Amaranth Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Amaranth annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Amaranth is the name for a group of grains, three of which are grown for their edible seeds. Technically, amaranth (like quinoa) is a pseudocereal, not a grain, but it is used like a grain. Amaranth originated in Peru but is now available around the world. In areas like India, Mexico, and Nepal, amaranth is an essential ingredient in traditional breakfast porridge.

This food is popular with those who follow a gluten-free diet. It is high in protein and packed with nutrition, making it a smart staple to keep on hand for any meal.

Amaranth Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a half-cup serving (123g) of cooked amaranth with no added fat or salt.

  • Calories: 125.5
  • Fat: 1.9g
  • Sodium: 7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23g
  • Fiber: 2.6g
  • Starch: 16.2g
  • Protein: 4.7g

Carbs

There are just over 125 calories and 23 grams of carbohydrate in a half-cup serving of amaranth. Most of the carbohydrate is starch (16g), but you'll benefit from 2.6 grams of fiber.

Information regarding the glycemic index of amaranth is not widely available, but at least one published study estimated the glycemic index to range between 87 and 106 based on the preparation method. Other studies report that it to be as high as 107, making this a high glycemic food. The glycemic index estimates a food's effect on blood sugar after consumption.

Fats

When amaranth is prepared without oil or butter, it provides less than 2 grams of fat per half-cup serving.

Protein

You'll benefit from almost 5 grams of protein when you consume a half-cup serving of amaranth.

Vitamins and Minerals

A half-cup serving of amaranth is an excellent source of manganese, iron, copper, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of other nutrients including magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.

Health Benefits

Whole grains like amaranth provide a wide range of health benefits.

Helps Build and Maintain Muscle Mass

Amaranth is relatively high in protein, with about 30% of its calories coming from this key macronutrient. It provides lysine, an amino acid missing in many other comparable grains. It is also higher in the amino acids cysteine and methionine than in some common cereal grains such as rice and maize. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

One of the primary functions of protein is to maintain and repair muscle tissue in the body. When combined with a strength-training program and adequate calorie intake, protein helps your body to build healthy, lean muscle mass.

May Help Lower Blood Cholesterol Levels

Higher consumption of whole grains, including amaranth, has been associated with a decrease in LDL cholesterol. The fat content of amaranth can vary based on the species and genotype. But researchers attribute the higher levels of fatty acids including palmitic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid along with the high content of the unsaturated hydrocarbon squalene for the lipid-lowering benefit.

Promotes Better Heart Health

Numerous studies have shown that a higher intake of whole grains has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. For this reason, many health organizations, including the USDA and the American Heart Association, recommend that you make at least half of your grain intake whole grains.

Reduced Risk for Disease

Studies have not only shown a decreased risk of heart disease when whole grain consumption increases, but they have also noticed a decreased risk for other diseases.

A large research review published in 2016 found that whole-grain intake is associated with a decreased risk for cancer, respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, and mortality from all causes (including non-cardiovascular and non-cancer causes).

Study authors noted that their findings support dietary guidelines that recommend an increased intake of whole grains to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality. In addition to the guideline that half of your grains be whole grains, the USDA also recommends a dietary fiber intake of between 22 and 33 grams per day depending on your age and sex.

Improved Weight Control

If you are trying to reach or maintain a healthy weight, whole grains are your friend. The fiber and protein in amaranth can help you to feel full and satisfied after eating and the protein helps maintain muscle mass for a healthy metabolism. Of course, there are many factors that contribute to overall weight gain or weight loss, but at least some studies have indicated that whole grain consumption is sometimes associated with lower body mass index.

Allergies

There are limited reports of anaphylaxis as a result of an amaranth allergy, but researchers note that this reaction is very rare.

If you have a sensitivity to gluten or have celiac disease, you may be able to include amaranth in your diet as it is a gluten-free grain. However, you should check the label on the food you choose because cross-contamination is always a possibility.

Adverse Effects

There is a lack of information regarding the adverse effects of amaranth. However, if you currently don't eat a lot of foods with fiber, you may experience some digestive discomfort when you start to consume them. Add them to your diet slowly to avoid problems.

Varieties

Even though there are different amaranth grains grown around the world, you are not likely to see many varieties in the store. In fact, if your store carries it, you'll likely see only see one selection and the specific grain variety may not be indicated.

You may, however, see different amaranth products. For example, some popular brands make amaranth flour that can be used to make pancakes and other baked goods.

When It’s Best

Amaranth is usually harvested in the fall but it is available year-round in markets that sell the grain.

Storage and Food Safety

Store amaranth in an air-tight container away from heat and light the same way that you store your other grains. If stored properly, your grains should last about six months at room temperature. You can also freeze grains in air-tight freezer bags for up to a year.

How to Prepare

You can boil amaranth like you would boil any other grain, but this grain may require more water.

To prepare 1 cup of amaranth, boil 1 1/2 cups water with a dash of salt if desired. Add the grains and cook for about 20 minutes adding water if necessary. Don't worry if the grain doesn't soften completely. Amaranth is known for retaining a bit of crunch when fully cooked.

Eat amaranth as a side dish or add veggies and another protein source to make a complete and balanced meal. Add amaranth to salads or soups or make overnight porridge using a combination of oats and grains.

Recipes

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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