Malabar spinach is an edible perennial vine. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is also known by the common names of Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, vine spinach, and climbing spinach, is a heat-tolerant green with large, succulent leaves that are flavorful both raw and cooked. Its botanical name is Basella alba which belongs to Basellaceae family.
This fast-growing plant is a soft-stemmed, twining vine that can grow up to 10 feet long as an annual (longer as a perennial) but generally remains smaller in most gardens. The dark green, glossy, oval to heart-shaped leaves are thick and semi-succulent with a mucilaginous texture.
The leaves can be eaten throughout the season, but once plants start flowering, the leaves become bitter. The inconspicuous white or pink elongated, globular, fleshy flowers are produced in short spikes in the leaf axils.The flowers are followed by ornamental, four-parted deep-purple to black berries (drupes). The tasteless red-purple juice of the fresh berries can stain and is used as a dye or food colorant in Asia.
Nutritional Value –
The edible leaves are 93% water, 3% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and contain negligible fat. In a 100 gram reference amount, the leaves supply 19 calories of food energy, and are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value) of vitamins A and C, folate, and manganese, with moderate levels of B vitamins and several dietary minerals.
Leaves, roots and stem are the parts used of Malabar Spinach.
Health Benefits –
• Weight loss
Malabar spinach is very low in calories and fats (100 grams of raw leaves provide just 19 calories) thus it could help for loosing weight.
• Smooth digestion
Its mucilaginous leaves facilitate smooth digestion. Fibre diet brings a reduction in cholesterol absorption, and help prevent bowel problems.
• Promotes Good eyesight
Basella leaves and stem are incredibly rich sources of vitamin A. Vitamin-A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and essential for good eyesight.
• Cancer prevention
Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids has been known to offer protection from the lung and oral cavity cancers.
• Resistance against infections
Basella has more vitamin C content than Spinach. Vitamin-C is a powerful antioxidant, which helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
• Prevents anaemia
Like in spinach, Basella too is an excellent source of iron. Iron is an essential trace element required by the human body for red blood cell (RBC’s) production.
• DNA production and growth
It also has good amounts of many B-complex vitamins such as folate, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), and riboflavin. This vitamin is one of the essential compounds for DNA production and growth.
• Prevents defects during pregnancy
Moreover, folate deficiency during very early stages of pregnancy might results in the neural tube defects in the newborn baby. Anticipating and pregnant women are, therefore, advised to include a lot of fresh greens in their diet to help prevent neural tube defects in the offspring.
• Maintains blood pressure
Basella leaves are good sources of minerals like potassium , manganese, calcium, magnesium, and copper. Potassium is an important part of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper used by the human body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
• Anti-ageing Benefits
Additionally, the free radicals in your body damage your skin, thereby causing premature ageing. These free radicals are destroyed by the antioxidants in Basella. So, when you eat spinach regularly, you will keep up your skin and slow down age-related degeneration, making your skin look younger and rejuvenated.
• Relaxes the Body
Also, it has tremendous amounts of zinc and magnesium. This enables you to sleep better at night, making way for more effective healing. Magnesium helps in replenishing your lost energy within seconds. A good quality sleep rests your tired eyes, thus relaxing your body.
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