Amaranth Nutritional Information, Carbs, and Calories

Amaranth annotated

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman 

Have you heard of amaranth? It is a grain that has been slowly catching on as people try to consume whole grains and are looking for something new.

What Amaranth Is

In many ways, amaranth has similarities to quinoa, although the two are not at all related. While the indigenous people of the Andes in South America were harvesting quinoa thousands of years ago, the Aztec people of Mexico were doing the same thing with amaranth. Both amaranth and quinoa are seeds which have more of the amino acid lysine than other grains, which makes the protein more "complete", meaning the body can get all the essential amino acids from amaranth.

They also have fairly similar vitamin and mineral profiles, although amaranth is higher in many minerals. (They are not technically grains, as grains are the seeds of cereal grasses like wheat, oats, rice, etc. In pretty much all other ways we can think of them as grains.)

Note: It is sometimes proclaimed that amaranth and quinoa are "high in protein". However, at about 4 or 5 grams of protein per half-cup serving, it isn't a very efficient way to meet much of your protein requirement.

The leaves of the amaranth plant can be eaten as a vegetable.

Health Benefits of Amaranth

Amaranth is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of magnesium, and a good source of iron, vitamin B6, folate, selenium, and zinc.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Amaranth

  • 1/2 cup cooked amaranth: 20 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 2.5 grams fiber, 4.5 grams protein, and 125 calories
  • 4 oz. uncooked amaranth (1/4 lb): 66 grams effective (net) carbohydrate plus 8 grams fiber, 15 grams protein, and 416 calories

Glycemic Index for Amaranth

I have not been able to find a study of the glycemic index of cooked whole-grain amaranth. Ground into flour, it seems to be somewhat more glycemic than wheat flour, possibly similar to rice flour. It can also be popped like popcorn, in which case the glycemic index is near the top of the chart, at almost 100.

Glycemic Load of Amaranth

If we assume that the glycemic load of amaranth would be similar to quinoa, it would be:

  • 1/2 cup cooked amaranth: 9
  • 4 oz. uncooked amaranth (1/4 lb), which is then cooked: 40
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Article Sources

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  • Chaturvedi, A. et al. Glycemic index of grain amaranth, wheat and rice in NIDDM subjects. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 1997;50(2):171-8.
  • USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21.