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This Is The Best Underrated Source Of Omega-3s For Vegans, Says An MD

Vegan salad with purslane, chickpeas, tomatoes, and red onion
Image by Harald Walker / Stocksy
February 15, 2021

If you follow a vegan diet, chances are you've searched some iteration of the following: How can I get more omega-3s? It's a common deficiency for plant-based eaters, as these fatty acids are primarily found in animal-based products1 (like oily fish and dairy). That's not to say you can't find these precious fatty acids in plants at all—experts simply recommend filling your plate with omega-3-rich nuts and seeds, like chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and so on. 

However, according to functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, M.D., there's a less popular player to have in your omega-3 arsenal. In fact, it may be the best of them all: "If you're a vegan, purslane is an incredible weed," he says on the mindbodygreen podcast

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Why you should eat more purslane.

Purslane contains two types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The former is common in plant sources, but research shows that purslane has exceptionally high levels of ALA. "Purslane has the highest level of alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid essential for human nutrition, compared to any leafy green vegetable," one report reads, with five to seven times more ALA than spinach leaves2

Perhaps more noteworthy, though, are purslane's trace amounts of EPA3: This fatty acid is more bioavailable in the body, but it's not so common in plants that grow on land (typically, you'd find it in fatty, cold-water fish or algae). 

Omega-3s aside, purslane is also chock-full of vitamins and minerals3, like vitamins A, C, and B, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Plus, it contains beta-carotene and glutathione—two phytochemicals that boast incredible anti-inflammatory capabilities4. Purslane can grow in harsher conditions (like very salty, stripped soil5, as one study shows), which may explain its load of antioxidants—as experts say, plants that survive under stress produce defense phytochemicals (i.e., bright colors) that are top-notch for longevity. 

OK, so you're sold on purslane. But how do you incorporate it into your meals? The weed has an earthy, slightly sour taste—similar to watercress, many find. It's thin and leafy—great for a garnish on salads and soups for a hit of flavor, or you can even top it on tacos for some extra greens. You can sauté the weeds, just make sure not to overcook the thin stems, as they wilt pretty fast. 

The takeaway.

If you're looking for extra sources of omega-3 fatty acids, try adding purslane to your plate. Fatty acids aside, though, it has quite the impressive nutrient profile, and you can incorporate the weed in a variety of plant-based meals.

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