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Common Amaranth

Common Amaranth
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Common Amaranth

Amaranthus retroflexus is a species of flowering plant in the Amaranthaceae family with several common names, including red-root amaranth, redroot pigweed, red-rooted pigweed, common amaranth, pigweed amaranth, and common tumbleweed.


Amaranthus retroflexus, true to one of its common names, forms a tumbleweed. It is native to the tropical Americas, but is widespread as an introduced species on most continents in a great number of habitats. This is an erect, annual herb reaching a maximum height near 3 m. The leaves are nearly 15 cm long on large individuals, the ones higher on the stem having a lance shape and those lower on the plant diamond or oval in shape. The plant is monoecious, with individuals bearing both male and female flowers. The inflorescence is a large, dense cluster of flowers interspersed with spiny green bracts. The fruit is a capsule less than 2 mm long with a "lid" which opens to reveal a tiny black seed. Another of A. retroflexus's common names, pigweed, stems from the fact that it grows where hogs are pasture-fed.


Culinary use

This plant is eaten as a vegetable in different places of the world. No species of genus Amaranthus is known to be poisonous, but the leaves contain oxalic acid and may contain nitrates if grown in nitrate-rich soils, so the water should be discarded after boiling.

A. retroflexus was used for a multitude of food and medicinal purposes by many Native American groups.

It is used in the Indian state of Kerala to prepare a popular dish known as thoran by combining the finely cut leaves with grated coconut, chili peppers, garlic, turmeric and other ingredients.

The seeds are edible raw or toasted, and can be ground into flour and used for bread, hot cereal, or as a thickener.

Health benefits of Amaranth

Traditionally amaranth seeds have been used for their nutritional value and health benefits subsequent. Some of the recent studies have shown distinct health benefits of amaranth seeds, seed oil and leaves. Some of these include benefits to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight, increase immunity, treat anemia, gastro intestinal tract disorders and other benefits from its antioxidant properties, anti inflammatory properties and benefits for skin and hair. Some term amaranth as Third millennium food. Some of the benefits of Kiwicha or Amaranth are discussed below:

1. Gluten-free food to treat Celiac Disease
Many people in US suffer from Celiac disease, a disease due sensitivity to gluten, resulting damage to mucus membrane of intestine. Only known therapy for treating celiac disease is to avoid gluten. But for vegans, this is difficult, as most of our grains and cereals contain gluten. Amaranth which is gluten free is excellent substitute for cereals. It offers very much similar nutritional profile as other cereals. Thus add amaranth to your diet to treat Celiac disease.

2. Amaranth for Weight loss
Like all fibrous grains, amaranth is excellent food to help your pursuit of weight loss. It has high protein content along with carbohydrates and also provides good resource of dietary fibers, which reduces calories per gram of food consumed. Further phytonutrients in Amaranth and fibers keep cholesterol absorption under control. Though amaranth would not help reduce your weight drastically, but offers you good substitutes for your weight loss regime.

3. Amaranth is good for your heart
Amaranth reduces incidence of heart related problem. Fibers in amaranth along with stanols, squalene and other potent inhibitors prevent absorption of bad cholesterol and bile acid in body. Amaranth also has presence of various amino acids which offers benefits for your heart. A study found that protein concentrate from Amaranth can be used as supplement in diet to prevent cardio vascular disease.

Amaranth seeds are packed with potent bioactive peptides which help in functioning of blood circulatory system and reduce blood pressure. Amaranth seed oil can be used for preventing and treating various coronary heart disease and hypertension. A study on chickens showed that intake of amaranth oil reduced amount of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL significantly. Further amaranth oil contains various poly unsaturated fatty acids including omega 3 fatty acids which are useful on reducing risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

4. Antioxidant properties of Amaranth Oil
Antioxidant activity has been reported in several of the various fractions of amaranth including amaranth seed oil, leaves and sprouts. Today amaranth oil has been marketed as effective antioxidant supplement. Antioxidant activity of Amaranth can be attributed to Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Squalene and other phenolic acids and flavonoids. An in-vitro study found that Amaranth seeds source of potential antioxidants, where as another study found amaranth seeds and sprouts showed similar antioxidant activity.

5. Amaranth and preventing Cancer
Lunasin, a peptide in Amaranth seeds and Squalene are considered to exert anti-cancer properties to Amaranth. Squalene is a chemoprotective substance and reduces risk of cancer and has anti-tumor property.

6. Amaranth good for treating Anemia
Iron deficiency is one of the common reasons for anemia. Amaranth seeds with high iron content can be considered good for treating Anemia.

7. Amaranth for treating Gastro-Intestinal disorders
Dietary Fibers are important for treating gastro intestinal disorders. Amaranth seed contains about 8-20% fibers. Further Vitamin A and Vitamin E is good mucus membrane of intestine and digestive tract.

8. Amaranth to boost immunity
Some studies have found that Amaranth may boost immune function. This can be attributed to powerful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in amaranth. Squalene found in high content in amaranth oil has recently been used as an immunologic adjuvant in vaccines.

9. Amaranth on regulating blood glucose
Research on benefits of amaranth on regulating blood sugar is quite conflicting. While some reports suggest it lowers blood sugar levels and protect against insulin deficiency, other reports have shown high glycemic index of amaranth seeds.

Recipe for Common Amaranth

Read more at Wikipedia.
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