Properties and Benefits of Purslane: The common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) or moss rose is an incredibly nutritious flower and leafy vegetable. Purslane boasts one of the highest Omega-3 content in the plant kingdom, making it an excellent substitute for those of you leading a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
It contains generous amounts of vitamins A and C and thus contributes to maintaining beautiful skin, healthy mucous membranes as well as good eyesight and immunity. Purslane is rich in essential minerals, particularly iron, magnesium, copper, potassium and manganese. Throwing a few stems with leaves into your salad not only adds texture and flavor to it, but also helps meet your daily nutrient demands.
What is purslane? Purslane refers to a plant with juicy edible dark green stems and leaves and colorful flowers of great simplicity and beauty. The plant is native to the Indian subcontinent, but it can be found throughout the warm regions of the world. Common names for purslane include portulaca, pursley, hogweed or pigweed, moss rose, red root or verdolaga. More than 30 edible varieties of the Portulaca oleracea species exist and the species greatly enjoys the company of the tomato plant as it thrives in its presence.
What does purslane look like? Purslane is a tiny plant with plump or fleshy dark green stems and leaves with pink or brown highlights that look tender and crunchy. It looks very much like an uninteresting moss rug, hence its classification as a weed. It bears beautifully yellow colored flowers with a simple petal design. What does purslane taste like? Purslane has a mild taste, juicy leaves and stems, somewhat similar in texture to mushrooms. Wild purslane is full of flavor, somewhat lemony or peppery.
I find raw purslane goes great in a potato salad (I shamefully admit that the humble potato is one of my favorite veggies). It pairs well with rice, lamb and other veggies such as spinach and tomatoes, either in soups, stews or fresh salads. Because it contains a compound called oxalate (from which kidney stones are made), it is recommended to eat it cooked rather than raw. However, heating it up a bit in a frying pan is enough to significantly reduce its oxalate content.
You step on it when you set foot on a crack in the sidewalk or go bananas when you realize it’s spread throughout your garden and just won’t leave no matter what you do to it. So why eat this pestering weed, you ask? Well, because it’s healthy and quite good tasting! Here are the best 7 reasons why you should eat purslane:
1) Extremely low in calories. With only 16 kcal/100 g of raw stems and leaves, purslane is ideal for keeping your weight under control and even shedding a few pounds. It is also 93% water so it will fill you up better than most foods.
2) Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane is one of the best plant sources of Omega-3. As you may already know, Omega-3 is a fatty acid, to be more exact, the healthiest fat ever. It has been shown to have an antioxidant effect on our arteries, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and significantly reduce coronary heart disease and stroke risks. Moreover, a generous Omega-3 intake has been linked to reduced joint pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and proper cognitive development.
Of course, the Omega-3 from fish sources such as cod or salmon is the healthiest (find out why here), but if you are leading a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, then purslane, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and nuts and seeds in general are your best sources of the nutrient.
3) Protects cardiovascular health. As a result of its generous Omega-3 content, purslane helps clear artery walls from plaque buildup, preventing blood clots from blocking blood flow to the brain and heart. Moreover, it helps lower high LDL (bad) cholesterol and improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels, when part of a diet moderately low in fat, where Omega-3 is the primary source of fatty acids.
In addition to this, purslane is a good source of potassium (10.5%) and magnesium (17%), two minerals which effectively regulate body fluids, reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) and maintain heart health.
4) Supports healthy cell development and exhibits significant antioxidant activity. Once again, the Omega-3 in purslane is responsible for the vegetable’s beneficial effects on cell health, contributing to healthy cell development. Aside from vitamins A, C, copper and manganese, which all exhibit excellent antioxidant properties, purslane is shown to contain potent carotenoids such as beta-carotene which not only displays vitamin A activity, but also hunts down and destroys free radicals which may damage cells and force them to mutate into cancerous cells as a result of extensive damage.
5) Anticancer properties. In vitro studies point to purslane as a natural antimutagenic capable of repairing DNA damage and inducing programmed cell death in cancer cells. However, further studies need to be conducted in order to officially attest purslane (or any other food) as a viable cancer treatment. Up to this point, a proper diet, natural and varied, as well as healthy lifestyle habits are viewed as the best methods of preventing cell damage buildup and the activation of certain genes believed to induce mutations in cells.
6) Great for skin beauty and immunity. Purslane contains generous amounts of both vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A maintains healthy mucous membranes at the level of the nose, mouth, throat, lungs and stomach, the parts of our body directly exposed to viruses and bacteria. Vitamin C increases the aggressiveness of our white blood cells so when our body comes into contact with strong viruses, it is better equipped to deal with them.
7) Anti-aging properties. Purslane owes its anti-aging properties to vitamin C, copper and manganese, potent antioxidants which stimulate collagen production, collagen being the ultimate anti-wrinkle remedy, and prevent premature hair graying as well as iris discoloration. Next time you land (up)on a purslane patch, will you consider picking it and taking it with you to the kitchen?