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Amaranth grain

Amaranth grain
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Amaranth has been cultivated as a grain for 8,000 years.  Grain amaranth is also grown as a food crop in limited amounts in Mexico, where it is used to make a candy called alegría at festival times.

Amaranth species that are still used as a grain are: Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus, and Amaranthus hypochondriacus. The grain is popped and mixed with honey. In North India, it is called "rajgira". The popped grain is mixed with melted jaggery in proper proportion to make iron and energy rich “laddus,” a popular food provided at the Mid-day Meal Program in municipal schools.

Amaranth grain can also be used to extract amaranth oil - a particularly valued pressed seed oil with many commercial uses.

Raw amaranth grain is inedible to humans, and it cannot be digested by them. For amaranth grain to be edible to and digestible by humans, it has to be prepared and cooked like other grains. Another table below suggests cooked amaranth is a competing and promising source of nutrition when compared to wheat bread, higher in some nutrients and lower in others.

The actual nutritional value of amaranth as human food is less than would be expected from raw amaranth grain data. According to ECHO, this is due to anti-nutritional factors in raw amaranth grain; examples of anti-nutritional factors present in amaranth include oxalates, nitrates, saponins and phenolic compounds. Cooking methods such as boiling amaranth in water and then discarding the water may reduce its toxic effects.

Amaranth grain is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid that is low in other grains. Amaranth grain is deficient in essential amino acids such as leucine and threonine both of which are present in wheat germ. Amaranth grain is free of gluten, which is important for people with gluten allergies.

Amaranth is highly vitamin-rich and is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate and riboflavin. Amaranth includes numerous minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and especially manganese.

Amaranth contains large amounts of protein, up to 30% more than wheat flour, rice and oats. The protein contained in amaranth is also unusually complete when compared to other plant sources, containing a complete set of amino acids. Therefore, different sources to obtain the daily recommended dose of protein is not needed. Also, amaranth lacks gluten, which is a problematic protein contained in many true grains.

Dietary fiber and essential amino acids, including lysine which has clinically shown potential for cancer treatment, are prominent in amaranth. It also contains relatively low cholesterol levels. Grain amaranth is very palatable and is easy to cook and include in snacks and dishes. Amaranth is grown and consumed as a leafy vegetable in many countries around the world. It is commonly boiled, steamed, or included in soups and stir-frys. Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible.

The oils in amaranth have been shown to help prevent and treat those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Regular consumption of amaranth can reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Amaranth has been noted to help boost the body’s immune system.

Some research has even shown that grain amaranth shows promise in prevention of premature greying of the hair.

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