Health benefits of Rajgira / Amaranth: How to get the best out of this superfood

In this post, you will get to know:

  • Exact health benefits of Rajgira (English: Amaranth)
  • How to eat it and get the most out of this superfood.

Do you remember eating Rajgira /Ramdana laddu, Ramdana kheer and Rajgira atta paratha your grandma made during fasting?

These were not just delicious but also super healthy. Indians have known about the health benefits of Rajgira for thousands of years. But until a few years ago, there was no scientific study to back that knowledge.

As the west, especially America, fell in love with Rajgira or Amaranth, there was a rush there to learn more about it. Thanks to that work, our traditional knowledge about Rajgira’s health benefits is now backed up by scientific studies.

What is Rajgira:

Rajgira (also called Ramdana and Chaulai) is a superfood. Rajgira is a seed that is considered a pseudo-cereal in the US. But in India, it’s not considered a grain. That’s why we eat it during fasting.

Rajgira or Amaranth has been grown in India, South America and what is now Mexico for over 8000 years for its nutritional benefits. It was the main staple of The Aztecs (modern Mexico) till the arrival of Spanish invaders.

When the Spanish arrived with Cortez, they not only converted the natives into Christianity but also outlawed many native traditions and cultural practices. Rajgira was banned because The Aztecs built statues of their deity using Amaranth grains and honey. After the worship, they would break these statues and distribute for eating.

Even though the Spanish tried their best to destroy Amaranth by burning fields and punishing farmers, it survived in remote areas as a wild plant. It was rediscovered and introduced in the US in the 1970s as a wonder grain.

While it was almost dead in the west, Rajgira continued to thrive in India. It was named Rajgira (Royal grain) or Ramdana (God’s grain) because of its powerful health benefits.

The English name Amaranth comes from Latin amarantus. It’s an imaginary flower that never fades.

According to modern research, Rajgira is a powerhouse that can help prevent several chronic health conditions such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. It’s also helpful in treating inflammatory issues like arthritis.

It’s hard to believe that these tiny seeds pack so much nutrition. It’s not for nothing that Rajgira was your Grandma’s favourite food during fasting. It provides most of the nutrition we need for a healthy life.

Nutritional Value of Cooked Rajgira

Rajgira (Amaranth) Nutrition Facts

As you can see, Rajgira (or Amaranth grain) is a very nutritious food with major health benefits. Rajgira is one of the best sources of vegetable protein in the world. It has one of the highest levels of protein that is also easier for the human body to absorb. Amaranth has lysine, an important amino acid. Lysine has high levels of protein, even higher than milk. Lysine is easier to digest than milk protein so your body is likely to get more protein from Rajgira than milk.

Calcium is another important nutrient in Rajgira. Calcium content in Rajgira is more than 4 times that of other grains. In fact, it has more calcium than milk. If you are lactose in tolerant (meaning you cannot digest milk), then Rajgira should be your go to food for Calcium.

Rajgira is also rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Amaranth grain contains 6 to 10% unsaturated oil that is good for your health.

Amaranth grain is also a good source of Vitamin C.

Our ancestors did not do the chemical analysis of Rajgira. They just followed the practices passed down over generations. But if we analyse their eating habits based on Rajgira’s nutritional value, their eating habits make a lot of sense. And it would make a lot of sense for you to eat Rajgira because of these 12 health benefits:

12 Health Benefits of Rajgira (Amaranth)

Rajgira health benefits

1. Rajgira is rich in easy to digest protein which build body muscles

Rajgira has about 13 percent protein. This translates into 26 grams per cup of raw Rajgira, which is much higher than most other grains. The protein in Rajgira is called “complete protein” because it contains Lysine, an amino acid that helps in building body muscles. Lysine is missing from or is present in negligible quantity in other grains.

Lysine is a building block for protein. It is also an essential amino acid that plays a role in calcium absorption. Since our bodies can’t produce essential amino acids, we need to obtain them from food. Lysine plays an important role in supporting our immune system. Lysine is absent from most vegetables and grains.

A study published in American Journal of Food Science and Technology in 2018 claimed that Rajgira also has other important amino acids in the right concentration and proportion to help the body absorb protein in Rajgira.

Rajgira contains primary proteins called albumin and globulins that are more soluble and easier to digest when compared to prolamins found in wheat.

2. Rajgira is rich in Calcium and Iron that improve bone health

Rajgira is one of the richest sources of calcium. It has been found to decrease the risk of calcium deficiencies. It helps heals fracture and even strengthens the bones because it is rich in calcium, protein and iron that are essential nutrients for bone health.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, Rajgira is one of the ancient grains which can boost your bone health.

A 2013 study found that including Rajgira in your diet is an effective way to meet your daily needs of calcium and other bone-healthy minerals like zinc and iron.

According to Pamela Durkin at Alive.com:

“When it comes to bones, Amaranth offers a payload of minerals renowned for keeping them strong—calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. Mother Nature also wisely added high amounts of the amino acid lysine to this mix.”

