Health benefits of Egyptian spinach

Know in one minute about Egyptian spinach

  • Egyptian spinach is a tasty, erect, unbranched, easy, and fast-growing herb.
  • This plant leaf is rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, ascorbic acid, and carotene. Good source of protein, folate, magnesium, vitamins, and dietary fiber.
  • Propagation done by seeds needs full sun, plenty of water, and well-drained soil for best growth.
  • This plant acts as natural antioxidants that prevent and treat age-related diseases.
  • It helps to treat diabetes, obesity, inflammation, pain, fever, ulcer, and heart disease.
  • The leaves help to reduce arsenic and lead toxicity and cholesterol levels as well as infection.
  • Leaves this plant is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (more than 49 %) than any other vegetable.

Introduction

Egyptian spinach (Corchorus olitorius L.; family Tiliaceae) is an annual and popular vegetable plant. Its leaves and roots are very nutritious and known to have medicinal properties as well. Egyptian spinach also better known as Molokhia and Jute is a fiber crop. 

Common name

It is commonly known as Jew mallow or jute mallow in English and known as Molokheiya in Arabic. It is also called moroheiya in Japan and Senaung betina in the Malay language. The other name of this plant is long-fruited jute, bush okra, tossa jute, ewedu, and nalta jute.

Geographical distribution

This plant originated in Egypt but has since spread in Sudan, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Thailand, India, and Nepal. It is also widespread in tropical Africa, South America, Australia, and some parts of Europe.

Botanical description- 

It is erect, unbranched, or with only a few side branches of herbs.

Height and stem

This plant can grow up to 150 cm (1.5 m), with hairless stems. The stem is green with a faint red-brownish hue and little woody on ground level.

Leaves

The leaf, which is the edible part, is mucilaginous like okra. The leaves are ovate, alternate, finely serrated or lobed margin, are 6 to 10 cm long and 2 to 4 cm wide.

Flowers

The flowers are produced on the end of a short stem. They are genderless and pollinated by insects. These flowers are small and pale yellow, with five petals and yellow stamina.

Fruits

The fruit is spindle-shaped with a multi-seeded capsule.  The colors of the fruit may vary from greyish-blue to green or brownish-black.

Seed

Egyptian spinach contains 125 to 200 seeds per fruit and black (1)

Nutritional value of Egyptian spinach

Egyptian spinach is an excellent source of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, ascorbic acid, and carotene. Compared to spinach this plant has a higher nutritional value.  This plant is a better source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, magnesium, vitamin A, C, E, and dietary fiber (2).

One serving or 100 g of fresh Egyptian spinach leaves contains about alpha-linolenic acid (62.14 mg) and ascorbic acid (77.42 mg). It also contains 14.89 mg of alpha-tocopherol, 5.44 mg of beta-carotene, 12.52 mg of glutathione, and 38 mg of phenols. These nutrients and minerals significantly contribute to human health (3).

How to grow 

Egyptian spinach grows fast, easily, and harvests again and again throughout the growing season. This plant is self-pollinating and propagated by seed. This plant can grow well in the summer; seeds can be sown in the spring after frost over. 

Sow the seeds 2 to 3 inches apart with the covering of soil and water moderately. Germination of the seeds starts in two to three days.  Reaching a height of 5-8 feet in the ground it can be harvested about 60 days after planting (4)

This plant can be grown on all soil types like light (sandy), medium (loamy), and heavy (clay soils) but need moist.

Egyptian spinach needs full sun (cannot tolerate shady environments) and plenty of water. Also, prefer fertilizer (organic compost or nitrogen) to obtain the best growth (5).

Health benefits of Egyptian spinach

Traditionally, its leaves are used in the treatment of aches, pain, fever, chronic cystitis, and tumors.

Moreover, it is an ingredient in facial creams, lotions, hair tonic, and hand creams.  It also has diuretic, antipyretic, analgesic, and antimicrobial activity, let’s look at some of these properties (6).

1. Prevent gut inflammation and obesity

Egyptian Spinach contains polysaccharides (rhamnogalacturonan) and polyphenols that may be responsible to modulate gut microbiota (7).

This plant helps to increase the number of good bacteria (Lactobacillus) and decrease the bad bacteria (Desulfovibrio) in the gut. It also enhances energy expenditure, inhibits fat accumulation and inflammation in the colon, helping to prevent obesity (8).

