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Características nutricionais e funcionais do Amaranto (Amaranthus spp.) [Nutritional and functional characteristics of Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)]

Nutrire 01/2007; 32(2):91-116.

ABSTRACT functional characteristics of Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.). Nutrire: rev. Soc. Bras. Alim. Nutr. = J. Brazilian Soc. Food Nutr., São Paulo, SP, v. 32, n. 2, p. 91-116, ago. 2007. Amaranth is a pseudocereal that has received a lot of interest due to its nutritional, functional and agricultural characteristics, besides its potential use in the food industry. Prior to America colonization, the amaranth grain was considered a holy seed by several pre-Colombian civilizations. It represented the third staple crop for these cultures. Amaranth is among the 36 most promising crops to feed humanity and its cultivation and consumption may increase the food supply to more vulnerable populations. Its leaves (consumed as a vegetable) and its grains (consumed as a cereal) can both be used to prepare bread, cakes, cookies, salad sauces, drinks and other foods. Both the leaf and the grain present exceptional nutritious value. The amaranth grain presents a better amino acid profile as compared to other cereal grains. It is rich in lysine and sulfur amino acids. In the lipid fraction, the high levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids and squalene are outstanding. The amount of dietary fiber (4% to 8%) exceeds the level observed in other cereals (around 2%). Regarding minerals, Ca, Fe, Zn, Mg and P are present in noticeable amounts. The claim that amaranth would be a functional food has resulted from studies performed with animals, which have demonstrated the grain capacity to reduce the serum cholesterol levels. It is suggested that this property would be related to synergic effects of its components: protein, dietary fiber, amino acid balance, fatty acids and squalene.

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