18 amazing health benefits of amaranth greens
Leafy vegetables are an integral part of Nigerian cuisine. They are present in almost all soups, an accompaniment to carbohydrates and served as a side. Amaranth greens are simply called green in Nigeria, it is called Efo Tete in Yoruba and Inine in Igbo, Alefo in Ghana while the Jamaicans call it callaloo.
Amaranth greens are widely used in most parts of the world from Malaysia to Kenya to the Caribbeans. They are used in stir-fries, curries, soups, side dishes, warm salads, drinks etc. Also, they are widely used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Amaranth has between 60 to 70 species, they are cultivated for their leaves, seeds and as ornamental plants. The species prevalent in Nigeria is Amaranthus hybridus L. Sometimes called African spinach, it is not spinach though it has a similar but stronger flavour than spinach. The leaves are tender with a neutral taste and very easy to prepare, they soften within 5-10 minutes of boiling.
Cheap, prolific and resilient, amaranth greens are available throughout the year. They are best refrigerated to keep them fresh, dried or wilted leaves would already have lost up to half of their beta-carotene. Amaranth also called Pigweed is derived from the Greek word for never fading, the leaves have a high biological and nutritional value.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF AMARANTH GREENS
Amaranth greens help prevent constipation, aid digestion and help in the uptake of necessary nutrients due to their high fibre content. They are also used to treat diarrhoea.
They are used for dental care and as a mouthwash, they help in the treatment of oral problems which include sore throat, mouth ulcers and swollen gums.
HAIR LOSS AND PREMATURE GREYING
Application of amaranth leaf juice which contains squalene, will condition and add moisture to brittle hair preventing it from falling off. It also slows down premature greying.
Amaranth greens are high in calcium, therefore, they help with osteoporosis and other calcium deficiency diseases.
Amaranth greens help prevent anaemia because they are high in iron, Vitamins A, B6 and folate. The high iron and folic acid content also help increase haemoglobin content and Red blood cell count.
They contain essential nutrients that are anti-inflammatory against skin infection. Also being a powerful astringent which contains squalene, they are a remedy for skin allergies, acne, eczema and general skin health.
Antioxidant property of vitamin E, Vitamin C, lysine (an essential amino acid) etc. present in the greens, fight free radicals. These free radicals are responsible for ageing and formation of malignant cells.
Amaranth is a good source of Folic acid which is essential during pregnancy for the well being of the mother and the baby. Folic acid is also necessary for the growth and prevention of birth defect in babies.
Its antihyperglycemic activity and high fibre content aid in lowering blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. The protein also helps control insulin level in the blood.
Amaranth greens do not contain cholesterol but contain phytosterol, which is a plant cholesterol, they also contain fibre both of which help lower serum cholesterol. Tocotrienol a type of vitamin E which lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and helps to prevent coronary heart disease is also present in amaranth greens.
There is a good electrolyte balance in amaranth greens, high in both potassium and magnesium it also has an ideal sodium-potassium ratio, all of which are conducive to the management and prevention of hypertension.
High calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus and zinc present in amaranth greens all support bone health.
High in Vitamin A, amaranth greens are good for the eyes of both adults and children. The presence of Lutein will help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Also, they are high in beta-carotene which is essential for eye health.
MUSCLE AND NERVOUS SYSTEM
The good electrolyte balance present in amaranth greens aids normal muscle and nervous system function.
Amaranth greens are a good source of zinc which is essential for the maintenance of a healthy immune system.
The greens are good for weight watchers because they are low in calories and can bulk up food. The proteins help control insulin levels in the blood and fibre helps minimise appetite that helps lessen hunger pangs.
VEGETARIANS, GLUTEN-FREE DIET AND CELIAC DISEASE
Gluten intolerant vegetarians can get their proteins from amaranth greens because they are gluten-free and a good source of protein.
The dry powdered leaf of amaranth can be used to fortify maize snacks to increase protein and mineral content.
SIDE EFFECTS AND WARNINGS
Although green amaranth leaf has anti-inflammatory properties, it is also high in oxalic acid which is not good for people suffering from kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
- To eliminate most of the oxalic acid, boil the greens for 5-10 minutes and throw out the cooking liquid, this has been proven to eliminate the oxalic acid.
- Also eating not more than 200g of amaranth greens per day does not create any health problems.
When we eat fresh, organic, local produce, we help our bodies live at its best. Local produce is ideal because it is produced locally so there won’t be any need for processing and preservatives for the short distance from the farm to the table.
Here are some dishes you can cook using the abundant supply of healthy amaranth greens. Click on each to get the full delicious recipe.
- Green (amaranth) Omelette
- Potato and green vegetable balls (amaranth greens)
- Green Amaranth chapati
- Green vegetable yam
- Green vegetable yam porridge
- Nigerian greens and Beans (Amaranth greens)
- Green rice
- Healthy mixed green vegetable dip
- Nigerian Smoked fish with greens
- Amaranth green salad
You can substitute spinach in any of these recipes.
The information given here is not medical or nutritional advice but purely informative and nothing more. You will need to see a doctor if you have any disorder and a nutritionist for advice on your diet.
Do you have any suggestions, comments or questions, I will love to know in the comments below.
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- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth#cite_note-11 19 October 2017, at 14:34.
- “Nutritional value” Amaranth Institute, www.amaranthinstitute.org/?q=amaranth/nutritional-value#.Wh7xPkqnHIV
- Grubben, G.J.H., 2004. Amaranthus dubius Mart. ex Thell. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Amaranthus%20dubius_En.htm
- Olumakaiye M.F. “Evaluation of Nutrient Contents of Amaranth Leaves Prepared Using Different Cooking Methods” http://file.scirp.org/pdf/FNS20110400014_62004335.pdf, June 2011, Food and Nutrition Sciences, 24/11/2017.
- Akubugwo, I. E. et al., “Nutritional and chemical value of Amaranthus hybridus L. leaves from Afikpo, Nigeria” http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1379956446_Akubugwo%20et%20al.pdf, Oct. 2007, African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 6 (24), pp. 2833-2839, 17 December, 2007. 24/11/2017.
- Das Saubhik, “Uses of vegetable amaranth”, Amaranthus: A Promising Crop of Future, Springer July 2016 pg 208. 23/11/2017.
- BESWA Daniso, et al., “Effect of Amaranth addition on the nutritional composition and consumer acceptability of extruded provitamin A-biofortified maize snacks”, www.scielo.br/pdf/cta/v36n1/0101-2061-cta-1678-457X6813.pdf, Food Science and Technology, march 2016. 23/11/2017.
- Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate intakes, www.nationalacademies.org/Nutrition/DRI-Tables/pdf?
- United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3321?manu=&fgcd=&ds=
- Effect of processing methods on the nutritional content of three traditional vegetables leaves: Amaranth, black nightshade and jute mallow. Food Sci Nutr. 2017;5:1139–1144. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.504 , , , , , .
- Venskutonis, P. R. and Kraujalis, P. (2013), Nutritional Components of Amaranth Seeds and Vegetables: A Review on Composition, Properties, and Uses. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12: 381–412. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12021
- Cleveland Clinic, Phytosterols, Sterols & Stanols. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/phytosterols-sterols-stanols-heart-health.
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