Different types of vegetables are available in markets around, however, some people may have not heard of amaranth, a cosmopolitan genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants. Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, pseudo cereals, and ornamental plants. The species in this case is the leafy veggie that should make it into everyone’s shopping cart — locally known as ‘dodo’.
Nutritionists say this vegetable contains nutrients that have the potential to improve one’s health. In fact, it is not just the leaves that are useful, but the seeds are also beneficial as far as health is concerned.
ADD IT TO YOUR DIET
Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says in general, the plant contains enormous health benefits, and including it in your daily diet can help improve your health in general.
For instance, he notes that the plant, when consumed, can lower high cholesterol levels, support the digestive system, strengthen the bones, is a good source of protein and works as an antioxidant agent, among other things.
“Amaranth can prevent you from the risks associated with low blood pressure, inflammation and fatigue. Regular consumption helps alleviate symptoms that contribute to chronic diseases like cancer, macular degeneration and dementia,” he says.
To increase your life span, Musengimana says adding amaranth to your diet can ensure that.
The seeds of this plant, he says, can be useful in case of high cholesterol. When consumed while grinded, they help combat factors that contribute to increasing bad cholesterol content, which could hurt cardiovascular health.
According to Dieudonne Bukaba, the nutrition programme coordinator at Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA) Rwanda, regular consumption of amaranth allows one to obtain plenty of fibre and other nutrients like potassium and zinc.
These nutritious properties, he says, function to balance high cholesterol levels, thus boosting heart health.
Additionally, he says for digestive problems, amaranth has plenty of fibre which is essential for digestion.
“Enriched with dietary fibre and minerals, amaranth, especially the seeds, can provide gastrointestinal benefits. It has also potential to treat gut problems by promoting the growth of good bacteria,” he says.
Musengimana notes that the leaves of the plant contain an adequate amount of calcium, which when consumed on a daily basis, can help maintain bone density.
He adds that many studies have proved that a diet enriched with calcium at a young age can delay age-related debilitating bone issues. Moreover, consuming amaranth is essential in boosting the strength of the bones preventing osteoporosis.
On the other hand, Bukaba points out that the plant is also loaded with antioxidants, making it necessary for one to include them in their diet. The presence of antioxidants helps in fighting toxins, infectious bacteria and free radicals as well.
He notes that people are advised to always consume foods that help in the health of the eyes; and consuming amaranth will ensure good sight.
“The eyes can develop problems if one doesn’t maintain a diet that helps in fighting some eye diseases. Eating amaranth contains nutrients that promote eye health,” he adds.
Apart from just improving one’s eyesight, they also delay the onset of cataracts and mular degeneration, says Bukaba.
Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of Nutrition Department at University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), says expectant mothers should make amaranth part of their diet because they contain plenty of vitamin, minerals, and proteins which are essential for the development of the foetus.
He adds that regular consumption of the seeds is said to protect the foetus from congenital diseases as well.
Because of the presence of fibre in the plant, they are also known to keep one full for a longer time. This, he explains, can help curb one’s appetite, thus making it helpful to those who want to lose weight.
Another interesting thing about consuming amaranth that people don’t know, Uwiragiye says, is that it can help prevent baldness in young people.
“For one to be bald, it’s partially due to an imbalanced diet and deficiency of some vitamins and minerals in their diet, trying them out can help prevent the problem,” he says.
He explains that the zinc found in the plant is capable of preventing baldness as zinc is known to strengthen hair follicles.