We continue to acquaint you with publications about amaranth posted on foreign sites. Today, this article presents an article written by Corey Pemberton for http://blog.paleohacks.com.
In it you will learn all the features, unique properties of amaranth grain and understand why it can be considered the food of the future!
Amaranth – what is it?
Amaranth has been around for thousands of years, but today it is turning into “super-production” and in demand among fans of healthy eating. Amaranth flowers
Amaranth is a plant from the genus Amaranthus, which includes more than 60 different species. Its homeland is Central America. Although many varieties of amaranth are commonly thought of as weeds, some of them are grown as food crops.
Amaranth plant reaches a height of 1.5 meters. Its leaves have a bright green color with splashes of purple, red and gold hues.
Although amaranth leaves are edible and are a source of good nutrition, many people prefer to eat small seeds (up to 60,000 per plant), and eat them whole (for example, in cereals) or grind into flour.
Amaranth was the staple food of the ancient Aztecs, who also used seeds in religious ceremonies. When Hernan Cortez and his conquistadors landed in modern Mexico, they outlawed the plant, burned the harvest and punished everyone who used it for any purpose, and not just for religious ceremonies.
Despite all the efforts of Cortez, amaranth survived in this struggle. Today it is growing everywhere and is common in Africa and Asia, in South America, and even in the United States of America.
Amaranth is not a grain!
Do you know that today in America there are more and more supporters of the theory that cereal grains can be harmful to human health?
Note! In particular, it is argued that the more a person eats meals from cereals, the less – fruits, vegetables, meat and other products. What significantly limits itself in nutrition. In addition, cereals contain such anti-nutrients (to which some birds and animals can adapt, but not humans). Also, cereal grains contain phytic acid (certain minerals are poorly absorbed from it), lectins (negatively affect the intestinal microflora), gluten (gluten, which not all people learn and can cause problems in digestion). A high content of carbohydrate provokes obesity and various chronic diseases.
Amaranth is considered as a substitute for wheat and other similar cereals. The seeds of the plant look like grain, are used as grain, and even qualify as grain, but in fact it is not.
In fact, amaranth is not exactly grain. The seeds of the plant belong to Caryophyllales (clove flowers), which makes them relatives of cacti, beets and cloves. In turn, “real” cereals, such as wheat and rye, come from the Poaceae family and are grass seeds.
Therefore, amaranth can be placed on “pseudo grain”. Because, like quinoa, and buckwheat, amaranth is not related to cereal grains. But it is often used the same way as cereals, so people consider it as such.
This raises several questions. For example, should we eat these “pseudo-grains”? What impact do they have on our health? How do they differ from grain crops?
Health Benefits of Amaranth
Let’s start by including amaranth in your daily diet. As you will see below, there are some key differences between the seeds of this plant and typical cereal grains.
High nutrient content (with some reservations) amaranth flour and seeds
Amaranth is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, as well as lysine amino acids. It also contains more protein than you might expect.
Just one cup of boiled amaranth (250 calories) will provide your body:
- 105% of the daily value of manganese;
- 40% daily intake of magnesium;
- 36% of the daily value of phosphorus;
- 29% of the daily value of iron;
- 19% of the daily value of selenium;
- 18% of the daily value of copper;
- 14% of the daily intake of vitamin B6;
- 9.3 g of protein.
Although these numbers are not the final truth, since it all depends on the type of plant. In addition, amaranth requires proper preparation so that the nutrients are as bioavailable as possible for your body.
Amaranth offers more nutrients than cereals, but retains the same carbohydrate content.
The same cup of amaranth contains 46 grams of carbohydrates, so if you are overweight or in poor health, do not forget to limit the size of servings.
Note! The researchers also found that he has a high glycemic index (GI) (the rate at which the carbohydrates contained in the product are absorbed by the body). What can cause problems in diabetics or people with problems controlling blood sugar. Although, however, there is evidence that amaranth is recommended for people diagnosed with diabetes mellitus of the second degree.
Gluten is one of the enemies of modern humans, about which quite a lot has been spoken of lately.
This is a special ingredient found in many grains, cereals, giving dough elasticity and necessary for baking bakery products. But it damages the intestinal surface and can be a nightmare for the digestive system of those people whose body does not tolerate gluten (gluten) and who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease.
But there is no gluten in amaranth! Because it is not a grain, but a seed. And they, of course, without gluten.
