Amaranth grain

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Amaranth grain (left) and wheat (right)
Amaranth, uncooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,554 kJ (371 kcal)
65 g
Sugars 1.7 g
Dietary fiber 7 g
7 g
14 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.1 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.2 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.9 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
1.5 mg
Vitamin B6
0.6 mg
Folate (B9)
82 μg
159 mg
7.6 mg
248 mg
3.4 mg
557 mg
508 mg
2.9 mg
Other constituents
Water 11 g
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Amaranth, cooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 429 kJ (103 kcal)
19 g
Dietary fiber 2 g
2 g
4 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.02 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.02 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.24 mg
Vitamin B6
0.1 mg
Folate (B9)
22 μg
47 mg
2.1 mg
65 mg
0.9 mg
148 mg
135 mg
0.9 mg
Other constituents
Water 75 g
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.

Amaranth has been cultivated as a grain for 8,000 years.[1] The yield of grain amaranth is comparable to rice or maize. It was a staple food of the Aztecs, and was used as an integral part of Aztec religious ceremonies. The cultivation of amaranth was banned by the conquistadores upon their conquest of the Aztec nation. Because the plant has continued to grow as a weed since that time, its genetic base has been largely maintained. Research on grain amaranth began in the United States in the 1970s. By the end of the 1970s, a few thousand acres were being cultivated.[2] Much of the grain currently grown is sold in health food shops.

Grain amaranth is also grown as a food crop in limited amounts in Mexico, where it is used to make a candy called alegría (Spanish for joy) at festival times. Amaranth species that are still used as a grain are Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus cruentus, and Amaranthus hypochondriacus. The grain is popped and mixed with honey. The popped grain is mixed with melted jaggery in proper proportion to make iron and energy rich “laddus,” a popular food provided at the Mid-day Meal Program in municipal schools.

Amaranth grain can also be used to extract amaranth oil - a particularly valued pressed seed oil with many commercial uses.

Nutritional analysis[edit]

As the following table shows, raw grain amaranth has many nutrients.[3][4]

Raw amaranth grain is inedible to humans and cannot be digested.[5] Thus it has to be prepared and cooked like other grains. Another table below suggests cooked amaranth is a promising source of nutrition comparable to wheat bread—higher in some nutrients and lower in others.

The protein contained in amaranth is of an unusually high quality, according to Educational Concerns For Hunger Organization (ECHO).[1] The actual nutritional value of amaranth as human food is less than would be expected from raw amaranth grain data. According to ECHO,[1] this is due to anti-nutritional factors in raw amaranth grain. Examples of anti-nutritional factors present in amaranth include oxalates, nitrates, saponins and phenolic compounds. Cooking methods such as boiling amaranth in water and then discarding the water may reduce the grain's toxic effects.

Amaranth grain is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid found in low quantities in other grains.[6][7] Amaranth grain is deficient in essential amino acids such as leucine and threonine[8][9] – both of which are present in wheat germ.[10][11] Amaranth grain is free of gluten, which is important for people with gluten intolerance.

Synopsis[4] ~ composition: Amaranth[12] Wheat[13] Rice[14] Sweetcorn[15] Potato[16]
Component (per 100g portion) Amount Amount Amount Amount Amount
water (g) 11 13 12 76 82
energy (kJ) 1554 1368 1527 360 288
energy (kCal) 371 327 365 86 69
protein (g) 14 13 7 3 1.7
fat (g) 7 2 1 1 0.1
carbohydrates (g) 65 71 79 19 16
fiber (g) 7 12 1 3 2.4
sugars (g) 1.7 <0.1 >0.1 3 1.2
iron (mg) 7.6 3 0.8 0.5 0.5
manganese (mg) 3.4 4 1.1 0.2 0.1
calcium (mg) 159 29 28 2 9
magnesium (mg) 248 126 25 37 21
phosphorus (mg) 557 288 115 89 62
potassium (mg) 508 363 115 270 407
zinc (mg) 2.9 2.6 1.1 0.5 0.3
pantothenic acid (mg) 1.5 0.9 1.0 0.7 0.3
vitB6 (mg) 0.6 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.2
folate (µg) 82 38 8 42 18
thiamin (mg) 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1
riboflavin (mg) 0.2 0.1 >0.1 0.1 >0.1
niacin (mg) 0.9 5.4 1.6 1.8 1.1

The table below presents nutritional values of cooked, edible form of amaranth grain to cooked, edible form of wheat grain as reported by United States Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23 (2010).

