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Amaranth: from the Aztecs the high protein grain rich in vitamins

Amaranth grain
Amaranth grain - photo courtesy SproutPeople
Amaranth is not a well known high protein grain. This incredibly rich grain has though a long history!

a) Amaranth crop is a bit difficult to grow, though since 1980s it has developed and also in the US some land is now dedicated to this crop. "The largest acreage grown was during the height of the Aztec civilization in Mexico in the 1400's. The past two centuries grain amaranth has been grown in scattered locations, including Mexico, Central America, India, Nepal, China, and Eastern Africa".

b) Nutritional Value: Amaranth has approx. 12-17% of protein content. It is also high in Lysine (like Quinoa). This is particularly important as this essential amino acid is generally low in cereal crops. Amaranth is high in fiber and low in saturated fats.

c) Amaranth seeds and leaves are a rich source of vitamins (A, K, B6, C, riboflavin and folate). It also contains minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese).

d) "Several studies have shown that like oats, amaranth seed or oil may be of benefit for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease; regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters (Source: Czerwi?ski et al. 2004; Gonor et al. 2006; Martirosyan et al. 2007).

e) Negative: Amaranth has unfortunately a moderately high content of oxalic acid that inhibits the absorption of calcium and zinc, making some of the nutritional properties less effective.

f) Reheating cooked amaranth greens is often discouraged, particularly for consumption by small children, as the nitrates in the leaves can be converted to nitrites, similarly to spinach

For more info: 
New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Amaranth
Alternative Fields Crop Manual, http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/amaranth.html

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