Sorrel Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Sorrel, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Sorrel is a highly nutritious leafy green vegetable that can be part of a healthy, balanced diet and enjoyed cooked or raw. But before you add sorrel to your meals it's important to understand the difference between two of the more popular varieties.

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a perennial herb that is part of the Polygonaceae or buckwheat family and grows all over the world, including in North America. This leafy green is commonly added to salads and is sometimes also called "spinach dock," "garden sorrel," or "common sorrel."

Sheep's sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is also a perennial herb and a member of the Polygonaceae family. Also called "red sorrel," "sour weed," or "field sorrel," this herb can be used in foods including soup, though it is commonly used for medicinal purposes. However, some of the health claims for using the herb are controversial and unsubstantiated by scientific research.

Learn more about the different types of sorrel and its health benefits, plus how to get more of the fresh leafy green variety into your diet.

Nutrition Facts

The USDA provides the following nutrition information for 1 cup (133 grams) of fresh, chopped sorrel (raw "dock").

  • Calories: 29
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 5g
  • Carbohydrates: 4g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Vitamin A: 5,320 IU

Carbs

A cup of sorrel provides 4.26 grams of carbohydrate, almost all of which is fiber, making it a very filling and satiating vegetable. Leafy greens like sorrel can be a nutritious staple on low-carbohydrate diets because they're low in calories and high in fiber.

Protein

A serving of fresh sorrel is a surprisingly good source of protein with 3 grams per 1-cup serving.

Fat

Sorrel is very low in fat at just under 1 gram per serving.

Vitamin and Minerals

Vitamins in a cup of fresh sorrel include vitamin A (5,320 IU or 106% of your daily recommended intake), vitamin C (64mg or 106% of your daily recommended intake), and folate (about 4% of your recommended daily intake). You'll also get small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.

The minerals found in sorrel include calcium (59mg), iron (3.2mg), magnesium (137mg) phosphorus (84mg), potassium (519mg), manganese (0.5mg), and small amounts of sodium, zinc, copper, and other essential nutrients.

Health Benefits

Fresh sorrel can be a healthy addition to any balanced diet, and its low-carb, low-calorie content can appeal to those adhering to restrictive diets and weight loss plans. Those on a gluten-free diet can safely consume sorrel, and those who follow low-carb eating plans such as keto may benefit from adding sorrel to their diet.

Sorrel is a nutritional powerhouse and provides significant amounts of important micronutrients. It may also offer certain health benefits, but be sure to check with your doctor first if you have a medical condition.

Boosts Immunity

Sorrel is a great source of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to keep your immune system functioning properly. You'll also get a boost of vitamin C, an important antioxidant that helps your body to ward off infection.

Supports Reproductive Health

Research shows that a diet rich in vitamin A may also improve reproductive health.

Maintains Healthy Eyesight and Skin

Vitamin A helps maintain vision and also promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Promotes Bowel Regularity and Weight Loss

A 1-cup serving of fresh sorrel also provides about 4 grams of fiber, which helps maintain regular bowel movements. Dietary fiber also helps to regulate cholesterol levels and blood sugar. In addition, fiber-rich foods are satiating to keep you fuller longer, which can lead to weight loss and/or promote weight management.

Protects Against Chronic Diseases

A diet rich in fiber may help to protect against certain health conditions including cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

May Help Treat Cancer and Other Diseases

Sheep's sorrel (not garden sorrel) is a primary ingredient in Essiac tea, a propriety blend of herbal tea that was rumored to cure breast cancer and prevent other diseases including HIV/AIDS and diabetes. However, there is no strong evidence to support any claims about sheep's sorrel medicinal benefits. Therefore, most health experts would not recommend using sheep's sorrel to help treat chronic diseases.

Proponents of sheep's sorrel may use the herb to treat fluid retention, infections, and chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, but there is insufficient evidence to support any of these benefits. Some health experts, including the National Cancer Institute, have also raised concerns about its potential to promote tumor growth when used as an herbal tea.

Allergies

Sorrel does not appear to be a major allergen. While there are no common allergic reactions to sorrel, some people may still experience a reaction. Common food allergy symptoms include hives, vomiting, teary eyes, sneezing, and trouble breathing. If you suspect you have a sorrel allergy, see your doctor for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

When consumed in moderation (in amounts typically found in food), sorrel is considered to be safe. But sorrel does contain a high amount of oxalic acid, which means that it may be harmful to consume in large amounts due to the possibility of oxalate poisoning. Adverse effects may include damage to the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract.

Sorrel in its dried herb form may be unsafe for children and women who are pregnant or nursing.

Varieties

Garden sorrel (also known as dock), is a fresh, leafy green. You'll find garden sorrel (and many other sorrel varieties) in the produce section of most grocery stores. It can be used in cooking or to make tea, juice, or jellies.

Sheep's sorrel is a flowering plant available as an herb, tonic, or tea at many naturopathic markets and specialty grocery stores or online.

When It's Best

Fresh sorrel is in season in late spring until mid-summer, usually May to June. Many cooks say that the best sorrel arrives in early spring when the herb is less bitter. Look for bright green leaves with few or no brown spots.

Storage and Food Safety

When you get it home, wrap fresh sorrel loosely in a paper towel, place it in a plastic bag, and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Sorrel usually stays fresh for one to two weeks.

Like most fresh herbs, sorrel can be frozen, although the texture may change when you freeze it. There are a couple of different freezing methods. You can chop the herb and place it into the sections of an ice cube tray, then fill it with water to freeze. Or you can place it in a baggie and remove the extra air so that it is vacuum sealed before placing it in the freezer.

How to Prepare

Sorrel has a tangy, acidic taste that some compare to lemon zest. The arrow-shaped vegetable adds a complex layer of flavor to green salads, but it can also be used in soups, sauces, and stews.

The tangy acidity of sorrel is often used with fatty dishes such as cheese or egg dishes. You can top fatty fishes (like salmon, for example) with butter and chopped sorrel. You might also add the herb to a cheese tray with Marcona almonds.

Making tea is also a popular use of the herb. However, most sorrel tea recipes call for dried Jamaican sorrel, also known as roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), which is not the same as the sorrel plant.

Because the taste of sorrel is commonly described as tangy and acidic, lemon zest may be a suitable sorrel substitute in some recipes.

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Sheep sorrel. About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products. 2014.

  • Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Sorrel Full Monograph. 2018.