2. Treat cancer

 Egyptian Spinach contains a phenolic compound that helps to inhibit the growth of human cancer cells and induce apoptosis (9). Moreover, this plant also contains a compound known as trans-3-acrylic anhydride related to curcumin which has anti-cancer activity (10, 11).

3. Reduce arsenic and lead toxicity

Arsenic, and lead is one type of heavy metal, that exposure at a high level may cause the development of cancer of different organs (12). However, polyphenol and flavonoids found in Egyptian spinach are an excellent source of antioxidants that remove harmful arsenic and lead from the liver and kidney (13).

4. Treat inflammation and pyrexia (fever)

Egyptian Spinach root is rich in alkaloids and saponins which help to reduce swelling and high temperature of the body (14).

5. Presence of Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for the body and brain since they cannot be synthesized by the body. Egyptian Spinach leaves are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (more than 49 %) that is much higher than any other vegetable (15).

6. Gastroprotective properties

High amounts of alcohol, stress, smoking, dietary insufficiency, diseases as well as some drugs may cause various health problems. This results in damages to the inner surface of the stomach (gastric mucosal damage), including gastritis and ulcer diseases. However, Egyptian Spinach contains antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin C.  These compounds help to induce high levels of mucus in the gastric glands and to reduce the ulcer area (16).

7. Presence of antioxidants

Egyptian Spinach leaves contain phenolic antioxidative compounds mainly 5-caffeoylquinic acid (17).  In addition to this, it also contains polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C. These antioxidants may help to prevent and treat age–related diseases  (18).

8. Treat diabetes

The presence of alkaloids, anthraquinone, saponins, tannins, phenols,  and flavonoids in Egyptian spinach is beneficial to reduce plasma glucose levels (19). Thus ingestion of Egyptian spinach leaves as a supplement may be helpful for the management of diabetes (20).

9. Keep the heart-healthy

The leaves of Egyptian spinach contain high fiber which helps to reduce cholesterol from the blood (21). This leaves removes bad cholesterol through increased fecal excretion of bile acids from the body and reduces blood pressure (22). Thus, reduce the chance of heart attack and other heart diseases (23).

Side effects

1. Risk to accumulate heavy metal

Egyptian Spinach can accumulate and tolerate heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel, and manganese in its root. Also, transports lead, copper, chromium, iron, and zinc to its leaves. This is exceeded the tolerance limit and causes serious harmful effects in people (24).

2. Presence of cardiac glycosides content

Egyptian Spinach seed is highly toxic due to its cardiac glycosides content than leaves and stem. Its long-term consumption in high amounts may cause depression, extreme thinness, and losing weight. It also causes cyanosis of the mucous membrane in the eyes (bluish or purplish discoloration) and easy detachment of the hair (25).

3. May damage liver

Egyptian spinach has some anti-nutrients such as oxalate, nitrate, and cyanide which accumulate in the plant parts. Regular consumption of this plant may induce liver damage in humans. Thus, proper processing of this plant through cooking and other methods is needed before consumption (26).

Recipes

Egyptian spinach leaves are edible, and tasty in many recipes of cooking, which make them more acceptable to every person. However, it is different from spinach and cannot be used as a spinach substitute.  The leaves of this plant look quite slimy when chopped and cooked. 

It is used in a variety of different ways,    such as salads, soups, stew, curries, garnishes, spices, or flavoring agents.  This plant fresh leaves can also be stored in a plastic or paper bag in the refrigerator, much like spinach. The leaves of this plant also can be used in smoothies and non-veg recipes eaten with rice (27).

Q&A

1. How to grow Egyptian spinach?

Egyptian spinach grows fast, easily, and harvests again and again throughout the growing season. This plant is self-pollinating and propagated by seed. 

2. Where can I buy Egyptian spinach?

You can get Egyptian spinach fresh leaves in grocery stores or supermarket 

3. Where to buy Egyptian spinach seeds?

Egyptian spinach seeds can be bought from a nursery or online. It can grow easily in the home and harvest many times throughout the growing season.

4. How to prepare Egyptian spinach?

These plant leaves can be chopped and cooked also used in salads, soups, stew, curries, garnishes, spices, or flavoring agents.

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