Myriad Health Perks Of Malabar Spinach
Image Credit: Malabar Spinach, Image Credit: Bazaarkgp

Poi saaga, pui saak or saag, basale leaves, Mangalore spinach, mayalu, mayalu bhaji and Ceylon spinach are just a few of the various names for Malabar spinach. It is a member of the Basellaceae family and is known by the scientific name Basalla alba. Globally, many regions use this green leafy vegetable in various ways to prepare culinary delicacies. The preparation methods vary from place to place. For example, in the Eastern Indian states like Odisha and West Bengal, pui saag or poi saaga is mixed with other vegetables and fish and prawns to dish out native delicacies. These greens have a distinct earthy flavour which retains its character even post cooking. 

Though it’s called spinach, it isn’t one. In fact, it’s a climbing vine that may reach a height of 10 feet. This twinning climber produces dark green, lustrous, round, oval to heart-shaped leaves, post-cooking they taste like spinach. When plucked young, the stems are tender and are edible. As this leafy vegetable has an overall slimy nature just like the bhindi or okra, people prefer to eat it stewed, boiled, sauteed, steamed or thoroughly cooked, instead of raw.  Whatever way one consumes it, the Malabar Spinach is loaded with health benefits. 

Phytochemicals and healthy compounds

In a study, phytochemicals like quercetin, protocatechuic acid, ferulic acid, myricetin, caffeic acid, and vanillic acid were found in Malabar spinach. There are also essential betalains, which are superior to anthocyanins as natural plant pigments, in both its leaves and berries.

An aid to treat digestive disorders

Poi saag can be your best natural solution for any kind of digestive ailment. It is a powerful laxative, astringent, and demulcent green vegetable. It can ease flatulence, treat constipation, calm the stomach lining, encourage healthy digestion, lessen inflammation, apart from curing several other digestive issues. Likewise, the tender stem of this leafy vegetable has gelatinous or mucilaginous components that support good gastrointestinal health. These agents also aid in treating digestive disorders including diarrhoea.

Pui saak, Image Credit:

To keep you hydrated

100 grammes of cooked Malabar spinach include 92.5 grammes of water, which is a considerable amount to keep the body hydrated and minimise dehydration. Additionally, poi saag contains a lot of chlorine, a substance that works with sodium and potassium particles to maintain the body's electrolytes. This aids in maintaining the body's fluid balance.

Maintains cardiac health 

Pui saak is rich in essential minerals like iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, sodium, and copper that support heart health. One also gets antioxidants like ascorbic acid, niacin, and total tocopherols. Its unsaturated fatty acid content has greasing and softening qualities that reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of hypertension and cardiac stroke.

Pui saag with kumro, Image Credit:

Enhances eye health

Vitamin A, lutein, ascorbic acid, and fatty acids are among the nutrients that are believed to enhance vision and protect the eyes from disease and infection. This green vine is a rich source of all these nutrients. Thus, it may aid with vision improvement by minimising oxidative stress-related nerve damage, enhancing healthy blood flow to the eyes, and lowering age-related eye conditions including cataracts and glaucoma. According to reports, pui shak is regarded as a rich source of vitamin A in South East Asian nations. The poor population avoids vitamin A deficiency by regularly eating this green powerhouse.

Fun Facts

  • The entire plant of Malabar Spinach is edible
  • It is ideally grown in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin American nations
  • The origin of it belongs to the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia 
  • Later it spread to China, Brazil, Colombia, Belize, Africa, the West Indies, and French Polynesia and used in cooking and medicinal herb.
  • Chinese medicine frequently employs Basella Alba for its ability to reduce fever or remove poison and toxins.