“What’s lysine got to do with bone health? Plenty—it helps the body absorb calcium and decreases the amount of calcium lost in urine. Lysine also plays a role in the formation of collagen, a substance crucial for sturdy bones. Furthermore, studies indicate lysine and L-arginine, another amino acid, work together to make bone-building cells more active.”

(Pamela Durkin is a registered nutritional consultant and freelance health journalist based in Victoria, BC, Canada)

3. Rajgira improves immunity

Rajgira or Ramdana is the only grain to contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin C. Antioxidants help improve immunity. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production that in turn improves your body’s ability to fight infections. It can also contribute to faster healing and repair of cells as it helps in the production of collagen.

Rajgira leaves are high in vitamin C, A and folate. It is also rich in zinc and Vitamin E that boost your immunity.

This research paper from Tufts University explains how Zinc Boosts Immune System in Older Adults.

4. Amaranth is good for your heart

A study published by the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research showed that Amaranth grain has cholesterol-reducing properties. It has plenty of fibre, which is known to reduce plaque build-up in our arteries. It also has phytonutrient that along with fibre, help to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and balance our blood pressure.

Rajgira is rich in Potassium which further boosts heart health by relaxing the blood vessels. Potassium reduces strain and tension in the arteries and blood vessels, lowering our blood pressure.

Another study done in 2007 showed that Rajgira has phytosterols, which have cholesterol-reducing properties. It also has a significant amount of squalene that helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, reducing the risk of heart disease.

5. Amaranth grain improves food digestion

Soluble fibre found in Amaranth grain helps in improving digestion. The dietary fibre can eliminate constipation, bloating, cramping, and more serious conditions, like colon cancer and gastric ulcers.

Fibre attaches to cholesterol in the digestive system and takes it out of the body. It benefits your heart as well as helps in digestion. Dietary fibre also helps your body in absorbing nutrients from the food. As Rajgira is a nutrient rich food, its dietary fibre helps the body absorb these nutrients.

Some research studies indicate that that Rajgira grain may have probiotic properties. Probiotics help improve digestion by supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

6. Rajgira is gluten-free and helps fight obesity

Many of the common grains we eat today have gluten. But many people cannot digest it. It can also cause obesity. Gluten-free food is in vogue these days. Shelves of grocery stores are filled with high priced gluten-free food and snacks.

Rajgira is an excellent choice for people who cannot digest gluten or want to avoid it because of a weight problem. Your Grandma ate gluten-free food every time she fasted without having heard the word gluten.

Now you know why Rajgira was her first-choice food during fasting!

7. Ramdana helps fight inflammation

Inflammation can cause many common diseases, including heart problems. Many studies have found that Rajgira or Ramdana may have anti-inflammatory benefits. In one test-tube study, Rajgira was found to reduce several indicators of inflammation.

It may even help in the treatment of arthritis. A report from The Arthritis Foundation suggests that Amaranth grain can maximize nutrition while minimizing inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of Amaranth grain come from magnesium and phytochemical that are present in high concentration.

8. Amaranth is believed to have anti-cancer properties

A study by Molecular Biology Division, Institute for Scientific and Technological Research at San Luis Potosi in Mexico reported that Amaranth grain contains phytochemical compounds like rutin and nicotiflorin and peptides with the ability to help lower hypertension and incidences of cancer.

The researchers also identified the health benefits of lunasin (a peptide) in Amaranth. Lunasin is also present in soybeans and is thought to have cancer-preventing properties. Many studies link soyabean with a lower rate of vertain cancers in Japan.

The protein in Rajgira can strengthen healthy cells that are otherwise destroyed in chemotherapy and can play a vital role in treating cancer.

According to a Bangladeshi study, Amaranth grain can stop cancer cells from spreading.

9. Rajgira oil improves hair and skin health

Rajgira oil contains Squalene, unsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E. These are essential nutrients for healthy skin and hair. Lysine found in Rajgira can strengthen your hair. Lysine has been linked to a stronger, healthier hair, better roots, and a reduction in hair loss.

Rajgira oil is often used in beauty products to protect, moisturize, and nourish the skin and hair. You can also extract the juice from the leaves of Rajgira plant and apply to your hair after shampooing. The iron and minerals in Rajgira improve health of your hair and may prevent premature greying.

10. Rajgira grain has Folate which is beneficial during pregnancy

Folate is considered one of the most important vitamins during pregnancy. Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin called Folate that plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. It helps a baby’s neural tube develop into her brain and spinal cord. A Folate deficiency can lead to neural tube defects in the newborn.

In fact, many countries have regulations for mandatory fortification of some food items like wheat flour or cereals with folic acid.

11. Rajgira can help with Anaemia

Anaemia is caused by lower levels of iron in the body. Rajgira is rich in iron and can help people with Anaemia. In studies done on Kenyan children, adding Rajgira to their diet improved their anaemic symptoms.