Synopsis[4] ~ composition: Amaranth grain, cooked[17] Cereals, whole wheat, cooked[18]
Component (per 100g portion) Amount Amount
water (g) 75 83
energy (kJ) 429 259
protein (g) 4 2
fat (g) 2 0.4
carbohydrates (g) 19 14
fiber (g) 2 2
sugars (g) n/a n/a
iron (mg) 2.1 0.6
manganese (mg) 0.85 0.85
calcium (mg) 47 7
magnesium (mg) 65 22
phosphorus (mg) 148 69
potassium (mg) 135 71
zinc (mg) 0.9 0.5
pantothenic acid (mg) <0.1 n/a
vitB6 (mg) 0.11 0.07
folate (µg) 22 14
thiamin (mg) <0.1 0.07
riboflavin (mg) 0.02 0.05
niacin (mg) 0.24 0.8

Additional agricultural information[edit]

There are several species and varieties of Amaranth used for vegetables and grains. The Great Plains has seen a surge in this crop from Rodale Farms developed varieties. The virtue of amaranth is that it grows in harsh and lackluster nutrient conditions such as in light soils, much like the grain sorghum. It is a very efficient grain crop.

Amaranthus retroflexus, or "pigweed," is a wild amaranth species in the United States. The name derives from the plant's tendency to sprout where hogs are pasture-fed. Although both its leaves and its seeds are edible, pigweed amaranth has not been cultivated as a food crop.

During the pre-Columbian period, the Aztecs cultivated amaranth as a staple grain crop, according to Kate Seely, a co-founder and the president of the board of Puente. But things changed when the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

In addition to its use as a core food crop, amaranth had been used in a religious context. "Native folks would pop the seeds and mix them with sacrificial human blood," said Seely, who is now based in Oakland, California. "They would form the seeds into sculptures and then eat them in religious ceremonies. This was seen as pagan (by the Spanish), so it was outlawed."

Amaranth crops were seized, fields were burned, and those who tried to grow the plant were punished. According to Noll, the locals replaced their former staple by eating more corn.

But amaranth cultivation did survive in a few isolated pockets. The grain lived on in a traditional treat called alegria (joy), in which popped, whole-grain amaranth is made into bars with honey and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. The bars are often enjoyed during Day of the Dead and other festivals.


  1. ^ a b c O'Brien, G. Kelly; Price, Martin L. (1983). "Amaranth: Grain & Vegetable Types" (PDF). ECHO Technical Note. 
  2. ^ Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute. "Grain Amaranth: A Lost Crop of the Americas".  (PDF version also available)
  3. ^ J.N. Cole (1979). Amaranth: from the Past, for the Future. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA. 
  4. ^ a b c "Amaranth grain, uncooked per 100 g". USDA National Nutrient Database, SR-28. 2016. 
  5. ^ "All About Amaranth". USA Emergency Supply. 
  6. ^ Robert L. Myers and Daniel H. Putnam (1988). "Growing Grain Amaranth as a Specialty Crop". Crop Systems. University of Minnesota. FS-03458-GO. 
  7. ^ "Amaranth - Alternative Field Crops Manual". University of Wisconsin & University of Minneasota. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Ricardo Bressani, Luiz G. Elias and Arnoldo Garcia-Soto (1989). "Limiting amino acids in raw and processed amaranth grain protein from biological tests". Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 39 (3): 223–234. doi:10.1007/BF01091933. 
  9. ^ "Chemical Composition of the Above-ground Biomass of Amaranthus cruentus and A. hypochondriacus" (PDF). ACTA VET. BRNO. 75: 133–138. 2006. 
  10. ^ Garcia; et al. (1972). "Composition of Air-classified Defatted Com and Wheat-Germ Flours" (PDF). Cereal Chemistry. 49 (5): 499–507. 
  11. ^ "Nutrition Content - Wheat Germ Crude per 100 g". Conde Nast for the USDA National Nutrient Database, Release SR-21. 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  12. ^ raw, uncooked
  13. ^ "Wheat, hard red winter. USDA Nutrient Database". 
  14. ^ white, long-grain,regular, raw, unenriched
  15. ^ sweet, yellow, raw
  16. ^ white, flesh and skin, raw
  17. ^ Amaranth grain, cooked
  18. ^ "Cereals, whole wheat hot natural cereal, cooked with water, without salt. USDA Nutrient Database".