Named after the Greek word “amarantos,” which means “one that does not wither,” colorful amaranth flower buds stay vibrant even after drying. Cultivated by the Aztecs 8,000 years ago, amaranth is still popular in many cultures, and becoming more so in recent years. It can be popped like corn, cooked similar to rice or pasta, or ground to flour.
The amazing thing about amaranth is how it compares nutritionally to other grains: far more iron, calcium, protein, manganese, fiber, and other phytonutrients than wheat or rice. Amaranth is one of the most protein-rich of any plant-based food, rivaling that of animal-based foods like cheese.
Ultimately, amaranth is a true powerhouse, known to help prevent a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Luckily, it can be found in most supermarkets.
One reason amaranth is emerging into the forefront among grains is because of its remarkable nutrition. It’s higher in minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorous, and carotenoids, than most vegetables. It has truly remarkable protein content: cup for cup, 28.1 grams of protein compared to the 26.3 grams in oats and 13.1 grams in rice.
Amaranth is a great source of lysine, an important amino acid with protein content comparable to that of milk, more easily digested; neither can be said of other grains. To support this positive aspect of amaranth, it also contains primary proteins called albumin and globulins, which, in comparison with the prolamins in wheat, are more soluble and digestible.
One cup of raw amaranth contains 15 milligrams of iron, while white rice contains only 1.5 milligrams. One cup of raw amaranth also contains 18 milligrams of fiber; in comparison, white rice contains 2.4 grams.
At 105% of the daily value per serving, the manganese in amaranth is off the charts, yet it contains fewer carbohydrates. Amaranth contains more than three times the amount of calcium and it’s also high in magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Amaranth contains 6 to 10% oil, predominantly unsaturated, or around 77% unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid, required for optimum nutrition. Not least in this list, amaranth is the only grain with documented vitamin C content.