Can Amaranth Help Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

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Amaranth (Amaranthus spp) is a healthy grain that is sometimes used in many breads, cereals, and snack foods. Although it is relatively new to the commercial foods scene, this whole grain has been used for thousands of years by the Incans and Aztecs in their foods. Amaranth is commonly referred to as a “pseudocereal," and although it is classified as a grain, it is just as high in protein as beans and lentils.


Although there are over 60 different species that encompass the genus Amaranthus, only three of them are commonly consumed and used together in products: Amaranthus hypochondriacusAmaranthus cruentus, and Amaranthus caudatus. The use of amaranth has been examined in a variety of health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Amaranth has also been touted as having heart-healthy benefits, but is it effective in lowering your cholesterol levels?

Amaranth Has Cholesterol-Lowering Potential

Although there are quite a few studies that have examined the effect of amaranth consumption on cholesterol levels, few studies have looked at the cholesterol-lowering benefits of amaranth in humans. Most studies have involved animals—including rabbits, rats, and hamsters—that were given amaranth in their daily diet. Additionally, these small studies have only looked at a few species of amaranth, mainly A cruentus and A hypochondriacus, which are a couple of the more common species of amaranth included in foods and found in your local grocery store.

There were also a variety of forms of amaranth used in these studies, most commonly, amaranth seeds and the oils extracted from them.

Small-scale animal studies revealed that introducing amaranth seeds into their daily diets resulted in LDL cholesterol being lowered by between 10% and 50% and total cholesterol levels were lowered by up to 50% in studies.

Triglycerides were only slightly lowered in these studies, with the highest drop occurring by 17%. HDL, on the other hand, did not appear to be significantly increased in the animal studies.

In the few human studies conducted, only amaranth oil has been investigated. It was found that including up to 18 mL of amaranth oil for three weeks reduced LDL cholesterol by as much as 25% and total cholesterol by about 20%. Triglycerides were also lowered by up to 36%. In these studies, individuals also followed a heart-healthy diet, and one study found that no additional cholesterol-lowering benefit was noted when amaranth was added onto this healthy diet. As with the animal studies, amaranth did not appear to significantly affect HDL levels.

How Does Amaranth Lower Cholesterol?

Although the manner by which amaranth lowers cholesterol is not known, there have been many suggestions. Amaranth is high in the unsaturated fat, squalene. In fact, 9 mL of amaranth oil contains roughly 300 mg of squalene, Previous studies using only squalene extracted from food products resulted in lower cholesterol levels.

Although squalene is involved in the pathway that makes cholesterol in the body, it is not exactly known how introducing squalene into the diet lowers cholesterol.

Other studies suggest that other heart-healthy chemicals found in amaranth, such as soluble fiber and phytosterols, are the cause of lowered LDL and total cholesterol noted in these studies. Both ingredients ultimately work by reducing the amount of cholesterol absorbed into the blood from the small intestine.

The Bottom Line…

Although more studies are needed to further investigate amaranth’s cholesterol-lowering ability, this healthy grain is off to a good start. Although there is no recommended amount of amaranth to include in your diet, human studies included up to 18 mL of amaranth oil, which is equivalent to over a tablespoon of amaranth oil a day. Oils consist of up to 9% of the composition of amaranth. However, because of their nutritional properties, other forms of amaranth—including grain and flour—can also be incorporated into any heart-healthy diet.

If you’re interested in including amaranth in your cholesterol-lowering diet, amaranth can be included in your favorite breads, soups, stews and side dishes. Additionally, amaranth oil is available as a nutritional supplement at some stores.


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Gonor KV, Pogozheva AV, Derbeneva SA, et al. The influence of diet with amaranth oil on lipid metabolism in patients with ischemic heart disease and hyperlipoproteinemia. Vopr Pitan 2006;75:17-21

Czerwinski J, Barnikowska E, Leontowicz H et al. Oat and amaranth meals positively affect plasma lipid profiles in rats fed cholesterol-containing diets. J Nutr Biochem 2004;15:622-629

Mendonca S, Saldiva PH, Cruz RJ et al. Amaranth protein presents cholesterol-lowering effect. Food Chem 2009;116:738-742

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