Purslane: Health Benefits and Nutritional Value
Summer purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is best known as an invasive weed, but this wild-growing succulent plant is also completely edible, and it's delicious, too. Also known as little hogweed, verdolaga, common purslane, portulaca, and pursley, summer purslane adds a slightly tangy note to soups and stir-fries, and its juicy leaves can be used to add texture to salads. Culinary aspects aside, purslane is also an all-around healthy food that contains a whole range of health-boosting nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins, and minerals. Here's a lowdown of the nutritional value and health benefits of purslane.
Purslane is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
Purslane is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for vegans, vegetarians, and other people who do not or cannot eat fish. In fact, purslane is said to be the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids among cultivated green leafy vegetables. However, some wild-growing greens, such as molokhia and stamnagathi, have been reported to contain omega-3 fatty acids in amounts comparable to those found in purslane.
Purslane is a particularly good source of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Studies investigating the remarkable longevity and low rate of cardiovascular diseases among people living on the Greek island of Crete suggest that the high dietary intake of ALA from foods like purslane, walnuts, figs, and stamnagathi might be a key contributor to Cretans' exceptionally good health. Similarly, the elderly population of Kohama Island, Japan, famous for having an exceptionally long life expectancy and one the lowest coronary heart disease mortality rates in the world, has exceptionally high concentrations of ALA their blood.
Although a substantial body of evidence suggests that a high dietary intake of ALA from foods like purslane is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases, the mechanisms by which this omega-3 fatty acid exerts its cardioprotective effects are still relatively poorly understood. It has been suggested that ALA might work its protective magic by controlling platelet function, endothelial cell function, inflammation, arterial compliance, and arrhythmia.
Purslane is supercharged with antioxidant vitamins
Summer purslane is a good source of many antioxidant vitamins, including pro-vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. For example, just one cup of raw purslane (about 43 grams) provides 15% of the daily value for vitamin C and 11% of the daily value for vitamin A.
As you may already know, antioxidants help scavenge free radicals, the harmful by-products of cellular metabolism that can contribute to cancer and many other age-related diseases. Antioxidants are also a crucial component of anti-wrinkle diets, so if wrinkle prevention is high on your list, be sure to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods such as purslane.
Purslane – a treasure trove of health-boosting minerals
Aside from delivering a hefty dose of vitamins, purslane supplies a slew of minerals. It contains calcium and magnesium which are crucial for keeping your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. It also provides plenty of potassium, important for keeping your blood pressure in check and for avoiding problems associated with a high intake of salty foods. Eating purslane can also supply your body with some extra iron, a mineral that is needed for oxygen transport within your body.
How to reap the health benefits of summer purslane
Purslane starts to lose its nutritional qualities immediately after harvest. Therefore, the best way to maximize the health benefits of purslane is to grow your purslane and harvest it as needed. If you don't have a big garden or if you fear that planting purslane will take over your entire vegetable garden (after all, purslane is a weed), consider growing purslane indoors as a microgreen. All you need is an empty container, some potting soil, organic purslane seeds (you can buy certified USDA organic purslane seeds here), and a sunny window sill. Simply sow the seeds, keep the soil moist (but avoid over-watering), and watch your micro-purslane grow!
If you're not much of a green thumb, check out the farmers' markets in your area. Purslane is in season from late spring onwards, until about mid-Fall. When looking for purslane, keep in mind that this nutrient-dense green leafy vegetable has many names, including pursley, golden purslane, little hogweed, verdolaga, summer purslane, and portulaca.
When buying purslane, look for produce that looks fresh – research shows that fresh purslane that has been stored at cooler temperatures has more nutritional value than produce that has been stored at room temperature.
Potential side effects
As with any food, eating too much purslane is not good for you. In case of purslane, the main problem is its high concentration of oxalic acid. Ranked as one of the richest food sources of oxalates, purslane may cause health complications in people susceptible to developing calcium-oxalate kidney stones. In addition, people with certain medical conditions such as Primary Hyperoxaluria and Enteric Hyperoxaluria may be advised to restrict their dietary intake of oxalate-containing foods such as purslane.
Furthermore, pregnant women are commonly advised to avoid eating purslane as this emmenagogue food promotes uterine contractions and may therefore cause miscarriage.
Don't Miss This6 Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens
Not only are young dandelion greens tasty in salads, they are also loaded with nutrients!