12. Rajgira may help in preventing Diabetes

Rajgira can increase insulin levels in the body and bring down sugar levels in the blood. Surprisingly the anti-diabetic and antioxidative properties on Rajgira help keep your blood sugar levels in check even though its GI is high. But more research is needed to prove this beyond conclusively.

How to eat Rajgira to get the best out of it

Instead of having calcium tablets your Grandma ate Rajgira which is one of the best sources of calcium.

Instead of eating multi vitamin tablets your Grandma ate Rajgira/Ramdana which is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin B-6. It is rich in iron, magnesium, phosphorus zinc and potassium which are necessary for overall health.

This is why I call Amaranth grain(Rajgira or Ramdana) Grandma’s dietary supplement.

Rajgira is easy to digest. The mix of amino acids found in Rajgira allows for very easy digestion. Rajgira seeds have an earthy, nutty flavour. You can eat it as a sweet or a snack.

Our ancestors usually fasted a few times every month. Traditionally, the rules of fasting dictated what you could or could not eat during fasting. You were allowed to eat certain combinations of food that they had found to be the best for staying healthy.

You may be familiar with many traditional dishes like Rajgira/Ramdana ladoo, chikkie, popped of puffed Rajgira and Rajgira atta (flour) parathas. These were the first-choice food during fasting for our ancestors.

But in our fast-paced lives, we rarely get the time to cook these things. That’s why I have put together a list of healthy and tasty yet easy to cook options for Rajgira:

1. Use Popped Rajgira with nuts and fruits as a breakfast cereal

Popped Rajgira seeds is a great option for a healthy and quick breakfast cereal. Instead of eating processed cereals that have loads of sugar and chemical additives, you can eat puffed Rajgira with nuts and fruits of your choice. It’s fast, easy to make, tasty and super healthy.

Just add popped Rajgira to a bowl of milk , curd, almond milk or coconut milk. I personally like it with curd or coconut milk. Add cashew, almond, raisins, date and any other dry fruit you like. You can even add other seeds like chia seeds to it. Add some fresh cut fruits like a banana, strawberry, apple or anything else you like. Mix everything with a spoon and your healthy and delicious breakfast is ready!

Health Benefits of Rajgira blog header image

Popped Rajgira

Amaranth cereal

2. Sprinkle Popped Rajgira seeds over Soups and Salads

If you like your soups and salad, you can sprinkle some popped Rajgira seeds over them to make them healthier. The popped Rajgira seeds will make it crunchy, add slight savoury flavour to it and load it with all the good nutrients your body needs.

3. Eat Popped Rajgira/Ramdana laddus

Rajgira or Ramdana laddus are quite popular and tasty. But the ones you can buy in shops are made with white sugar and glucose syrup along with jaggery. The overload of sugar negates all the health benefits of Rajgira in the laddu. If you have time, you can make some at home with only jaggery, though the laddus will not be as crunchy as market bought ones.

You can also try our unique crunchy popped Rajgira seeds laddu. These are made without any sugar or jaggery. These Rajgira ladoos include roasted Watermelon seeds, Flax seeds, Cashew and Almonds. All roasting is done with Desi Gir Cow A2 ghee. We use Dates and Raisins only to sweeten our Rajgira laddus.

Try our Unique Rajgira/Ramdana laddu today!

Gulkand Dry Fruit Ladoos

4. Amaranth/Rajgira Flour Parathas

Rajgira parathas or Puris are a favourite meal during fasting. Check our recepie section to learn how to make Rajgira flour and Rajgira parathas.

5. Rajgira Cookies and Cakes

You can bake cookies and cakes with Rajgira flour.

6. Eat Rajgira leaves as saag

In addition to eating Rajgira seeds (grains), we can also eat its leaves. In India, we cook Rajgira leaves that come in vibrant colors like red, orange, and purple. These are also called Amaranth greens.

Tips on how to use Rajgira

Grandma used to eat Rajgira or Amaranth grains during fasting. This was their natural way of taking a dietary supplement. During fasting we are not supposed to eat non-veg, hence I feel one should not have non-veg when consuming Rajgira as a meal because it is a superfood containing high amount of protein and nutrients.

Rajgira has no known toxicities and is good for general consumption. But you can follow these guidelines while eating Rajgira:

  1. Do not consume in large quantities. Lysine found in Amaranth grain increases body’s calcium absorption. Consuming in large quantities can bring free, damage-causing amount of calcium in the body. Avoid taking large amounts of calcium and lysine at the same time.
  2. If you are intolerant to lysinuric protein, eating Rajgira may cause diarrhoea and stomach pain. If you get these symptoms after eating Rajgira, consult your physician.
  3. Though it is considered to prevent diabetes, not enough research has been done on this topic. So be careful in consuming if you already have diabetes.

Disclaimer: This article is not a health advice nor does it prescribe consumption of anything to address any specific medical condition. Please consult your doctor for your medical condition.