Desert Foods for Healthy Living

Amaranth

Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) has many health benefits. The grain is very high in protein as well as lysine, an amino acid absent from many other grains. It has high levels of vitamins A and C. When ground, it can be used as a supplemental four for tortillas, breads, or pasta. Amaranth flour mixed with what flour has been found to have relatively high glycemic index, 65-75, but still considered moderate on the index. Studies have also shown that consumption of amaranth grain (whole) leads to increased insulin levels and decreases in blood sugar. While further study is needed, it appears that when consumed in moderation amaranth may have positive health benefits for diabetics. Amaranth greens also offer nutritional benefits as they are high in calcium and iron.

Amaranth can be wild harvested during the summer monsoon season. Young, tender leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. Some varieties (Amaranthus cruentus) produce golden blond seeds which are the best type to use as an edible grain. The varieties that produce black, red, or orange seeds can also be consumed as a grain. Amaranth can also be grown in the garden or found commercially in many health food stores. Ground flour is increasingly available.

A popular preparation of amaranth grain is to mix the popped grains with sugar, honey, or agave nectar to make Algeria, a popular street food in Mexico. Preparations with processed sugars should be limited for those wanting to follow a healthy diet.   

Recipe guide for amaranth (pdf)

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