If you haven’t heard of purslane it’s not very surprising. What is surprising is that despite it being so darn good for you most mainstream grocers fail to keep it on the shelf.
It is estimated that human cultivation of the plant goes back 4000 years. It has long been used as a medicinal herb in Chinese medicine and is still a commonly used vegetable in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. It grows abundantly across the globe and can be found in crop fields, gardens, orchards, and vineyards.
Here, purslane is often mistaken as a nuisance weed, but in truth, it is a nutritional powerhouse on par with many of the vegetables we find at the grocery store. Its vast nutritional benefits include:
- Omega 3 fatty acids – We know that Omega 3 fatty acids offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses. When tested, purslane was found to contain as much as 400 grams of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, a type of omega 3 fatty acid per serving (100 grams), making it one of the richest vegetable sources of ALA that you can find. Purslane is a great source of Omega 3s for vegans and vegetarians.
- Glutathione – Glutathione is the most abundant of the endogenous anti-oxidants in the Central Nervous System, and perhaps the most important. Our bodies need glutathione to keep our bodies in balance. What does this mean? Without enough glutathione in our bodies, we become “unbalanced” in terms of inflammation and anti-inflammation, and in terms of destruction and repair. The depletion of this important antioxidant plays a role in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases. Unfortunately, glutathione levels naturally deplete as one ages, so maintaining adequate levels is important. Purslane contains approximately 8 mg of glutathione per 100 grams, that’s more than spinach, broccoli, carrots, and many other more common store-bought vegetables.
- Vitamins & minerals – Purslane contains the highest vitamin A content among the green leafy vegetables, which fulfills 44% of the daily needs. Research has shown that eating higher amounts of foods that contain vitamin A may help with vision and protect from certain types of cancer.[i] It’s also rich in vitamin C with 21mg/100g and other B-complex vitamins. Purslane also boasts high mineral content, with potassium (494mg/100g), magnesium (68/100g), calcium (65mg/100g), phosphorus (44mg/100g) and iron (1.99mg/100g) all well represented.[ii]
Note: Like parsley, spinach and other leafy greens, purslane contains oxalic acid, a naturally occurring acid found in vegetables. Oxalic acid binds with calcium, reducing its absorption and also forms compounds called calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. These compounds can be naturally eliminated by the body by most people; however, for some, they can produce kidney stones and possibly other health issues. Therefore people who are prone to kidney stones should limit the consumption of foods that contain oxalic acid, particularly in its raw form. Cooking or steaming vegetables with oxalic acid can reduce the amount present.
In order to prevent oxalate from binding to calcium is to eat foods known to contain oxalic acid 2 hours apart from dietary calcium sources. Doing this will allow enough time for the body to absorb it.
How to use it
Grab a stem, take a bite and enjoy the tangy crunch! Fresh purslane’s texture and flavor make it a great addition to any salad. It also holds up well when sautéed and can be used in soups and stews. Or, try substituting purslane in your favorite pesto recipe! Many recipes call for removing the leaves from the stems, but there is no harm in keeping them in.
Farmers’ markets or farm stands are your best bet in finding purslane. It can also be found at some Whole Foods Markets.
[i] Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
[ii]National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research ServicePrint this page