Purslane Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

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. In Asia and Mediterranean regions, it is consumed as a food and has a long history of use for medicinal purposes.

Purslane can be a healthy addition to your diet if you can find it. The leafy green is not commonly found in stores, but it is a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and can provide certain health benefits related to its antioxidant capacity.

Purslane Nutrition Facts

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

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

Carbs

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

The glycemic load of a single 1-cup serving of purslane is estimated to be 1. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when estimating a food's impact on blood sugar. Foods with a glycemic load of less than 10 are considered low glycemic foods.

Fats

​According to the USDA nutrient database, purslane only contains 0.15g fat per cup. The database does not provide any further information about its fatty acid content.

However, studies have indicated that purslane is a rich plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—an omega-3 fatty acid essential for human nutrition. Purslane also provides a small amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which is typically only found in seafood and fortified products. According to the National Institutes of Health, getting more EPA and DHA from foods or supplements can help to lower triglyceride levels.

Protein

Purslane contains a small amount of protein. One cup (43g) of purslane provides just under 1g of protein (0.87g).

Vitamins and Minerals

​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, purslane provides 11% of the daily value for vitamin A and 15% for vitamin C. You'll benefit from 29mg of magnesium, 212 mg of potassium, and 0.9mg of iron.

There is also a small amount of manganese, calcium, selenium, and B-vitamins in a one-cup serving.

Health Benefits

Purslane’s medicinal uses date back thousands of years. The leafy green 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.

So far, there is not enough evidence to support the use of purslane for most of these benefits. But studies are ongoing.

Prevents Cell Damage and Fights Disease

Purslane provides vitamins that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may prevent or delay some types of cell damage that can occur in the body. Health experts advise that we consume foods (such as fruits and vegetables) that contain antioxidants to potentially help the body fight against disease.

Purslane is known to provide higher amounts of alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, and beta-carotene than spinach leaves. And it has also been shown to contain other beneficial compounds that also act as antioxidants such as glutathione, melatonin, and other flavonoids.

Aids Diabetes Management

There is some promising research related to the benefits of purslane for people with diabetes.

In a small clinical trial, 24 people with type 2 diabetes were given a daily serving of purslane seeds (10g) in a one-cup serving of low-fat yogurt for five weeks. A control group of the same size was given the yogurt only. After a two-week wash-out period, the two groups swapped for an additional five weeks. Researchers found that after consuming purslane seeds, study participants showed a decrease in weight, body mass index, and other metrics.

The researchers concluded that people with type 2 diabetes might improve their anthropometric measures, serum triglyceride levels, and blood pressure by consuming the seeds. But they added that further studies are required.

Other studies have shown similar results, although most studies so far have been limited in scope. Researchers of one trial concluded that purslane seeds may be helpful in the management of type 2 diabetes possibly due to its contents of polyunsaturated fatty acids, flavonoids, and polysaccharides.

The American Diabetes Association encourages people to include plant-based foods are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like purslane.

Prevents Neurological Disorders

An animal study demonstrated that purslane juice may have preventative potential against developing brain damage and Parkinson's disease. However, more research is needed and it is not clear if this would have the same effect in humans.

Other Benefits

Other limited lab studies demonstrate some benefits of purslane as an antifungal and antiviral and some protective effects on the liver. Researchers are also investigating whether or not it can provide benefits as an analgesic, antibacterial, skeletal muscle-relaxant, wound-healing, anti-inflammatory treatment. However, more research is needed.

Allergies and Adverse Effects

There are no published reports of purslane allergies or adverse effects from purslane consumption.

However, purslane contains oxalic acid (also called 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 people, high oxalate content is not a cause for concern but anyone with a history of oxalate urinary tract stones may want to avoid purslane, especially in large quantities.

When It's Best

Unfortunately, although purslane is very easy to grow, it is not commonly available in retail grocery stores. However, 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 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. 

Storage and Food Safety

Fresh purslane is best kept refrigerated and should last about 3–4 days before it starts to wilt. To keep it fresh, wrap the unwashed greens in a paper towel or a plastic bag and store in the crisper section of the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it.

Purslane doesn't freeze well because the texture changes, but some cooks will steam it slightly, then pack in bags to freeze for later use in soups. Some cooks and gardeners also pickle purslane to preserve the plant's flavor for extended periods.

How to Prepare

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 and it is a great addition to a Greek or Italian-style Panzanella salad. You can also 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 and 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 olive oil.

Healthy Purslane Recipes to Try

Try any of these salad recipes and add purslane with—or instead of—spinach.

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Article Sources
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