The superb health benefits of adding leafy greens to our daily dietary regimen, are well-known to all of us. Besides greens like spinach, lettuce, kale, fenugreek, etc. another green leafy vegetable, that should be a part of our regular diet is Chaulai aka Amaranth.
Chaulai comes in wide variety of colours ranging from gold, red, green to purple. The seeds obtained from Chaulai plants used to be the staple food for many people in the past, and owing to their huge health benefits, their popularity has resurged a few years back and now they are coined as a superfood. While we are aware of the seeds, the leaves of this incredible plant often go unnoticed. Coming from the foothills of the Great Himalayas and the coasts of South India, Chaulai mimics a lot like spinach and is slowly making its way into the vegetable markets and mainstream food options. Let this two minute read be an eye-opener as to why should a person add Chaulai leaves in their diet.
What Is Chaulai?
Chaulai, that goes by the botanical name Amaranthus, is a member of the Amaranthaceae family. It is native to Central America and South America and is also cultivated in regions having a warm climate.
Chaulai is an annual, large and bushy plant with a height of about 90-130 cm. The stems are erect and branched. It has oblong-lanceolate pointed green leaves. The plant usually yields flowers at summer or autumn (August and October) which is pink or white in hue. The seeds are yellow, white, red, brown, pink, or black and are spherical or flattened lenticular in shape. Chaulai plant mainly prefers the warm climate and thrives best in well-drained soils. Being an annual plant, Chaulai has got the lifespan of one year.
Chaulai is popularly known by different names in different parts of the world. Some of its common names include Amaranthus hypochondriacus, Amaranthus frumentaceus, Amaranto, Chua, Amaranthus leucocarpus, Red Cockscomb, Velvet Flower. It is also known as Lal sag, Thotakura Chaulai in Hindi, Shavrani math, Rajgira in Marathi, Rajgira, Punkirai in Tamil and Chilaka thotakoora in Telugu. Ayurveda knows it by the following Sanskrit terms including Alpamaareesha, Alpamarisha, Bahuveerya, Bhandira, Ghanasvana, Granthila etc.
Ayurveda, the holistic science of herbal remedies has extensively mentioned this plant time and gain in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include, Kasahara (Relieves cough, Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties),Balya (improves muscle strength), Kantya (relieves sore throat), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Anulomana (improves breathing), Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea), Kustha (treats skin disorders), Varnya (improves complexion), Rasayani (rejuvenates the whole body), Vayasthapana (prevents ageing), Jvara (useful in fever), Amahara (treats indigestion), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms), Kanthya (improves voice) and Pushtida (good for nutrition).
The humble Chaulai leaves are rich in several vitamins, minerals, and a great source of protein, without adding too much fat to the body. It is an excellent source of fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, Vitamin A, B6, C, E, and even minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium, potassium, seleniuma, and manganese. Chaulai is also found to be a great source of amino acids and fatty acids.
Imbued with these incredible range of nutrients, chaulai exhibits antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, digestive, carminative, hypolipidemic, and diaphoretic properties. It confers exceptional health benefits and are widely used for the treatment and management of heart ailments, digestive disorders, bone and joint problems, diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, skin and hair issues etc.
Health Benefits Of Chaulai
Chaulai is a traditional remedy for treating a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders like indigestion, constipation, flatulence, esophagitis, heartburn, diarrhoea, peptic ulcer, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and stomach pain. Thanks to the potent carminative nature of the plant, the formulations or foods containing chaulai or amaranthus help in breaking down the food particles in the stomach and intestine, enhance the secretion of the digestive juices and thereby increases the absorption of essential nutrients through the intestines. It also helps to eliminate abdominal gas and in turn reduces abdominal distension, bloating and gaseous cramps.
Diabetes is known as Madhumeha in Ayurveda and owing to the presence of numerous beneficial nutrients, Chaulai is an excellent herb for managing high sugar levels by improving the metabolism due to its Tikta (bitter) and Kashaya (astringent) properties and Kapha-Pitta balancing doshas. The excellent anti-glycemic nature of Chaulai leaves play a quintessential role in alleviating the blood sugar levels of the body. Intake of this plant activates the pancreas and stimulates the secretion of a balanced amount of Insulin and also regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates. This action readily helps the extra glucose circulating in the blood to get converted into glycogen which in turn prevents sudden spikes in the blood sugar level. It readily helps diabetic patients to maintain the control over the blood glucose levels in the blood naturally.
Boosts Bone Health
Chaulai is quite an excellent plant in improving bone health and reducing pain and inflammation at the joints. It promotes bone and dental health, reduces the risk of fracture, maintains overall body balance and provides the body with a strong and perfect skeletal structure. It also increases bone and muscle mass and treats conditions like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia. Presence of minerals like manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium also help in diminishing spinal bone loss in post-menopausal women.
Enhances Cardiac Functioning
Chaulai is one such leafy green that has been found to have a positive effect on the heart. Being a natural antioxidant and a cardio-protective ingredient, it plays a key role in treating a host of heart ailments. It relaxes the cardiac system, by soothing the mind, which is extremely advantageous for patients suffering from arrhythmias and palpitations. It is also beneficial in treating coronary heart disease, regulating blood pressure, strengthening the heart muscles, dropping cholesterol levels in the blood, and preventing lipid accumulation, which in turn reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, heart blocks, heart attacks, blood clots, etc.
Packed with iron, Vitamin C and B9, intake of Chaulai leaves can help prevent anemia. It is quintessential for treating the various symptoms of anemia like general fatigue, physical weakness and yellow discoloration of the skin, vertigo, laziness, shortness of breath, dizziness, swelling and headaches.
Chaulai can be consumed in the form of leaves, seeds, the oil extracted from it or in the form of supplementary capsule. The appropriate therapeutic dosage of the plant usually varies from person to person depending upon the age, body strength, effects on appetite, severity, and condition of the patient. It is strongly recommended to consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner as he or she would evaluate the patient’s indications, past medical conditions and prescribe an effective dose for a specific time period.
Chaulai Side Effects
Chaulai is extremely beneficial in prescribed amount and when cooked but an excess of it can be very detrimental for health. Since it has the ability to lower insulin, people suffering from hypoglycemia are advised to regulate the intake carefully with doctor’s advice. Excessive amount of Chaulai is also prohibited as presence of phylates and dietary fiber present in the leaves may interfere with the bioavailability of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Since Chaulai leaves have a high vitamin-K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as "warfarin" are encouraged to avoid Chaulai leaves in their food since it interferes with drug metabolism. Additionally, since its safety profile in pregnancy and during lactation is not well established, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to avoid taking it without recommendation from the doctor.