Samphire: Nutritional Value and Benefits
Although it is not the most commonly used herb, samphire is nutritionally valuable has a wide range of benefits, including its ability to detoxify the body, aids digestion, protects the immune system, helps with weight loss, induces sleep, and boosts circulation.
In the realm of salty sea vegetables, there are few more famous than samphire, particularly the varieties that grow in the United Kingdom and across Eurasia. Known for more than 500 years, this small halophyte grows in rocky and marshy areas near salt-spraying water sources. The small plants can grow in vast fields if left undisturbed, and have picked up a number of nicknames along the way, including sea asparagus and sea pickle. Some other variations on the name also exist in remote areas of the UK, but there is no mistaking samphire when you see it. It is a thick, grass-like plant that doesn’t grow longer than 3-4 inches, but can be readily picked and prepared in a number of ways. Historically, it has been used as a food source, similar to seaweed, but as more research has been done on the nutritive value of this unusual sea vegetable, it has become even more popular outside of its native habitat.
The nutritive value of samphire is impressive, to say the least. Boasting almost no fat, this vegetable is packed with essential minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium. That is in addition to a healthy amount of dietary fiber and vitamin A, B vitamins and vitamin C. Furthermore, samphire contains unique compounds called fucoidans, which are often found in sea vegetables, which can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Together with its low-calorie (~100 calories per 100 gram serving), low-fat impact on your body, samphire can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your regular diet.
Health Benefits of Samphire
Digestion: As a natural source of dietary fiber, samphire can do wonders for the body‘s digestive system. Dietary fiber is able to bulk up stool so that it can pass more easily through the digestive system without causing constipation or discomfort. Fiber can reduce inflammation in the gut and ensure that nutrient uptake is as efficient as possible.
Immune System: Vitamin A and vitamin C are not only essential vitamins for processes throughout our body, but they also have a significant effect on the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are the first line of defense for the body. Furthermore, both A and C function as antioxidants, and are capable of neutralizing free radicals and stopping them before they can cause chronic disease and oxidative stress.
Bone Health: Samphire is a very rich source of calcium, one of the many mineral benefits of adding this sea vegetable to your diet. With a regular intake of calcium, you are also optimizing your body’s intake of iron, which is essential for good circulation within the body. More importantly, perhaps, the calcium intake will keep your bones strong and durable as you age. Bone mineral density naturally drops as we grow older, so increased levels of calcium are needed to remain youthful and healthy.
Sleep Aid: Magnesium doesn’t get much credit in the mineral world, but it can have measurable effects on hormonal balance, neurotransmitter production and general quality of life for many people. Samphire happens to be very rich in magnesium, and many people suffer from magnesium deficiency without even knowing. If you suffer from insomnia or regularly have restless nights, it could be a sign that your body’s natural rhythms are out of whack. Magnesium is ideal for rebalancing your Circadian rhythms and giving you a good night’s sleep.
Antioxidant: Fucoidans found in sea vegetables have antioxidant effects that make them very important for human health. Adding samphire to your body can help in a wide range of illnesses, ranging from skin conditions to cancer, as oxidative stress from free radicals comes in many forms. Fucoidans can help to neutralize that threat and keep your body protected from any would-be pathogens or external attacks.
Inflammation: There are many different inflammatory conditions that can affect the body, ranging from arthritis and gout to hemorrhoids and infected wounds. The anti-inflammatory nature of samphire has made it a valuable herbal remedy, both when topically applied and consumed. It can help to ease pain and soothe swelling and inflammation, and even cause fevers to break.
Weight Loss: The extremely low calories and low fat content of samphire is good news for anyone who has been struggling to keep their diet in check. Additionally, the dietary fiber in samphire helps to optimize excretion and nutrient intake, while also making you feel full, by helping to suppress the ghrelin hormone in the body. When combined, this can lead to less snacking, more energy, and a lower caloric intake to help you shed the pounds.
Final Word of Warning: While many of samphire’s benefits are clearly important, you should be aware that samphire is also very high in sodium. For people who already suffer from high blood pressure or are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, samphire should be eaten with caution. That being said, when cooking with samphire, there is no need for more salt to be added, as the vegetable is more than able to properly flavor the food.