Chengkruk: A 'never fading' super food and its health benefits

During the prevailing COVID-19 situations in Manipur, we can make utmost use of our locally available indigenous food items and vegetables.

Chengkruk which is known as Amaranth (Amaranthus) is derived from a Greek word ‘amarantos’ which means ‘the never fading’ or ‘one that does not wither’. It is a locally grown plant with fleshy green oval shape and pointed tip leaves. Although edible, the tender ones are best opted for. Once it reaches it starts blossoming, the leaves would have past their prime for eating.

This plant is widely grown and it has a number of nutritional and health benefits. Unlike the other plants, it grows everywhere as its suits the climatic conditions in Manipur i.e. at the day’s temperature around 25 degree Celsius and at night a temperature not lower than 15 degree Celsius. It is a tropical plant that grows throughout the year and so is available abundantly in many areas of Manipur.

Despite the economic conditions and prevailing situations of the pandemic in Manipur we can make utmost use of our locally available indigenous food items and vegetables. We have various nutritious food and vegetables in our environment but we fail to notice it as less emphasis are given into it. We fail to introduce many of our indigenous foods to the world and so it is one of the main reasons for staying unrecognised and unfamiliar or unknown to the many. All foods can be standardised if we know how to make or cook it in the right way.

The nutritional values of raw Amaranth (Chengkruk in Manipuri) per 100 gram

  • Calorie- 23 Cal
  • Protein- 2.46 g
  • Dietary fiber- 2.2 g
  • Fat – 0.33 gm
  • Cholesterol- 0 mg
  • Vitamin A- 2917 IU
  • Vitamin C- 43.3 mg
  • Vitamin K- 1140 µ gm (micro gram)
  • Calcium- 125 mg
  • Iron- 2.32 mg
  • Potassium- 611mg

(Source: USDA National Nutrient Database)

This nutrient data helps us understand the amount of nutrients contain in it per 100 gram of it.

These Chengkruk leaves are also very rich in chemical compounds like Flavonoids and Lysine. Flavonoids are phytochemicals that has antioxidants which are good for the skin and also helps absorption of ultra violet rays of the sun. And lysine is an essential amino acid that is a protein, which helps in cell growth, also converting fats into energy and calcium absorption. There are a number of reasons why Chengkruk is called a ‘Super Food’.

Some of the important health benefits of consuming Chengkruk are -

1. Like meat, milk and egg, it is rich in protein, calcium wherein it helps in strengthening our bones, muscles, helps cell growth, reduce hair fall, maintains our weight and prevents diseases like Atherosclerosis, Osteoporosis, etc.

2. Being rich in Vitamins like A, C, K - it is good for our eyesight, powerful antioxidant that helps brain function, essential for blood clotting, boost our immunity, reduces mood swings (like anxiety, stress, depression, anger), helps digestion, decreases cardiovascular diseases, and carcinogenic diseases.

3. It is also rich in minerals like potassium, iron, manganese etc. and therefore prevents anemia (blood loss), provides healthy bones, acts as natural pain killer, has inflammatory and anthelmintic properties.

These are some of the important benefits squeeze into three bulletins with many a beneficial description into it.  In short, it is rich in protein, iron, calcium, antioxidant, vitamin A, vitamin C and traces of elements.

This leaves can be used either by cooking for curries blandly (for chamthong/kangsoi) or with oils into it (mixed vegetables, fishes and meats into it is an option). It can be consumed as fresh leaves in salad or singju too. Oil can be extracted from its seed and can be made into flaxes, flour, popped or even be manufactured as pills or capsules for different medicinal purposes as such.

The green Chengkruk leaves has not only a number of nutritional and health benefits but also serves in medicinal purpose like snake bites, anti-malarial etc. People with high cholesterol can include it into their diet as it has got no cholesterol present in it. It can be consumed in the form of oils or muffins.

Thus, Amaranth a not very popularly known plant for its benefits, which grows abundantly in the tropical region is now known for its nutritional and health benefits. Now knowing the health benefits of it, let us not kill each other by hiking the prices and making an unreasonable price out of it. There is no valid reason for our locally available food to be very costly and also seasonal foods should be sold at a reasonable price so that it will be affordable to the people.  So, our only means to a better life is by saving one another and by taking care of ourselves during this time and always.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

First Published:Aug. 24, 2020, 2:34 p.m.