Numerous studies have shown that amaranth has antioxidant properties. In particular, the studies, the results of which were published in the journal Food Research International, aimed to analyze peptides (compounds consisting of two or more bound amino acids) found in amaranth proteins.
According to research results, scientists have noted that multiple peptides have an antioxidant effect and can fight free radicals.
Note! Antioxidants are contained both in the seeds and in the seedlings of this plant.
The results of another study, published in Food Chemistry, confirmed this data. Scientists noted the overall antioxidant capacity of amaranth seeds and sprouts.
They concluded that both forms (seeds and sprouts) can be used in cooking, because they are a good source of anthocyanins and phenols – known antioxidants.
May reduce cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides
There is a lot of research to be done in this direction. However, some scientists who conducted experiments with amaranth, noted that it may be useful for cardiac muscle.
In a study published in Food Chemistry, the effect of amaranth on hamster blood cholesterol was described. The researchers divided the hamsters into three groups:
- the first group received casein protein;
- the second group received amaranth;
- the third received a mixture of the two products listed.
Four weeks later, hamsters of the second and third groups who received amaranth and the mixture showed a significant decrease in the level of cholesterol, LDL.
Note! In another study, hamsters received amaranth oil. Based on the results, a similar effect was found.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that amaranth is a rich source of phytosterols, which have a known cholesterol-lowering effect.
Russian scientists investigated the effect of amaranth on people with cardiovascular diseases. They found that patients who added amaranth to their diets showed a significant decrease in cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.
What are anti-nutrients and are they in amaranth?
Since amaranth seeds cannot escape from predators and birds, which is natural in the course of their development, they developed a kind of “protection” from being eaten by animals and humans.
We are talking about the so-called “anti-nutritional substances”, which can limit the absorption of minerals and increase the permeability of the intestine, causing problems with digestion and contributing to the formation of leaky gut.
These are compounds that can potentially damage the cells lining the intestines. Saponins can “pierce” small holes in the intestines, allowing toxins and bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
Despite the fact that amaranth does contain saponins, studies have shown that they accounted for only 0.9-1.1% of the total dry matter.
Note! Scientists have concluded that the low content of saponins do not create “no significant danger to the consumer.”
How to get rid of anti-nutrients?
These substances can be disposed of by carrying out certain manipulations. For example, by simply soaking the seeds in water. Although it does not guarantee 100% cure of saponins.
For example, Kenyan researchers infused amaranth seeds and allowed them to germinate. Thus, they tried to find the optimal duration of treatment (time that minimized anti-nutrients and maximized nutrients). Kenyans have concluded that a five-hour aging time followed by 24 hours of germination is the ideal time to neutralize anti-nutrients.
In a study published in the journal Food Science and Quality Management, it was stated that boiling or dry heating amaranth significantly reduces the amount of anti-nutrients (tannins, oxalates, and phytate), while increasing protein digestibility.
Since cooking neutralizes the vast majority of anti-nutrients, you will not harm the health of the intestines, using amaranth for cooking.
How to use amaranth?
You can consume amaranth in various forms:
- green leaves;
- or seeds.
Amaranth leaves taste a bit like spinach. You can eat them raw (for example, in salads) or cook: cook, fry. Leaves are popular in Asian and African dishes.
Note. The leaves are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese and calcium.
The most popular form of consumption of amaranth are seeds that are easy to boil. Cooking is like cooking ordinary cereals, only you need to pour a lot more water. Amaranth leaves
The optimal ratio is – cups of water per cup of amaranth seeds. Just bring the water to a boil, add the seeds, periodically stir for 15-20 minutes, strain and enjoy the tasty and healthy porridge. It has a pleasant, nutty taste and a cooked texture.
Tip! Love crunchy foods? Try roasting amaranth seeds. They will become like popcorn! Just heat the pan, spill the seeds on it and mix with a wooden spoon until they start to “explode”.
Amaranth flour opens the world of delicious pastries. This is a great opportunity to avoid gluten (gluten), but still enjoy baking, bread, buns.
If you are used to making wheat flour and have not experimented with gluten-free alternatives (for example, almond or coconut flour), then you may need some refinement of your recipes, because amaranth flour is less elastic.
Amaranth is a more nutritious, gluten-free alternative to cereal grains. Cooked properly to minimize anti-nutrients, it will saturate your body with nutrients and not harm your health.
If you have gluten intolerance, but you are physically active and are well tolerated by other carbohydrates, perhaps you should eat amaranth from time to time.