Amaranth: The ancient seed you need to know about

Good things come in small packages, and amaranth is no exception. Packed with nutritional goodness and highly versatile, this tiny seed offers a bounty of benefits.

Amaranth is so nutritious it is used by NASA to improve the diets of astronauts.

Native to Central America and Mexico, amaranth was a staple for the Aztecs.

Although often lumped into the ancient grain category, amaranth is actually a seed.

One amaranth plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds, which grow from long red flowers.

Just as with ancient grains, which have sustained traditional communities for thousands of years, amaranth is piquing interest again as a superfood.

Naturopath and nutritionist Jess Blair says there is a reason why amaranth has been consumed for centuries.

“It is nutritionally dense, has a beautiful texture and flavour, and is an all-rounder for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Jess says.

What is amaranth good for?

Naturally gluten-free, amaranth is rich in protein to support immunity, strong muscles, thick hair and glowing skin, dietitian Lulu Cook says.

“For such a tiny seed, it packs a lot of fibre, which means it nourishes healthy gut bacteria and benefits digestive health,” Lulu says.

“It also boasts a wealth of phytochemicals, providing anti-inflammatory, gut-healthy benefits.”

Studies have found amaranth can have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.

While all wholegrains are a good source of fibre and minerals, amaranth is a standout, Jess explains.

“This is because it’s a great source of three key micronutrients: magnesium, manganese and phosphorus,” she says.

“Along with this, amaranth is also a great source of calcium and iron.”

How to enjoy amaranth

The nutty flavour, easy preparation and glowing nutritional profile make amaranth a winning addition to any meal.

“I love eating it in a porridge or blitzing it and adding it to pancake mixture for a breakfast treat, you won’t even know is on the healthy side,” Jess says.

“Amaranth is also amazing in baked goods as it’s got an earthy flavour that adds a delicious nutty dimension to the final recipe.”

Lulu says it can also be added to salads easily.

“A handful of cooked amaranth tossed on top of the greens boosts flavour and nutrition to keep you fueled through the rest of the day,” she says.

Is amaranth suitable for me?

Amaranth is considered safe for most people to consume, Jess says.

“However there are moderate amounts of oxalic acid present, which can compete with zinc for absorption,” she says.

Jess advises checking with your health practitioner if you have any concerns.

Written by Samantha Allemann.