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Health Benefits Of Malabar Spinach (Basale Leaf): Good For Digestion, Fertility, Heart And More

Malabar spinach is known by many names: poi saag, basale leaves, basale soppu, Mangalore spinach, vine spinach, Ceylon spinach, mayalu and mayalu bhaji. It is scientifically known as Basalla alba and belongs to the family Basellaceae.

Malabar spinach is a green leafy vegetable with many health benefits. It is actually not a true spinach, but a twining climber or climbing vine that can grow up to 10 feet and produce many dark green leaves which are oval-to-heart shaped, glossy and taste like spinach when cooked. It has tender stems which can also be eaten raw like the leaves in salads, however, due to the presence of okra-like sap in leaves, many people prefer eating it boiled, steamed, sauteed, curried or stewed. [1]

The plant is known to have potent antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. In this article, we will discuss several health benefits of Malabar spinach. Take a look.

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Nutritional Profile Of Malabar Spinach

According to USDA, 100 g of cooked Malabar spinach contains 92.5 g of water and 96 kJ of energy. It also contains: [2]

Active Compounds In Malabar Spinach

According to a study, Malabar spinach contains phytochemicals like quercetin, myricetin, protocatechuic acid, kaempferol, caffeic acid, vanillic acid, ferulic acid and gallic acid. The leaves and berries of Malabar spinach contain vital compound betalains which are natural plant pigments, better than anthocyanins. [3]

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Health Benefits Of Malabar Spinach

1. Treats digestive problems

Malabar spinach is a great laxative, soothing agent, astringent and demulcent leafy vegetable. It can help bulk the stomach and treat constipation, soothe the lining of the stomach, promote good digestion, reduce irritation, eases flatulence and thus, treats many digestive problems all at once. The tender stem of Malabar contains gelatinous or mucilaginous substances that also helps with digestive issues such as diarrhoea and maintains good gastrointestinal health.

2. Strengthens bone and teeth

Malabar spinach is among the richest source of silicon, a vital mineral that is known to promote good bone and tooth health and keeps them clean, strong and healthy. It contains around 3271 ppm of silicon respectively. Adding this leafy veggie to the diet can fill the maximum daily requirement of silicon and maintain good oral health. [4]

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3. Keeps the body hydrated

Cooked Malabar spinach (100 g) contains 92.5 g of water, which is an excellent amount to keep the body hydrated for long and prevent dehydration. Also, the spinach is rich in Chlorine, a very essential element in the body that joins with potassium and sodium ions and helps in maintaining the body's electrolytes. This helps regulate the fluid balance in the body and circulation of ions and keep the body hydrated. [4]

4. Improves fertility and reproductive health

Vine spinach is a great aphrodisiac that helps arouse sexual desire, sexual pleasure and sexual performance by boosting the libido. In women, it helps treat menstrual irregularity and improve their fertility, while in men, Malabar leaves increase semen and improve sperm health. The spinach also stimulates the production of breast milk and helps provide an abundance of nutrition during pregnancy. [5]

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5. Treats skin-related conditions

The potent antioxidants in poi saag are betalains, quercetin and kaempferol that promote good skin health by reducing damage caused by harmful free radicals. Studies say that the Malabar spinach paste when applied may help treat boils, burns, acne, inflammation on the skin, bruises, wounds and pimples. [6]

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6. Good for heart

Ceylon spinach is packed in antioxidant compounds such as niacin, ascorbic acid and total tocopherols, along with vital minerals like iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, sodium and copper that helps maintain good heart health. Also, the presence of unsaturated fatty acids in the Malabar spinach has lubricating and softening properties that help lower cholesterol and prevents the risk of hypertension and stroke. [6]

7. Treats anaemia

Malabar leaves have higher levels of iron that may help provide required dietary amounts of this vital nutrient to people of all groups. Another vital nutrient in vine spinach is cobalt that acts as a cofactor of enzymes which are associated with the metabolism of amino acids, making of DNA and production of red blood cells. This helps prevent the risk of anaemia, especially pernicious anaemia.

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8. Improves vision

Nutrients like vitamin A, lutein, ascorbic acid and fatty acids are known to improve vision and prevent the occurrence of ocular diseases and infections. Malabar spinach is a rich source of all the aforementioned nutrients and may help improve vision by preventing nerve damage due to oxidative stress, improving healthy blood supply to the eyes and reducing age-related eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma. [7]

9. May have chemopreventive property

Malabar spinach contains a rich amount of kaempferol, a flavonoid which is known to have chemopreventive properties. Apart from that, betalains in the spinach also have potent anti-cancer properties and may help inhibit the growth of tumour cells of the lung, colon, stomach, breast and central nervous system. [8] Calcium in vine spinach also helps protect against breast and colon cancer.

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10. Treats headache

Some Ayurvedic-based studies have mentioned that when the thick viscid liquid from the Malabar spinach is applied on the forehead, it can help provide a calming effect and treat habitual headaches effectively. The soothing and astringent properties of the leaves may also help treat headaches and provide a good sleep. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich Malabar spinach may prevent the risk of degenerative diseases like dementia.

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Other Benefits Of Malabar Spinach

  • Raw leaves are chewed for mouth ulcers
  • The juice or decoction may help in weight loss.
  • The root decoction may treat vomiting.
  • The juice extracted from the fresh leaves may help clear phlegm from the respiratory passage.
  • The paste applied on the cracked heels can help treat them.
  • May treat piles problems.
  • The flowers may act as an antidote for poisons.
  • Leaf juice can be helpful for urinary diseases.
  • Malabar spinach oils may help manage diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
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Malabar Spinach Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • Around 20-22 Malabar spinach leaves, washed and cleaned.
  • Your choice of two or more veggies like sweet potato, capsicum, green beans, coriander leaves and carrot, moderately chopped.
  • One onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped.
  • Two teaspoons of lemon juice
  • Pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Two teaspoons of vegetable oil.
  • Method

    • In a pressure cooker, add Malabar leaves and all your choice of chopped vegetables and cook them.
    • When boiled, let them cool and smash them to form a thick semi-liquid mixture.
    • If you desire your soup to contain some chewable vegetables, you can smash them just a bit and leave the rest.
    • In a frying pan, heat the oil and add chopped garlic and onion.
    • Saute them until light brown.
    • Now add the smashed vegetables and saute them for 3-4 minutes.
    • When fried, add around two cups of water and let them boil for a while.
    • Pour in a bowl, add lemon juice and sprinkle pepper powder and salt.
    • Serve hot.
    • To Conclude

      Malabar spinach makes for a good ornamental plant that can easily be grown in a pot in the garden. Its heart-shaped, dark green, glossy leaves enhance the look of the area in which it is grown. Add this healthy leafy vegetable to your diet and get maximum benefits. However, avoid its overconsumption.

What is the difference between spinach and Malabar spinach?

Malabar spinach is not a spinach but a climber vine with dark green and glossy leaves. When cooked, it tastes just like spinach. On the other hand, spinach has smooth but crinkly leaves. Both also belong to different families.

Is Malabar spinach good for blood pressure?

Yes, Malabar spinach contains an abundance of heart-healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium that helps maintain a good supply of blood in the heart, reduces cholesterol levels and thus, prevents the risk of blood pressure.

Is Malabar spinach good for diabetes?

Malabar spinach is low in calories and rich in unsaturated fatty acids. Upon consumption, it may help prevent the sudden rise of glucose levels and thus, manage diabetes and also prevent its risk.