Purslane Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Purslane

Purslane leaves
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Purslane is a green succulent plant that is found all over the world, most widely recognized as a weed. Purslane grows well in a variety of habitats including orchards, vineyards, crop fields, gardens, and even along roadsides. However in Asia and the Mediterranean regions, it is also consumed as a popular food and has a long history of use for medicinal purposes.  

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (43g) of purslane.

  • Calories: 9
  • Fat: 0.15g
  • Sodium: 19mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.5g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 1g

Carbs in Purslane

​Purslane is very low in calories and carbohydrates, providing 1.5g per cup of raw greens. There is no information available regarding its fiber or sugar content however these would be less than 1 since the total carbohydrate content is so low.

Fats in Purslane

​According to the USDA nutrient database, purslane only contains 0.15g fat per cup (0.36g per 100g) and does not provide any further information about its fatty acid content. However numerous studies have indicated that purslane is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids of any other green vegetable, containing plant-based alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and even a small amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which is typically only found in seafood and fortified products. Purslane has been tested to contain an omega-3 content of 4 mg/g of fresh weight, far more than other leafy greens such as spinach which only contains 0.9mg/g but still significantly less than other plant-based foods considered to be excellent food sources of omega-3s such as walnuts which contain 89mg ALA/g. As a frame of reference, the recommended daily intake of ALA for adults is 1100mg for males and 1600mg for women so while one would need to consume an awful lot of purslane to come even close to the daily recommendation, it can be a great addition to the diet along with other sources. 

What is unique about purslane as a green leafy vegetable is that it also contains a very small amount of EPA (0.01mg/g fresh weight or 0.43g per cup), which is much better absorbed by the body than ALA and not typically found in plant-based foods.

Protein in Purslane

​Because purslane is a leafy green and made primarily of water, it is generally not high in calories and macronutrients but does contain some protein. 1 cup (43g) of purslane provide just under 1g of protein (.87g to be exact).

Micronutrients in Purslane

​Purslane is surprisingly nutrient dense, meaning it contains a lot of micronutrients in a small portion and for a very low number of calories. Even in 1 cup, which is less than 10 calories, it provides high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Potassium, and Iron along with smaller but still significant amounts of Manganese, Calcium, Selenium and B-vitamins.

In addition to antioxidant benefits from the Vitamin A and Vitamin C, purslane contains other beneficial compounds that also act as antioxidants such as glutathione, melatonin and other flavonoids.

Health Benefits

Purslane’s medicinal uses date back thousands of years and has been used to alleviate symptoms for a variety of ailments in Ancient Roman times and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it was referred to as the “vegetable for long life”. Purslane has been used for an extensive variety of ailments including burns, headache, GI disorders, hypotension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and eczema.  In holistic medicine, purslane compounds are consumed in various forms: as a fresh or dried herb, in powdered seeds, as an extract and can also be found in pill form as a supplement.

Clinical studies are limited but have been done to examine purslane's role in improving neurological disorders, diabetes, cancer, ulcers, microbial infections, liver disease, and as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Neurological Disorders

An animal study demonstrated the potential neuroprotective role of purslane by testing purslane juice, suggesting possible prophylactic potential against developing brain damage and Parkinson's disease by consuming purslane extract however more research is needed and it is not clear if this would have the same effect in humans.

Diabetes

There is some promising research related to the benefits of purslane on individuals with diabetes. In a very small clinical trial, purslane seeds were given to 30 individuals with Type 2 Diabetes and after 8 weeks, there were improvements in insulin and triglyceride levels as well as liver function tests. In a randomized placebo-controlled study with a larger sample size, there was a statistically significant improvement in average glucose levels in those who received a dosage of purslane extract (the equivalent to 15g of fresh purslane). The American Diabetes Association encourages an increased intake in foods (not supplements) that contain ALA omega-3 fatty acids based on potential beneficial effects on health. Because purslane is high in ALA, it may be beneficial for this population and does not contain any known adverse effects.

Other

Other lab studies demonstrate some benefits of purslane as an antifungal and antiviral and some protective effects on the liver. Experiments in mice showed that topical application of fresh purslane extract helps with wound healing similar to the common use of aloe vera. Lastly, experiments in mice also showed some improvement in gastric ulcers with purslane leaf extracts however more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Common Questions

​Where can I find purslane?

Unfortunately, although purslane is very easy to grow, it is not commonly available in retail grocery stores. Purslane can often be found in seasonal farmer's markets in the Spring and early Fall.  It also doesn't hurt to look in your yard (if you have one) since many people may not recognize purslane as an edible plant. Of course if you find something that resembles purslane, make sure you are 100% certain that it is purslane before consuming it for food safety.  Lastly, purslane seeds are typically available for purchase at garden centers or online if you are interested in growing it yourself. 

When is purslane in season?

Purslane is available in the Spring through early Fall so generally April - November.

Can I eat purslane raw? 

Yes absolutely! As described below in Recipes and Preparation Tips, it is excellent eaten both raw and cooked.

What is the shelf-life of purslane and how should it be stored?

Purslane is best kept refrigerated and should last about 3-4 days before it starts to wilt.

Is there any nutritional difference between the purslane stems and purslane leaves?

Testing indicates that Purslane stems contained higher amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) compared to the leaves whereas the alpha-linolenic (ALA) omega-3 fatty acid was higher in the leaves compared to the stem. This is relevant because EPA is better absorbed by the body than ALA, so don't forget to eat the stems along with the leaves for its maximum benefit.

How much purslane do I need to consume to get the beneficial effects?
This depends on what benefits you are looking for - Traditional Chinese Medicine dosages range from 10-30g fresh herb/day which is less than 1 cup however amounts will differ if taken dried or as an extract or powdered seed. However, generally, it is best to consume foods in their whole form rather than highly processed and turned into an extract or supplement so bottom line, adding purslane to your diet as another leafy green in any amount is a good thing.  More information on dosing done in studies can be found here.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

Purslane is delicious on its own and best simply prepared either raw or gently cooked. Purslane has a mild citrus flavor with a refreshing crisp yet juicy texture that complements many other ingredients and preparations.

To eat raw, trim off any extra thick or woody stems but keep the tender ones to get those EPA omega-3 benefits. You may also see little tiny black seeds by the leaves which are perfectly edible. For a simple salad, lightly dress the purslane with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper plus some raw garlic if you want extra bite; enjoy on its own or mixed into another salad - radish and cucumber both pair especially well or it is a great addition to a Greek or Italian-style panzanella salad. Want to get more creative? Turn it into pesto! Simply substitute purslane for basil and for even more omega-3s, use walnuts in place of pine nuts.

To prepare purslane cooked, steam or sauté the greens and serve as a side dish or incorporate into a dish as you would do with  wilted spinach or arugula.

To get the most out of purslane’s nutritional content it is best to mix it up - eat it both raw and cooked. The vitamin C content will be best preserved eaten in its raw form but the fat-soluble Vitamin A it contains would be best absorbed when prepared cooked with a little bit of fat such as sautéed with some olive oil.

Allergies and Interactions

​Purslane contains oxalic acid (AKA oxalates), a naturally occurring substance found in many leafy greens and some other fruits and vegetables.  For comparison, purslane contains about 30% more oxalic acid than spinach which is considered a high oxalate food. For most individuals this is not a cause for concern however anyone with a history of oxalate urinary tract stones may want to avoid purslane, especially in large quantities.

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