Spring 2013 True Natural Health Magazine – Your Questions Answered
By Roger French
QUESTION: What is purslane and can it help meet the body’s needs for omega-3 fatty acids?
Purslane is a herb with a long history of use as both a vegetable and a medicinal herb. It is both tasty and exceptionally nutritious.
Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is also known as pigweed, duckweed, fatweed, pursley or pussley. In spite of being highly nutritious, it is the most widespread ‘weed’ species in the world. However, a frequently overlooked approach to controlling this weed is to eat it!
It has an earthy, slightly acidic, lemony flavour and crisp, succulent stems and leaves. Some people liken it to watercress, lettuce or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches as an alternative to lettuce or in addition to it. The leaves can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried.
Purslane may be a common weed, but it is uncommonly good for you.
The particular value of purslane is that it tops the list of plants rich in the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). 100 grams of fresh leaves provide about 350 mg of ALA. There are even trace amounts of another omega-3, EPA. Purslane is also high in vitamins C, E and some of the B-complex and carotenes. Minerals include iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.
Purslane is an excellent source of carotenes, one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. From carotenes our bodies make vitamin A. Both carotenes and vitamin A are powerful antioxidants, and vitamin A is essential for vision.
Also present are two very special antioxidants – the reddish beta-cyanins (as in beetroot) and the yellow beta-xanthins. Both are potent anti-oxidants that have been found to inhibit mutations of genes.
Unfortunately, purslane is very high in oxalic acid, so it is better not to eat large quantities every day. It also contains malic acid, the same acid as in apples.
As with most vegetables, purslane is very low in calories – carbohydrate is just 3%, protein under 2% and fat less than 0.5%, consequently there are just 20 Kcal per 100 gm. Fibre is abundant, and water content is 93%, close to lettuce at 95%.
Because of its high water content, purslane greatly reduces in volume during cooking, so pick more than you think you will need.
So there it is. Purslane is another of those ‘weeds’, such as dandelion, milk thistle, stinging nettle and pennywort, which are actually very nutritious and therapeutic.