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 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.
18 amazing health benefits of amaranth greens
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.
1. 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.
2. ORAL CARE
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.
3. 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.
4. CALCIUM DEFICIENCY
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.
7. FREE RADICALS
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.
14. MUSCLE AND NERVOUS SYSTEM
The good electrolyte balance present in amaranth greens aids normal muscle and nervous system function.
15. IMMUNE SYSTEM
Amaranth greens are a good source of zinc which is essential for the maintenance of a healthy immune system.
16. WEIGH WATCHING
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.
17. 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.
18. FORTIFIED MAIZE
The dry powdered leaf of amaranth can be used to fortify maize snacks to increase protein and mineral content.