Purslane is best known as a weed.
However, it is also an edible and highly nutritious vegetable.
In fact, purslane is loaded with all sorts of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids.
This article takes a detailed look at purslane and its health effects.
What is Purslane?
Purslane is a green, leafy vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked.
It is known scientifically as Portulaca oleracea, and is also called pigweed, little hogweed, fatweed and pusley.
This succulent plant contains about 93% water. It has red stems and small, green leaves. Purslane has a slightly sour or salty taste, similar to spinach and watercress.
It can be used in many of the same ways as spinach and lettuce, such as in salads or sandwiches.
This is what purslane looks like:
Purslane grows in many parts of the world, in a wide range of environments.
It is also high in many nutrients. A 100 gram (3.5 oz) portion contains (5):
- Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 26% of the DV.
- Vitamin C: 35% of the DV.
- Magnesium: 17% of the DV.
- Manganese: 15% of the DV.
- Potassium: 14% of the DV.
- Iron: 11% of the DV.
- Calcium: 7% of the RDI.
- It also contains small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folate, copper and phosphorus.
You get all of these nutrients with only 16 calories! This makes purslane one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, calorie for calorie.
Bottom Line: Purslane is a a weed that grows in many parts of the world. It is also a highly nutritious vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Purslane is High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that the body cannot produce.
Therefore, we must get them from the diet.
While purslane is low in total fat, a large portion of the fat it does contain is in the form of omega-3 fatty acids.
In fact, it contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA and EPA. ALA is found in many plants, but EPA is found mostly in animal products (like fatty fish) and algae.
Interestingly, purslane also contains trace amounts of EPA. This omega-3 fatty acid is more active in the body than ALA, and is generally not found in plants that grow on land (6).
Bottom Line: Purslane is much higher in omega-3 fatty acids than other greens. It contains high amounts of ALA, but also trace amounts of EPA, a more biologically active form of omega-3.
Purslane is Loaded with Antioxidants
Purslane is rich in various antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds:
- Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is essential for the maintenance of skin, muscles and bone (7).
- Vitamin E: Purslane contains high levels of a form of vitamin E called alpha-tocopherol. It may protect cell membranes from damage (7, 8).
- Vitamin A: Purslane contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body turns into vitamin A. Vitamin A is best known for its role in eye health (7).
- Glutathione: This important antioxidant may protect cells from damage (7, 9).
- Melatonin: Purslane also contains melatonin, a hormone that can help you fall asleep. It also has several other benefits (10).
- Betalain: Purslane synthesizes betalains, antioxidants that have been shown to protect low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles from damage (11, 12, 13).
One study in obese teenagers reported that purslane seeds reduced LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease (14).
The researchers attributed these effect to the antioxidants and plant compounds in purslane seeds.
Bottom Line: Purslane is very high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds, which may have various health benefits.
Purslane is High in Important Minerals
Purslane is also high in several important minerals (5).
It is a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. High potassium intake has been linked to a lower risk of stroke, and may also reduce the risk of heart disease (15).
Purslane is also a great source of magnesium, an incredibly important nutrient involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium may protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes (16, 17).
Purslane also contains some calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium is important for bone health (18).
Phosphorus and iron are also found in purslane, in lower amounts.
Older, more mature purslane plants may contain higher amounts of minerals than younger plants (19).
Bottom Line: Several important minerals are found in purslane, including potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Purslane Also Contains Oxalates
Purslane grown in the shade may have higher levels of oxalates, compared to plants readily exposed to sunlight (20).
Bottom Line: Purslane contains oxalates, which can reduce the absorption of some minerals and contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
Take Home Message
Despite being seen as a weed in some cultures, purslane is a highly nutritious, leafy green vegetable.
It is loaded with antioxidants, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial plant compounds.
Calorie for calorie, purslane is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth.