Waterleaf is a vegetable that’s known by many names. Its names include Ceylon spinach, Florida spinach, Surinam Purslane, cariru, and more. Even its scientific name is up for debate. Both Talinum fruticosum and Talinum triangulare are used. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s crunchy, tangy, and nutritious.
Waterleaf can grow to 5 feet by some accounts, and has simple pink flowers. It is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and molybdenum.
While waterleaf is native to the Americas and the Caribbean, it has been cultivated in many places across the world.
Waterleaf is extremely nutritious. However, it is also high in oxalate. Oxalate is a natural chemical found in foods like spinach, rhubarb, beets, sweet potatoes, and waterleaf. For those with kidney disorders, oxalate may contribute to kidney stones.
Up to 50 percent of the soluble (dissolves in water) oxalate can be removed through blanching or cooking. Cooking can also remove lectins from waterleaf. Lectins are generally harmless, but they can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb micronutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc.
Some of the health benefits of waterleaf include:
Waterleaf is an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are essential for healthy bones. In fact, some research has shown that taking calcium without phosphorus does very little for bone strength. The two elements appear to work together. They are especially good for helping women over 60 who are already suffering from osteoporosis.
Maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes. Research indicates that vitamin A can slow the progression of retinal disease, reduce the risk of cataracts, and improve low-light vision. Waterleaf is a good source of vitamin A.
Iron Deficiency and Anemia
Waterleaf is an excellent dietary source of iron. Iron deficiency can range from mild to severe. Those who experience milder symptoms benefit the most from shifting to an iron-rich diet
Research indicates that eating a diet rich in vitamin C reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and slows age-related cognitive decline. Waterleaf is an excellent source of vitamin C, with about 31 mg for every 100 grams of vegetable matter.
It is also a good source of:
Nutrients per Serving
Every 100 grams of waterleaf contains approximately:
The main concern when it comes to eating too much waterleaf stems from its oxalate content. Too much oxalate can be unhealthy for individuals with kidney disease. As such, those individuals should refrain from consuming raw waterleaf. Cooked waterleaf has approximately 50 percent less soluble oxalate than its raw counterpart.
Otherwise, waterleaf is a healthy food that is low in both calories and sugar. Generally, it’s a good idea to try to eat three to four servings of vegetables per day.
How to Prepare Waterleaf
Waterleaf is a fantastic vegetable if you want to be able to grow your own food. While it grows best in tropical climates, it can be cultivated anywhere with a hot, humid growing season. Keeping the plant well-watered and at least partially shaded will accelerate growth.
Soil should be well drained. Standing water is detrimental to the plant. Waterleaf also needs nitrogen to be healthy. If the leaves begin to yellow, it may mean there’s insufficient nitrogen in the soil.
After waterleaf is harvested it can be eaten immediately, dried, or kept in a plastic bag in a refrigerator to maintain freshness. It can be prepared in much the same way as spinach, and is popular for soups, stews, stir fries, and pizza. It can also be enjoyed raw, though it is recommended not to do so in large quantities.
Some popular waterleaf recipes include:
- Gbure Elegusi, a Yoruba dish from Nigeria
- Edikang Ikong soup, an Efiks dish from Nigeria
- Roasted waterleaf with yams, plantains, and/or potatoes
- Stewed waterleaf with chicken, tomatoes, and onion