Green Superfoods for Milk Supply: Amaranth and Sweet Potato Leaves
Welcome to the world of green superfoods for milk supply! In this blog post, we will explore two incredible plants that have been cherished for centuries by breastfeeding mothers across Asia, Africa, and South America. Amaranth and sweet potato leaves are packed with essential nutrients and renowned for their ability to support lactation and enhance milk supply.
The history of amaranth and sweet potato leaves dates back thousands of years. We’ll see what makes these greens true superfoods for breastfeeding mothers, providing not only nourishment but also resilience as we adapt to changing weather patterns worldwide.
We’ll also touch into the modern research surrounding these remarkable plants, especially their anti-diabetic and insulin-sensitizing properties—so important for mothers facing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, gestational diabetes, type II diabetes, and PCOS, all of which can impact milk supply.
How my journey began
My daughter was still nursing when we moved to a house with a large, wild garden. It was tended by a neighbor, Graziano, who was originally from Sardinia, a Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy. At my request, Graziano gave me a tour of the garden. He pointed out many plants that, back in his home country, were used to support lactation. Among these plants were amaranths. To my astonishment, each of the plants that he named were listed in the ancient Greek herbal book that I had recently borrowed from the university library. I was stunned. In my garden, plants grew that were used thousands of years ago by breastfeeding mothers. They were still alive in the memory of my neighbor – and thus my journey began.
Ancient Superfoods for Modern Times
When planting veggies in our gardens, we don’t typically evaluate their hardiness against the challenges of a changing climate. Yet, for the World Health Organization and international agricultural authorities, this factor is a key concern. They recognize certain plants as “emergency and survival” species if they are hardy enough to weather adverse conditions like drought or nutrient-poor soil. Such crops can be vital resources during food shortages or crises.
Both amaranth and sweet potatoes meet these criteria. They withstand heat and drought, and they have the ability to thrive in poor soils.
Sweet Potato Leaves: History, Nutrition, and Lactogenic Properties
Sweet potato leaves have a rich history of cultivation going back at least five thousand years. Originating in the tropical regions of the Americas, the sweet potato made its way to different parts of the world through early human travel and cross-oceanic winds. As a crop, they form a dense mat of greenery over the tubers, and can be harvested multiple times in a growing season.
Nutritionally, sweet potato leaves offer high concentrations of Vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and B Vitamins, as well as important minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Traditionally, sweet potato leaves have been revered for their health-promoting phenols and flavonoids, with medicinal applications for inflammation, infection, and even cancer. They are used explicity by mothers around the world to enhance their milk supply. Their anti-diabetic and insulin-sensitizing properties make them a valuable ally for breastfeeding mothers facing insulin resistance or other related health conditions.  
In the future, those of us planning to start a family may wisely choose to grow sweet potato leaves in our home- and community-gardens, and more importantly, to learn about dietary changes that reverse insulin resistance and its associated health conditions. Dietary changes that improve insulin sensitivity are the best course to ensure a mother’s best milk supply.
Amaranth Leaves: History, Nutrition, and Lactogenic Properties
Amaranth leaves, too, have a global presence with multiple, varied species adapted to different regions and growing conditions. Every part of the amaranth plant is edible—the root, stems, leaves, and seeds—which makes it a versatile and valuable addition to any diet.
Nutritionally, amaranth leaves are a rich source of vitamins A, C, K, and several B vitamins, along with key minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Their high protein content and their dietary fiber are importatn for gut health, and they also help in maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
Traditionally, the seeds are also considered a lactogenic food, known for their protein content and for the gel-like property they exude when cooked. These properties contribute to their positive impact on digestion, hydration, and blood-glucose levels, further supporting lactation.
From Garden to Table: Preparing Amaranth and Sweet Potato Leaves
When consumed raw, these green superfoods can be bitter to the unaccustomed palate. However, with simple preparation techniques, these leaves can be transformed into a tasty and nutritious addition to your meals.
For salad, both amaranth and sweet potato leaves can be finely chopped and mixed into your favorite greens. This tones down their bitterness.
If you’re a fan of cooked greens, treat these leaves as you would spinach. Simmer them until tender in a bit of water or sauté them in butter or oil until they wilt. Season with salt and a pat of butter or your preferred fat, and you have a delicious side dish. Remember, these leaves carry a nutritional punch. Whether you sneak them into a salad or serve them up as a warm side dish, you are providing your body with essential vitamins and minerals that support overall health and lactation.
Are You Excited About Lactogenic Supergreens? Share Your Experiences!
Have you tried the incredible power of lactogenic supergreens like amaranth and sweet potato leaves? I’d love to hear your stories! Your insights can inspire and support fellow mothers, lactation consultants, doulas, midwives, and healthcare providers on their lactation journeys.
Whether you’ve noticed a boost in milk supply, experienced positive changes in your overall health, or discovered creative ways to enjoy these nutritious greens, your experiences matter. Let’s build a supportive community that embraces the wisdom of lactogenic foods and herbs, promoting a natural and sustainable approach to nurturing mother-baby health.
Connect with me via email or social media to share your thoughts, questions, and personal stories. I can’t wait to hear from you!
1. Alam, M. K., & Islam, S. N. (2022). 9 Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam). In Handbook of Phytonutrients in Indigenous Fruits and Vegetables (pp. 150-166). GB: CABI.
2. Naomi R, Bahari H, Yazid MD, Othman F, Zakaria ZA, Hussain MK. Potential Effects of Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) in Hyperglycemia and Dyslipidemia—A Systematic Review in Diabetic Retinopathy Context. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2021; 22(19):10816. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms221910816