Amaranth & the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index estimates how much eating a particular food may affect your blood sugar levels, making it a valuable resource for diabetics. Choosing foods with a glycemic index closer to zero may help limit large changes to your blood sugar levels, while foods with scores closer to 100 could cause spikes in your blood sugar. When it comes to amaranth, the glycemic index depends on how processed it is as well as what you serve along with it. However, foods made with this grain tend to be high on the glycemic index.

Amaranth Flour

Amaranth is sometimes toasted and ground into a flour. This processing may increase the glycemic index compared to the unprocessed grain, as flours typically have higher glycemic indexes than intact grains because they are more quickly digested. A mix consisting of half amaranth and half wheat has a GI of 75.5, and a mix containing 25 percent amaranth and 75 percent wheat has a GI of 65.6, similar to that of wheat alone, which has a GI of 65.7. Anything with a GI between 56 and 75 is considered moderate on the glycemic index, and scores of 76 and above are considered high.

Popped Amaranth With Milk

Amaranth is also sometimes popped and served as a cereal along with milk. This combination has a high glycemic index, with a score of 97.3. The popped amaranth alone would be even higher on the glycemic index because milk itself has a low GI between 32 and 41, depending on the type of milk you choose.

Amaranth and Diabetes

Although amaranth has a high glycemic index, this doesn't necessarily mean it is off-limits for diabetics. A study published in "Cell Biochemistry and Function" in 2006 found that rats given amaranth grain or amaranth oil experienced increases in insulin levels and decreases in blood sugar. A review article published in the "Journal of Food Science" in April 2012 noted that amaranth may lower blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels 1. While further studies are needed to verify these potential benefits, it looks like amaranth may have some health benefits for diabetics when consumed it moderation.

Fitting Amaranth Into a Low-GI Diet

To include amaranth while following a low-glycemic index diet, eat it along with lean protein foods, foods high in unsaturated fat or those that are low on the glycemic index. Low-GI foods include nonstarchy vegetables and select fruits like apples, oranges and pears, as well as foods naturally low in carbohydrates like nuts and seeds. Choose the less-processed whole amaranth instead of highly processed snack foods made with this grain. You can cook whole amaranth grains in water similar to the way you would cook rice, but using three parts water to each part amaranth.