Amaranth grain research studies and health benefit
April 24 2016 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Amid the aisles of spaghetti and canned peas, cereals and breads made with mysterious-sounding grains like amaranth and quinoa are sprouting up at major supermarkets. Wheat is still king of this country’s whole grains, but the appearance of such alternatives indicates consumers are beginning to expand a niche market once relegated to the obscure corners of health food stores.

There are several cultivated species of the genus Amaranthus. Some of the individual representatives of amaranths are: pigweed, tampala, bush greens, and Chinese spinach. These amaranths are used for food regularly in different parts of the tropics and occasionally in the United States. Some amaranth leaves are red, others are green, while others may have purplish patterns on a green background. Amaranth contains important substances known as phytosterols.

Nutritional value
Studies have shown that the protein levels of amaranth seeds are higher than that of grains and cereals and it contains phytosterolsand. It is gluten-free, making it a good addition to flour blends, sauces, soups and stews.

Food Chemistry. 2015. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) and amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) provide dietary fibers high in pectic substances and xyloglucans.

Availability
You can find amaranth grain as cereal or flour in health food stores.


Research, nutritional content
Amaranth as a rich dietary source of beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols.
Plant Foods Hum Nutrition. 2003.
The analysis of 4 commonly available amaranth varieties revealed the presence of all three major phytosterols (beta-Sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol) with a total sterol content being several fold higher than those found in other studied plants. Substantial differences in total phytosterol content and beta sitosterol content were found between the amaranth varieties. The most commonly cultivated amaranth variety in the United States, i.e., Amaranthus K343 was found to possess the highest levels of phytosterols of the varieties tested. The possibility of screening for superior amaranth varieties with various health properties is outlined.

Association of non-starch polysaccharides and ferulic acid in grain amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) dietary fiber.
Mol Nutr Food Research. 2005. U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center USDA-ARS, Madison, WI, USA.
The association of ferulic acid, an alkali-extractable phenolic acid in amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) insoluble fiber, cis-ferulic acid, and non-starch polysaccharides was investigated. Enzymatic hydrolysis of insoluble amaranth fiber released several feruloylated oligosaccharides. Three compounds were unambiguously identified: O-(6-O-trans-feruloyl-beta-D-galactopyranosyl)-D-galactopyranose, O-(2-O-trans-feruloyl-alpha-L-arabinofuranosyl)-L-arabinofuranose, and O-alpha-L-arabinofuranosyl-O-(2-O-trans-feruloyl-alpha-L-arabinofuranosyl)-(1-->5)-L-arabinofuranose. These feruloylated oligosaccharides show that ferulic acid is predominantly bound to pectic arabinans and galactans in amaranth insoluble fiber.

Heart benefit
The effect of diet with the sour-milk product enriched with amaranth on parameters of antioxigen protection at patients with a cardiovascular pathology
Vopr Pitan. 2004.
Investigation of influence of an antisclerotic diet with a probiotical sour-milk product enriched with an extract of leaves of an amaranth in patients with ischemic heart disease and hypertension was conducted. As a result of a diet were positive dynamic of clinic manifestation, lipid spectrum of blood, coagulogramms and antioxigen status.

Different species of amaranth
Amaranthus spinosus water extract directly stimulates proliferation of B lymphocytes in vitro.
Int Immunopharmacol. 2005.
Amaranthus spinosus (thorny amaranth), a plant that grows in the wild fields of Taiwan, is extensively used in Chinese traditional medicine to treat diabetes. There have been no published studies on the immunological effects of Amaranth. These results indicate that amaranth water extract does indeed exhibit immuno-stimulating activity via directly stimulating B lymphocyte activation in vitro. Further, these results suggest that the immuno-stimulating effects of amaranth might lead to B lymphocyte activation and subsequent T cell proliferation in vitro. These results are potentially valuable for future nutraceutical and immuno-pharmacological use of amaranth or its purified fractions.

Oat (Avena sativa) and amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) meals positively affect plasma lipid profile in rats fed cholesterol-containing diets.
J Nutr Biochem. 2004.
Cereals are an important part of diets for hypercholesterolemic patients. However, some of these patients are allergic to these natural products. The purpose of the current study was to compare oatmeal with equal in nutritional values two allergy-free amaranth meals to determine whether this pseudocereal can be a substitute for allergic to cereals individuals. It is suggested that amaranth could be a valuable substitute for hypercholesterolemic patients allergic to cereals.