The highly nutritious (grain amaranth) doodo is one of the few plants whose leaves can be eaten as a vegetable while its seeds can also be consumed as cereals. There is no difference between vegetable and grain types since the leaves of young plants grown for grain can be eaten as human or animal food.
When the leaves are harvested in moderation, the grain yield is not affected but it is better to use the thinned out plants as vegetables.
Grain amaranth can be used as seeds or milled into flour to make various products such as cookies, cakes, pancakes, bread, muffins and other bakery products.
Flour from the grain can also be used in soups and stews.
Popped seeds can be used in confectioneries such as snack bars and in peanut butter-like pastes where it is can be combined with groundnuts. The flour can also be used as wheat substitute in snack foods such as chapati, mandazi and half cakes.
Nutritional and health benefits of consuming dodo
Research shows that grain amaranth has nutraceutical (nutritional combined with medicinal) properties.
Communities in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi, where grain amaranth is consumed, testify to an improvement in their general well-being, as a result of regularly eating the highly nutritious vegetable.
Amaranth helps in the prevention and improvement of specific ailments and symptoms including recovery of severely malnourished children and an increase in the body mass index of people formerly wasted by HIV/AIDS. Studies to verify these benefits have been underway for years.
The health benefits of consuming grain amaranth could partly be explained by its nutritional composition.
Amaranth contains around 12-13% protein. The protein is well-balanced in amino acids, being high in lysine, an amino acid of which most grains are deficient.
Amaranth contains twice the level of calcium found in milk, five times the level of iron in wheat, and higher sodium, potassium and vitamins A, E, C and folic acid than cereal grains.
Amaranth is low in fat, with only 7%. Moreover, the fat is predominantly polyunsaturated fatty acids, with high levels of the essential linoleic fatty acid. These characteristics make grain amaranth particularly suitable for consumption by children who need essential fatty acids for proper growth and development.
Amaranth flour is safe for consumption by individuals that are at a high risk of chronic non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease and diabetes.
It lowers total serum triglycerides and levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL). High levels of serum LDL are associated with coronary heart disease. The serum LDL lowering effect of amaranth is attributed to the tocotrienols (unsaturated forms of vitamin E) and squalene in amaranth oil. These compounds affect cholesterol biosynthesis in humans.
Consumption of grain amaranth has also been shown to have potential benefits to diabetics.
Studies suggest that supplementation of diets with amaranth grain and amaranth oil improves glucose and lipid metabolism.
Amaranth flour has twice as much fibre as corn and oats and three times as much as wheat, thus it provides a source of cholesterol-lowering agents such as fibre, linoleic acid, and tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols found in amaranth also help the body fight ageing, protect fatty areas of the body from damage by free radicals and may also help maintain heart health. Lysine, contained in amaranth helps maintain and repair body tissues.
Amaranth products include high energy amaranth snack bars, a range of flours including a pure amaranth flour suitable for making porridge, an amaranth-based flour mixed with millet and soybean flours, also suitable for making porridge, a pre-processed quick cooking bean flour composited with grain amaranth and rice most popularly used for sauce but also usable for porridge. They also include nutrient-enhanced cookies.
Farmers in areas that grow amaranth are also involved in value-adition efforts such as producing popped amaranth snacks, flours and bakery products for sale within communities.
The future is bright for this ‘miracle crop’ in Uganda. Amaranths are a widely distributed, short-lived herbs occurring in temperate and tropical regions. They belong to the genus Amaranthus with about 60 species, several of which are cultivated as leafy vegetables, grains or ornamental plants, while others are weeds.
The main species grown as vegetables are A. tricolor, A. dubius, A. lividus, A. creuntus, A. palmeri and A. hybridus while the main grain species are A. hypochondriacus, A. cruentus and A. caudatus.