Amaranth (schiritsa) – a rich source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and copper. This plant also contains a lot of potassium, zinc, phosphorus and is the only grain, the content of vitamin C which is documented.
The genus Amaranth includes about 60 species (most of them are weeds). For food purposes, Amaranthus cruentus, Amaranthus hypochondriacus i Amaranthus caudatus are mainly grown.
A scientific study of amaranth as a useful food and medicinal plant showed at least six reasons to add it to your diet and first aid kit.
It is an excellent source of protein.
Amaranth contains about 13-14% protein, which is many times higher than its content in most cereals. Anchorage protein is called “perfect” because it contains lysine, an amino acid that is completely absent or is present in negligible amounts in grain crops.
One of the first studies that demonstrated the potential of amaranth protein was carried out in Peru (The Journal of Nutrition, 1988). The children were fed toasted flour, popcorn from the grains and cereals, which they received after processing the amaranth seeds. These products were used as a source of all dietary proteins and fats and 50% of the daily energy requirement. Later, the diet of children was changed to a mixture of amaranth and corn. The results showed excellent digestibility of protein from amaranth flour and better digestibility of corn in combination with schichrita than without it. The significance of the end result of their work is easy to imagine thanks to this quote: “If food amaranth were available at a reasonable price, it could be a major component of the diet of children in developing countries …”.
Amaranth seeds Another study by the Central American Institute of Nutrition showed similar results when using extruded amaranth and popcorn made from its seeds (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 1993). Using cheese protein as a reference, researchers concluded that amaranth protein “is one of the most nutritious among plant products and is close to the properties of animal products.”
More recently, molecular biologists in Mexico set out to study the bioactive peptides of shchiritsa protein. They were the first to report the presence of a peptide in this plant, similar to lunasin (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2008). Lunazin – a peptide whose content is proven only in soybeans. It has anti-tumor properties, and is also able to fight inflammatory processes in such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke.
Benefits for your heart
Amaranth plant Several studies conducted over the past 20 years have revealed the positive potential of whole grains of shchiritsa as a cholesterol-lowering food product.
Initially, experiments were conducted on animals. In 1996, scientists from the Madison, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture conducted an experiment that showed amaranth oil could significantly lower total cholesterol and, in particular, “bad” cholesterol in 6-week-old female chickens (The Journal of Nutrition, 1996 ). Later, the ability of extruded shchiritsy to reduce cholesterol levels in rabbits was proved (Food Chemistry, March 2009).
This is good news for chickens and rabbits, but what about humans? In 2003, researchers at the University of Guelph, Ontario discovered that shichrita can be a rich source of dietary phytosterols that have cholesterol-lowering properties (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2003). Just a few years later, Russian scientists used an experiment performed on chickens in 1996 as a model to determine whether this plant could show the same results for patients with cardiovascular diseases (Lipids in Health and Disease, 2007). Patients with arterial hypertension and coronary heart disease felt better with the inclusion of schiritsa in their diet, which was clearly demonstrated by a decrease in total cholesterol, triglycerides and, especially, “bad” cholesterol.
From 2 to 8% of the total fat content in amaranth is squalene, known for its antioxidant properties. Because of this, squalene is widely used in the manufacture of computers, cosmetics, and the pharmaceutical industry. Squalene regulates cholesterol levels, helps remove toxins from the body, activates and prolongs the life of cells, and generally improves the functioning of the body. This substance is also a component of drugs with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-allergic, immunomodulatory effects.
The antioxidant properties of amaranth products have been proven by numerous studies. For example, Polish scientists (Food Chemistry, 2011) evaluated the effect of this plant’s seeds on oxidative stress in plasma, heart, kidney, and pancreas of rats. To induce oxidative stress, rats were injected with fructose. After that they were fed amaranth grains. It was found that the activity of a number of enzymes after adding to the ration of schiritsa was restored, and oxidative stress was reduced. The conclusion of this work – the use of amaranth grains has a protective effect against changes caused by oxidative stress and increases the antioxidant capacity of tissues.
In 2006, Russian scientists studied the effect of diet with the addition of oil of schichitsa on the dynamics of the antioxidant system and immune status in patients with coronary heart disease and hyperlipoproteinemia (Nutrition Issues, 2006). Patients consumed amaranth oil for 3 months. It was proved that the anti-atherosclerotic diet with the use of 200-400 mg of squalene per day contributes to the most positive changes in the immune status of patients.
Antimicrobial and wound healing effect
Amaranth seeds are used to produce antiseptic medicines, as well as medicines for the treatment of throat and oral inflammations.
The antifungal effect of amaranth was discovered in 1992. Belgian scientists (Biochemistry, 1992) have shown that shchiritsa proteins inhibit the growth of various plant pathogenic fungi at much lower doses than other known antifungal proteins. In addition, they are active against gram-positive bacteria.
The Voronezh Burn Center conducted tests of amaranth oil in the treatment of burns (Vestnik VSU, 2007). As a result, it was found that with the use of oil, tissue restoration occurred 3-5 days earlier than with traditional drugs. The same study showed that the oil has bactericidal properties against intestinal and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. And in the treatment of burns in the early stages (2 days), the infection with pathogenic microorganisms of burn wounds reduces by 10–20 times, and also stimulates the cleansing and regeneration of the tissue.
Schichitsa seeds can also be used in the development of hypoallergenic foods.
laboratory mouse In experiments of Polish and Japanese scientists performed on laboratory mice and rats, animals were fed flour and instant groats of amaranth grain. The hypoallergic potential of these foods has been identified, which can be used in allergic diseases such as asthma or atopic dermatitis (Cytotechnology, 2003; The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2004).
And Indian scientists even conducted an experiment to increase the nutritional value and improve the hypoallergenic properties of potatoes. For this, the corresponding amaranth gene was implanted into the potato. The experiment gave a positive result, but has not yet been introduced into potato production (PNAS, 2000).
Last but not least, the lack of gluten (gluten)
Bread with the addition of amaranthGluten is the main protein in many grains. It is responsible for the elasticity, firmness of the dough and, ultimately, the production of loose, porous flour products. But more and more people cannot comfortably (or even safely) use products containing gluten. Often the cause of this is celiac disease – an autoimmune disease of the digestive system in which the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food is lost. Today, scientists around the world are conducting research that helps produce bread (Journal of Cereal Science, 2016), spaghetti (Food Science and Technology, 2016), dairy products (Letters in Applied Microbiology, 2016) and other foods with the addition of amaranth, which taste would not differ from the usual, gluten-containing products.
Amaranth is called the product of the 21st century, hundreds of studies are devoted to it and almost all of them show the positive effect of the products from this plant on human health. Therefore, it is not surprising that food products derived from amaranth (seeds, cereals, popcorn, flour, cereal, pasta, muesli, butter), as well as leaves and inflorescences are becoming an increasingly common part of the diet of people who really care about their health.