Amaranth is native to South America, Asia, and Africa. It grows easily and can be prolific in producing seeds. Its high-protein, gluten-free seeds are used as a grain, though technically amaranth is a pseudograin. For a plant source, it is also a relatively complete protein, because it includes lysine, an essential amino acid that grains often lack. The seeds are high in fiber and provide the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.
In some countries, especially India and Africa, amaranth leaves are eaten as well. Although these greens are high in many vitamins and minerals, they are also high in oxalic acid. Both the flowers and leaves have been used in some forms of traditional medicine.
Amaranth seed appears to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, an effect not only of the seeds’ fiber content but also of chemical substances called plant sterols. These sterols become stanols, some of which are known to reduce lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Other stanols are used by the body to make steroids, which can have important anti-inflammatory properties.Nutritional Facts
One-quarter cup of organic whole grain amaranth provides 180 calories, 31 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 3 g fat, 7 g dietary fiber, 2.4 mg vitamin C, 8 mg calcium, 3.6 mg iron, 0.03 mg thiamine, 0.1 mg riboflavin, 0.8 mg niacin, 0.02 mg folate, and 200 mg phosphorus.