What you need to know:
- The health benefits of amaranth vegetables include its ability to reduce inflammation, prevent certain chronic diseases, boost bone strength, and lower blood pressure.
Amaranth greens, locally known as doodo, are one of the commonest leafy vegetables. They are a powerhouse of nutrients and minerals such as protein, calcium, iron, copper, essential vitamins, magnesium, zinc and manganese. The seeds are also a rich source of gluten-free protein.
High in fibre, low in calories
According to Rebecca Mugala, a nutritionist, amaranth leaves are rich in fibre.
“Fibre-rich foods aid weight loss and ward off heart disease by lowering the cholesterol in one's blood. The vegetables are also high in protein and fibre, which may help reduce appetite and increase weight loss,” she says.
Also, the leaves contain little amounts of fat and absolutely no cholesterol, which makes them a healthy go-to food option.
Iron is needed for producing red blood cells and is also needed for cellular metabolism. Incorporating amaranth vegetables in your diet gives your body a blood boost since the source of vitamin C facilitates maximum absorption of iron in the blood.
Mugala also recommends a daily intake of amaranth leaves because they are rich in vitamin C, which is needed for fighting infections and quick wound healing. It also helps to reduce the effects of free radicals in the environment, which are responsible for ageing and many types of cancer. The vitamin helps process iron, form blood vessels, repair muscle tissue and maintain collagen.
Vitamin K powerhouse
Amaranth leaves have the highest quantity of vitamin K among all other green leafy vegetables. This vitamin is not only good for bone health but also plays an important role in blood clotting. It promotes osteoblastic activity and strengthens bone mass. It also controls the neural damage to the brain, providing relief to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Rich in B vitamins
Amaranth leaves are full of B vitamins which include folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and vitamin B6, among others. These vitamins are essential in preventing birth defects in newborn babies and are needed for optimal mental and physical health.
Protein rich source
“Plant-based sources of protein are healthier than animal sources since plants have little or no fat and cholesterol. Amaranth leaves and seeds are rich in protein and according to research, amaranth proteins among plants are similar to animal proteins since they contain lysine, which is often missing from cereal grains,” she says.
Therefore, incorporating amaranth into your diet leads to suppression of hunger as it reduces insulin levels in the blood and keeps one feeling satiated.
Amaranth leaves have lysine, an essential amino acid that is needed for energy production and absorption of calcium. The mineral is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth and is beneficial for those suffering from osteoporosis and other bone health problems related to deficiency of calcium.
Some allergic reactions lead to uncomfortable inflammation through the production of immunoglobulin E. The leaves contain essential phyto-nutrients and antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation in the body and provide an extra boost of nutrition to one’s health.
Amaranth plant seeds are used as a grain and can be ground into flour. This protein-rich flour is entirely gluten-free and very beneficial for those who have condition in which their immune system reacts to wheat gluten and can damage the small intestine (Celiac disease).
Adding them to your diet
Amaranth is a perfect choice for many recipes because it has a sweet flavour and is versatile, according to Rebecca Mugala, a nutritionist. The amaranth seeds can be eaten raw or dried. Make amaranth flour and bake with it or boil whole amaranth seed flour in a three to one ratio of water to amaranth to make porridge.
Fresh, tender leaves and shoots of Amaranth can be eaten raw in salads or blended into juice or smoothie. Add amaranth to your rice for a protein boost. You can also heat some oil in a pan, add a chopped onion and garlic then stir fry to wilt the greens, add a little salt and black pepper for taste.