The health benefits of purslane include its ability to aid weight loss, improve heart health, ensure healthy growth and development of children, treat certain gastrointestinal diseases, prevent certain cancers, protect the skin, boost vision, strengthen the immune system, build strong bones, and increase circulation.
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What is Purslane?
Purslane is a leafy vegetable that most likely originated in the Mediterranean region. The scientific name of purslane is Portulaca oleracea and it is widely eaten throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Purslane is an annual succulent with a slightly sour and salty taste that makes it an interesting addition to the palate. The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds are edible, and have been used for thousands of years in different variations.
Purslane has been in use since prehistoric times, and is widely referred to in ancient Chinese medicine, as well as in early aboriginal culture as far away as in Australia! But in the United States, it is usually ignored or pulled up and treated like any other invasive greenery in gardens and yards.
Uses of Purslane
In culinary usage, purslane is commonly used in soups, salads, and stews. It is added to meat dishes as a flavorful element and is also mixed with dough to make certain delicious bread varieties in various cultures. Overall, the unique flavor and extremely beneficial nutrients contained in purslane make it one of the best-kept secrets in the vegetable world. But the secret is definitely out, and people are beginning to cultivate purslane in greater numbers around the world. Aside from culinary usages, purslane has also been used as traditional medicine for curing various diseases in China and India.
Let’s take a closer look at what nutrients make purslane such a powerhouse of human health.
Purslane Nutrition Facts
When this unusual ‘weed’ became the subject of scientific study, researchers were shocked at what they found. Purslane vegetable has extremely high levels of omega-3 fatty acids for a land vegetable, as well as significant amounts of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, B-family vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, and copper. Furthermore, the betalain pigments (powerful antioxidant compounds) and carotenoids round out this veritable treasure trove of nutrients and beneficial organic compounds.
Health Benefits of Purslane
Purslane has many benefits that help in preventing and curing diseases. Let’s discuss the benefits in detail below:
Improves Heart Health
In terms of boosting the strength of your cardiovascular system, purslane can help in a variety of ways. Most notably, researchers found high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in purslane, higher than in some fish oils, which are widely considered the best source of these beneficial fatty acids. Omega-3s help to reduce the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body and promote a healthier cholesterol balance in our bloodstream. Consuming foods that are high in omega-3s has shown to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as well as atherosclerosis, thereby preventing heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the potassium found in purslane can reduce blood pressure due to its behavior as a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes blood vessels and reduces strain on heart.
Purslane is very low in calories, but is nutrient-rich and packed with high dietary fiber. This means that people can feel full after a meal of purslane, without significantly increasing calorie intake, and thereby helping them lose weight and maintain diet.
Promotes Child Development
Although research is still ongoing, early studies have shown that high levels of omega-3s in young children’s diet have resulted in a decrease in certain developmental disorders, including autism, ADHD, and other issues that affect millions of children across the world.
Treats Gastrointestinal Diseases
Some people may shy away from alternative medicine treatments for their various health conditions, but in traditional Chinese medicine, purslane (known as Ma Chi Xian in Chinese medicine) was widely used to treat everything from diarrhea and intestinal bleeding to hemorrhoids and dysentery. And even today purslane is used to treat a wide variety of intestinal conditions. These benefits are mainly attributed to the organic compounds found in purslane, including dopamine, malic acid, citric acid, alanine, glucose, and many others.
Along with gastrointestinal issues, purslane can help treat a wide variety of skin conditions as well. The high levels of vitamin A, combined with the cocktail of compounds found in this ‘weed’ mean that it can help to reduce inflammation caused by bee stings and snake bites when applied topically. Purslane improves skin health and appearance, reduces wrinkles, and stimulates the healing of skin cells to remove scars and blemishes when consumed.
One of the most widespread and tragic diseases in the world today is cancer, so any anti-carcinogenic food item is highly praised. Purslane has significant levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which act as antioxidants to prevent certain cancers, specifically lung and oral cancers. However, purslane also contains betalain pigment compounds, which give the plant its distinctive yellow and red color. Beta-cyanins and beta-xanthins have been directly connected with anti-mutagenic effects in the body, meaning that they prevent free radicals from causing mutations in healthy cells, thereby helping to prevent the development of cancer.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene have both been connected to improved eye health and vision for many years. Purslane can help to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts by eliminating free radicals that attack the cells of the eye and cause these common age-related diseases.
The minerals present in purslane make it a healthy choice for people who want to prevent bone loss. Calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese are all elements required to develop bone tissue and speed the healing process of the bones in our body. This can help in preventing osteoporosis, a common age-related condition that affects millions of people.
The high content of iron and copper in purslane means that it will stimulate the production of red blood cells. Both of these minerals are essential for boosting circulation, by delivering more oxygen to essential parts of the body and increasing the healing speed of cells and organs. Further, iron and copper also aid in improving hair growth and metabolic efficiency!
Word of Caution: The only potential downside that researchers have found about purslane is the relatively high content of oxalic acid, which leads to the formation of kidney stones. If you already suffer from kidney stones, avoiding purslane might be a good idea. However, boiling purslane in water causes a great deal of oxalic acid to be eliminated, without losing many of the other beneficial nutrients.