking it in water and then allowing the grains to germinate for one to three days. To cook amaranth, combine water with amaranth in a 3:1 ratio. Heat it until it reaches a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Amaranth can be sprouted to enhance digestion and mineral absorption. Cooked amaranth can be used in many different dishes.
Here are a few easy ways to enjoy this nutritious grain:
1.Add amaranth to smoothies to boost the fiber and protein content
2.Use it in dishes in place of pasta, rice or couscous
3.Mix it into soups or stews to add thickness
4.Make it into a breakfast cereal by stirring in fruit, nuts or cinnamon
5.Pop it like popcorns and snack on it.
Conclusively, Amaranth is a nutritious, gluten-free grain that provides plenty of fiber, protein and micronutrients which basically gives about 80% of daily nutrients consumption our body need for optimal health. Best of all, this grain is easy to prepare and can be added to a variety of dishes, making it an excellent addition to your diet. Above all, Amaranth seed is an easy-to-grow and protein-rich grain. If you like gardening, try planting a few amaranth seeds in your yard. Don’t plant too many, however, or you may see your garden become an amaranth crop! Are you a farmer and you want to give growing amaranth a trial? Go ahead and follow the growing steps above.
Good luck and be Healthy!