Amaranth is an ancient grain of the Aztecs, which is thought to date back as much as 8000 years ago. It was almost lost due to the conquering Spaniards burning the amaranth fields as part of their conquest.
Today, the amaranth grain is cultivated in China, Mexico, Central America and more recently in certain parts of the US including Nebraska, Illinois and Colorado.
Amaranth has the highest level of protein per serving out of all of the different grains, including an amino acid called lysine which none of the other grains have. Amaranth can be added to other plant protein sources to create whole protein, which enables humans to be vegetarian without deficiencies. It is very high in fibre, which has been shown to reduce the likelihood of bowel cancer and is a great source of iron, which enables our body to manufacture red blood cells and keep our oxygen levels high.
It also contains the cancer fighting phytochemical squalene, along with calcium, magnesium and folic acid.
In studies, the antioxidant squalene has been shown to reduce or halt the blood supply to tumours, thereby reducing their ability to grow and spread. Shark oil, only has 1% squalene content, whereas amaranth oil is 8%. Other studies also indicate that the amaranth seed can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
When it comes to heart disease, amaranth is almost as effective in lowering LDL-cholesterol as oats, and in the case of diabetics, amaranth has been found to reduce the incidence of hyperglycaemia (an excess of blood sugar). In one study, that used diabetic rats, amaranth was seen to significantly decrease serum glucose, increase insulin levels and normalised elevated liver function markers.
You can use amaranth flour to add this grain to your diet, or else you can toast the seeds in a pan, which makes them pop like popcorn. This can then be added to casseroles, salads or used as a crunchy topping for soups, lasagne or even as a replacement for breadcrumbs on fish or meat.