Related to the Nutrition Month theme on healthy yet affordable diet, let this article focus on amaranth or kalunay in the local dialect and which is locally sold in either green or red-colored leaves. References mention more than a hundred species but as to purpose in relation to eating, there are varieties grown for the leaves, there are those grown for the grain. Grain or leaves, the amaranth is nutritious and brings several health benefits. Though easy to grow but not widely cultivated, not readily available nor widely consumed compared to pechay, cabbage and other leafy vegetables.
The amaranth can be a substitute but should be an addition to vegetables we add to our favorite dishes or just stir-fry in little oil. The leaves contain little carbohydrates and protein thus very low in energy (or calorie) content. Just like other vegetables, one-half cup cooked (45g) provides only three grams carbohydrates and 1 gram protein thus a total of 16 calories which is even less than the calorie content of one teaspoon of sugar. The low-calorie content makes the amaranth (and other vegetables) ideal for weight loss.
The leaves have a high fiber content thus help in digestion, in that feeling of “fullness”, in lowering cholesterol and helpful in the management of diabetes. Vitamins, particularly vitamin A in the form of beta carotene which is also an antioxidant. Further, it has vitamin B, folate, vitamins C and K. It is also rich in minerals like iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese and copper. Copper by the way is important in the formation of blood, as well as in nerve and bone health. Amaranth also contains a high level of antioxidants.
As there are reported variations in the nutrient contents of different genotypes of amaranth, it is best that the different types be alternatively consumed. Easy to grow anywhere and so next time you buy or plant leafy greens, consider kalunay. In fact, once you successfully grew one plant, you can let the clustered flowers/seeds mature and then scatter all around. Pluck off young shoots in every growing plant and more shoots will grow.