Move over, quinoa. There’s a new superfood in town—amaranth!
Like quinoa, amaranth is not technically a grain, but the seed of an amaranth plant. Naturally gluten-free, amaranth is higher in muscle-building protein than wheat and brown rice—with more than 9 grams per cup—and surprisingly high in other nutrients such as calcium and fiber, as well. But if you haven’t heard of this nutritional superstar, don’t be surprised. Though amaranth has been around for thousands of years, today it is frequently eclipsed by the likes of teff, chia seeds, and more. However, we are here to tell you more about this underrated food and explain why it deserves a place in your diet.
Scroll down for more amaranth info, and brush up on your other food facts by checking out 18 Probiotic Foods for a Healthy Gut!
It’s Been A Dietary Staple For Thousands Of Years. Literally.
If something has been around for thousands of years, then it must be pretty important, right? The Aztecs first cultivated the pink flowering amaranth plant nearly 8,000 years ago and used it to make tamales and tortillas. In fact, amaranth was such a crucial part of Aztec culture that people used it to help form shaped images of their gods during the sacred month of Huitzilopochtli.
Today, amaranth grows around the world in countries such as China, Peru, Nigeria, and Mexico, and is a staple of many of those cuisines.
It’s Packed With Nutrients
We touched on amaranth’s nutritional profile above, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to being loaded with protein, calcium, and fiber, amaranth is an excellent source of manganese, iron, and selenium, which keeps your thyroid in check and preserves elastin in the skin, helping your skin stay supple, smooth and tight. What’s more? Cooked amaranth leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, manganese, and folate.
For more tips that will keep you happy and healthy, make sure you take a look at this list of the 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods!
It Has Numerous Health Benefits
Given amaranth’s impressive nutritional profile, it should come as no surprise that the ancient food has a variety of supposed health benefits. According to one study of hyperglycemic rats, amaranth has the ability to lower cholesterol and help combat hyperglycemia. Another study published in the journal, Molecules, found that amaranth may reduce systolic blood pressure in hypertensive rats.
It’s Very Versatile
Since one cup of cooked amaranth has only 251 calories, it’s an ideal nutritious cooking companion, but don’t be intimidated if you have no idea what to do with it. Like many grains or grain-like foods amaranth is usually cooked in water, but it can also be consumed raw, which makes it very versatile. If you’re just getting used to cooking with amaranth, try tossing it with some grilled vegetables or mix it into a salad. If you’re hooked and want more of the superfood, consider using it in any recipe that calls for quinoa.
Try it in Granola!
Can’t find amaranth at a store near you? Or don’t want to be bothered to cook with it? Try it out in Purely Elizabeth’s granolas! We love their Original Ancient Grain Granola ($4.99 with Amazon Pantry) that uses puffed amaranth. For additional recipe inspiration, check out these 20 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Soups.