Forget Quinoa and Kale, enter Amaranth - Six Fantastic Uses For This Super-food
Categories: Health & Nutrition
Quit the quinoa and kick the kale*, there’s a new superfood in town. Amaranth is a wonderful multi-purpose plant that should be on everyone’s plate. Though underappreciated in the contemporary West, amaranth is hardly a recent discovery. Like kale and quinoa, this ancient crop has served humanity for millennia. However, its uses aren’t limited to the kitchen. Read on to learn some of the other ways this humble plant can improve our lives. *Don’t actually, these things are great.Botanical name: Amaranthus
Cultivated by the Aztecs 8,000 years ago and still a native crop in Peru, the ancient history of amaranth can be traced to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula. Today, it's grown in Africa, India, China, Russia, throughout South America, and emerging once again in North America.
Amaranth does not refer to one single plant. Rather, Amaranthus is a wide genus comprised of around 60 different species, most of which are summer annuals. This genus is a member of Amaranthaceae,the Amaranth family. Spinach and sugar beets are also members of this family. Members of theAmaranthus genus are found on every continent except Antarctica.
1. Build muscle without meat, gluten or heart disease
One of several edible parts of the plant, amaranth seeds are nutritious and versatile. Though unrelated to true grains like wheat, corn, and rice, amaranth seeds serve a culinarily similar purpose. Amaranth is packed with protein, with a content of up to 30 percent more than other grains. Because ofamaranth’s abundance of the essential amino acid lysine, amaranth seed is considered to be acomplete protein. Amaranth could serve as a vital component of any muscle building diet, particularly for those who choose not to acquire their protein from animal sources. For those who suffer from celiac disease, amaranth provides a tasty and nutritious gluten-free grain alternative. Finally, oil in the seeds has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels in humans, earning amaranth a prominent place in a heart-healthy diet.
2. Aztec ritual
A proper history of amaranth would fill an entire book (or several). However, a notable chapter in this story is that of the relationship the Aztecs had with amaranth. Known as huauhtli, amaranth grains provided much of the calorific and nutritious fuel for the Aztec Triple Alliance and its domination of Mesoamerica. Amaranth was also important in Aztec rituals and celebrations. During the month ofPanquetzaliztli (December 7th to December 26th), a statue of the god Huitzilopochtli would be built out of amaranth seeds and honey. After the Spanish conquest, the cultivation of amaranth was outlawed, thought it never truly disappeared. Popped amaranth is still eaten as a snack in Mexico and the plant remains an important symbol of indigenous Mexican culture.
3. Landscape design and bioremediation
The love-lies-bleeding variety of amaranth is a popular ornamental, but there are dozens of other amaranth varieties that are also stunning additions to a garden or landscape. Perhaps more intriguing is amaranth’s potential as a biological tool to remove lead from soil. Spinach is also known for its ability to rehabilitate lead-ridden soil. University of Southern Maine scientists report that after planting spinach on the toxic soil for three months, the lead level dropped 200 ppm. It is possible that amaranth, related to spinach, may possess the same bioremediating ability. If so, it could prove a resilient, self-seeding tool to clean contaminated soils. American Dreamers might do well to consider replacing their green grass lawns with amazing amaranth instead.