Vegetables offer an amazing variety of health benefits. From broccoli to carrots, each veggie has its own array of healthful vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. When choosing vegetables for the dinner table, it’s best to choose a variety of types so you can benefit from their diverse health offerings. One vegetable you may not have had the good fortune to try is purslane. Long considered to be a weed, wild purslane can now be found at farmer’s markets and organic food markets where its impressive nutritional properties are just starting to be recognized. What are the health benefits of purslane?
What is Purslane?
Purslane is a green, leafy vegetable that grows wild. This little known green veggie is being increasingly cultivated by chefs for its slightly peppery flavor that adds a unique twist to culinary creations. Some people are fortunate enough to have purslane growing as a weed in their garden, if not; it’s an easy vegetable to grow.
The Health Benefits of Purslane: A Vegetarian Source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid
Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid that’s also found in flaxseed. Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA is important because it can be converted in the body to the omega-3 fatty acids – the heart-healthy fatty acids found in fish oils. Vegetarians often miss out on the benefits of these oils because they don’t eat fish. Wild purslane provides a source of omega-3 fatty acid precursors so that even vegetarians and vegans can benefit from the many positive health benefits omega-3’s have to offer. It’s not clear how much alpha-linolenic acid is actually converted by the body to the omega-3’s, but it appears that ALA has anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits independent of its conversion to omega-3’s.
Purslane is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E – vitamins known for their antioxidant benefits and for keeping the immune system healthy. When tested, wild purslane was found to be higher in antioxidant vitamins than even the super veggie – spinach. It also contains two special alkaloid pigments that are very strong antioxidants. When it comes to antioxidant power, purslane trounces the competition.
The Health Benefits of Purslane: Other Benefits
At only sixteen calories per hundred-gram serving, wild purslane packs lots of nutritional punch without excess calories. It’s also a good source of B vitamins which are important for carbohydrate metabolism and for keeping the nervous system healthy.
When you plan your next salad, don’t forget about the many health benefits of purslane. Add some chopped raw purslane to a fresh garden salad or steam it as a side dish in the same way you’d prepare spinach. You can also toss it into soups for added taste and nutrition. Enjoy!