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First of all, it’s not the aisle where you can find designer purses for a great discount (although, please tell me where that is!).
It’s a superfood, and it’s also actually a weed! In fact, you probably have some of it growing in the cracks on the sidewalk in your neighborhood, so you may be able to try some for free!
“Michele,” you might ask, “Why the heck would I want to eat a weed that grows in sidewalk cracks?” But hear me out!
The reason you’ve probably never heard of purslane as a superfood before is because it gets an unfairly bad rap, as a garden invading weed. And as long as the USDA calls something a “noxious weed” — even if it’s the best kept secret superfood, starting to crop up at farmer’s markets all over the country — people are going to think of it as a weed, instead of thinking about all the vitamin A and vitamin C it’s chock-full of!
Just one serving of purslane (a few ounces) has about 25% of your daily recommended vitamin A and vitamin C, and it has a bit less but still a significant chunk of daily potassium (14%) and calcium (7%). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (and, why it’s better than iceberg lettuce)! You wouldn’t think of a little green weed as having a lot of healthy fats, but it does have loads of omega-3s, which, if you read this blog post of mine, you know is the good kind of fat.
You want as many omega-3s in your diet as possible. Especially if you are a fan of foods with a high omega-6 content, like corn and soybean oil, or almonds.
That doesn’t mean you should toss out your almonds, though! They’re still very nutritional and healthy!! It just means, the ideal ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is in your diet is 4:1. To prevent plaque from building on your arteries, you want to make sure you’re getting your omega-3s. (Other good sources are fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and fortified dairy.)
So, even though you wouldn’t expect it, tiny little purslane leaves are the best greens to eat to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, it contains a special kind of omega-3 called EPA, which is more active in the body than any other fatty acid. EPA is thought to lower chronic inflammation, which is basically the root of all disease and evil!
Speaking of evil, though, one of the reasons you won’t hear about purslane as much is, it looks similar to a plant called “spurge,” which is poisonous. Do not eat!! I was mostly kidding about uprooting some purslane from any old crack in the concrete. Not a good idea (also, because the area has likely been sprayed by pesticides). Just in case you still want to go on a scavenger hunt, this image should help you tell spurge apart from purslane. As you can see, spurge is not only darker, and contains white sap — but is less juicy and full looking:
What’s purslane full of, besides healthy fats? Antioxidants! Yep, just like berries in dark chocolate, purslane can help cleanse your body of toxic free radicals.
One last thing. You may be thinking, “OK then, I’ll just eat fish and berries, instead of this random weed.”
Well, one of the antioxidants in purslane, “betalains,” was shown in a University of Texas study to be one of the most effective antioxidants for preventing cancer. The only other food that contains betalains is beets. Talk about purslane benefits! And, oh, I almost forgot…purslane not only has six times as much vitamin E as finish, but a special type of vitamin E that protects your cells…more than any other food!
If that long rap sheet of purslane benefits has you convinced, you have lots of options on how to eat it! Just eating the leaves raw/plain is completely safe. But also, it goes great sprinkled on a salad, and it’s even better stuffed in baked fish or sauteed in olive oil…or blended in a smoothie..in homemade salsa…
So, sorry. Purslane has nothing to do with handbags. But I’d rather be in the SUPERFOOD lane, getting all those awesome purslane benefits.