Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Amaranth Bad For You?



Short answer

Amaranth is generally nutritious, offering protein, fiber, and micronutrients. It's gluten-free and may help with inflammation and heart health. However, its phytates, oxalates, and saponins can disrupt nutrient absorption and gut health. So, it's beneficial in moderation and with diverse dietary intake, mindful of individual health needs.



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Long answer

When exploring the myriad of grains available to us, amaranth often stands out as a unique and ancient option. However, amid the buzz surrounding superfoods and healthy eating, one has to wonder: Is amaranth really beneficial, or could there be hidden concerns lurking behind its stellar reputation?

Understanding Amaranth

Amaranth is not a true cereal grain like wheat or oats, but rather a pseudocereal, which means it bears similar nutritional properties and uses. Revered by the Aztecs and used for centuries, it has made a mighty comeback as a health food. Packed with protein, fiber, micronutrients, and important phytochemicals, it's often hailed as a powerhouse of nutrients.

The Nutritional Breakdown

Rich in protein, amaranth is celebrated for its lysine content – an essential amino acid typically scarce in other grains. Its high fiber content aids in digestion and promotes cardiovascular health by helping to maintain lower cholesterol levels. Amaranth is also a boon for those with gluten intolerance, providing a nutritious and safe alternative to gluten-containing grains.

The Health Benefits

Regular consumption of amaranth could be linked to reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure, and even cancer prevention, thanks to its antioxidant properties. It's also known for assisting in weight management due to its ability to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

The Potential Risks

However, while amaranth's accolades are impressive, there's a darker side to this ancient grain that is often glossed over. Like other foods, amaranth could have potential adverse effects, especially if consumed in large quantities or without proper preparation.

Amaranth contains phytates – natural compounds found in many grains and seeds – which can bind to minerals and reduce their absorption. Thus, a diet too reliant on amaranth might lead to nutrient deficiencies if diversity is not maintained. Additionally, amaranth is calorically dense, a factor to consider for those monitoring their calorie intake.

Oxalates: A Hidden Concern

One lesser-discussed aspect of amaranth is its oxalate content. These natural compounds can contribute to kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals. High oxalate intake can also interfere with calcium absorption, potentially undermining bone health. People with a history of kidney stones or particular health issues may need to watch their amaranth consumption closely.

Saponins and Gut Health

Amaranth also contains saponins, which, on one hand, have health-promoting effects such as immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties. On the other, they can also cause gut irritation and permeability issues in some individuals, potentially leading to discomfort and digestive woes.

So, Is Amaranth Bad for You?

For the vast majority of people, amaranth can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. However, the potential risks associated with oxalates, saponins, and phytates should not be dismissed. It's crucial to enjoy amaranth in moderation and to include a variety of foods that supply different nutrients. Consider also pairing it with vitamin-C-rich foods, which can counteract some of the mineral absorption issues and employing soaking or sprouting techniques to reduce anti-nutritional factors.

Maintaining an awareness of the less-celebrated properties of amaranth, being mindful of how it's prepared, and keeping intake balanced are key to harnessing its benefits without falling victim to the possible downsides. As with all foods, moderation is essential.

To conclude, while amaranth is indeed a nutrient dynamo worthy of its spot in the nutritional hall of fame, it's important to remain discerning and informed. By respecting the complexities of this ancient grain, we can enjoy its benefits while circumventing its potential drawbacks. Ultimately, incorporating amaranth into a diverse and balanced diet is likely to contribute positively to your health, as long as you stay mindful of the quantities and your individual health context.

Frequently asked questions

Absolutely. Methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting amaranth before cooking can help reduce the levels of phytates and oxalates, thus improving mineral absorption and reducing potential health risks.

Yes, amaranth can be part of a weight loss diet due to its high protein and fiber content, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied. However, because it's calorically dense, portion control is important to avoid excessive calorie intake.

Amaranth and quinoa are both highly nutritious pseudocereals, rich in protein, fiber, and various micronutrients. Amaranth has a slightly higher lysine and fiber content than quinoa, while quinoa provides a better amino acid balance and generally has fewer calories per serving.

Amaranth may be a good choice for people with diabetes due to its low glycemic index and high fiber content, which can contribute to more stable blood sugar levels. Nonetheless, individual dietary needs vary, and it should be consumed within the context of a controlled carbohydrate intake.

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Possible short-term side effects

  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • reduced mineral absorption

Possible long-term side effects

  • nutrient deficiencies
  • kidney stone formation
  • gut permeability issues

Ingredients to be aware of

  • phytates
  • oxalates
  • saponins
  • high calories


  • reduces inflammation
  • lowers blood pressure
  • cancer prevention
  • aids in weight management
  • high in protein and fiber
  • gluten-free

Healthier alternatives

  • soaked or sprouted amaranth
  • diverse diet
  • pairing with vitamin-c-rich foods

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Amaranth Grain

  • High in Protein
  • Organic Certified
  • Gluten-Free
  • Rich in Fiber
  • Versatile Use
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 11-25-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 11-25-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

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