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Amaranth seeds may help cardiovascular health and diabetes

12 March 2015

According to a review by US and Mexican researchers published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, amaranth seeds may help prevent coronary disease, lower cholesterol and manage diabetes.  Compared to most other grains, amaranth is relatively rich in protein and has a high digestibility. It does not contain any gluten, making it interesting for manufacturers of gluten-free foods.  

The researchers pointed to the versatility of the grain, which can be used in a variety of foods such as soups, stews or as an alternative to rice and couscous.  They also noted that the grain of amaranth presents a high-quality protein with an excellent amino acid balance, which is better than that of cereals and some legumes.  ACE inhibitory activity has been associated with amaranth peptides.  ACE inhibitors are medicines used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure.  Similarly, peptides associated with controlling blood glucose levels have also been identified. These peptides may be liberated by stomach enzymes during digestion. 

Several methods of activating the bioactive peptides during food processing exist, such as enzymatic hydrolysis, the use of chemical hydrolysis or high temperature extrusion, the method currently used for pre-cooked flours.  The reviewers conclude that, amaranth grain is an alternative crop that possesses excellent nutritional and nutraceutical properties.  In addition to its nutritional content, the plant is interesting from an agricultural perspective due to its resistance to drought-like conditions, meaning it can be cultivated in areas where other conventional crops fail.  The reviewers have called for more research in the formulation of functional foods to improve and motivate the general use of the bioactive principles from the amaranth proteins.

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