Malabar Spinach (Basella alba) – Health Benefits, Nutritional Facts, Side Effects

Malabar spinach, also referred to as creeping spinach, Indian spinach, or red vine spinach, is a vegetable native to India and Indonesia that tends to grow best in temperatures over 90°F.

There are two types: Basella rubra and Basella alba. Basella rubra has purplish stems and deep-green leaves with pink veins, while Basella alba has a green stem and dark green leaves.

Nutritional Facts of Basella alba

It is an excellent source of minerals (iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, zinc, copper), vitamins (folate, vitamins A, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin C), protein, and dietary fiber.

It also contains saponins, carotenoids, phenolic glycosides, and quinines, among other compounds. The leaves are high in anti-oxidants, like zeaxanthin and lutein.

Health Benefits of Malabar Spinach

Excellent Before and During Pregnancy

Folate is a B-complex vitamin vital for the healthy development of the fetus in early pregnancy, in particular, their neural tube. Research also shows that expectant mothers who eat this vegetable regularly can help the normal formation of the placenta and growth of the baby.

Furthermore, young women who are deficient in folate can help replace it with this dark green leafy vegetable.

However, the benefits of folate go beyond pregnancy. For instance, scientists have discovered that this B-group vitamin may help prevent some types of cancers, especially those of the stomach and colon.

100g of this vegetable has 114 mcg of folate which is about 29 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Reduces Anxiety Levels

Protein is an important nutrient for healthy body function and growth, as it plays an essential role in repairing and production of cells.

Moreover, protein helps to maintain and build muscle, skin, and bones in the human body.

Some amino acids from protein foods are also required to control mood and reduce anxiety levels.

100g of this dark green leafy vegetable has 3g of protein that is approximately 6 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Bone Health

Calcium, an essential mineral, helps strengthen the teeth and bones, reduces inflammation levels, as well as prevents blood clotting.

Bone cells remodel non-stop, therefore, a regular supply of calcium is required to support the formation of new cells.

According to some studies, an adequate calcium intake has therapeutic benefits in the management of moderate premenstrual symptoms and an important role in body weight regulation.

100g of this vegetable contains 124 mcg of calcium which is 12 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Better Sleep

Magnesium is a mineral that is part of numerous enzymes (more than 300), where it provides an active reaction site on the enzymes.

Disrupted sleep is usually due to too much stress. However, by raising magnesium levels in the body, muscles may relax better, subsequently, the human body falls better into sleep.

In addition, this essential mineral helps the body to get rid of acidic buildup in the kidneys. 100g of this dark green leafy vegetable contains 48 mg of magnesium that is about 12 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Constipation Prevention

Eating foods rich in dietary fiber regularly can help prevent constipation. This, in turn, can help to prevent hemorrhoids, swollen veins in the lowest part of the anus and rectum.

Consumption of both insoluble and soluble dietary fiber has also been shown in research to be beneficial for many digestive tract conditions, mostly due to the fact that the large intestine cells use fiber as a fuel.

100g of this vegetable contains 2,1g of fiber, which is 8 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Cardiovascular Health

A regular diet that emphasizes carotenoid-containing foods may lower the risk of heart disease, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

100g of this dark green leafy vegetable has 1158 IU of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) which is approximately 23 percent of the daily recommended intake.


Manganese is a trace mineral that helps the body in the following ways:

  • normal nerve and brain function;
  • blood sugar regulation;
  • calcium absorption;
  • fat and carbohydrate metabolism;
  • sex hormones production;
  • blood-clotting factors;
  • connective tissue formation.

Signs of manganese deficiency include:

  • altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism;
  • impaired glucose tolerance;
  • skeletal abnormalities;
  • impaired reproductive function;
  • impaired growth.

100g of Malabar spinach contains 0.3 mg manganese, which is about 13 percent of the daily recommended intake.

How To Eat

Boiling dark green leafy vegetables in water can lose some nutrients, therefore, eating raw creeping spinach is the best method to ensure you get the maximum amount of nutrients.

Note – carotenoid content (like – lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin) becomes more absorbable when cooked. Plus, to retain the iron content of this vegetable while cooking add lemon juice.

Selection And Storage

Before purchasing, look for fresh leaves that have a crisp texture and fresh aroma. Thin leaves should be avoided. You should also buy organic.

Do not wash this vegetable before storing, as the moisture will cause it to spoil. Keep it as cool as possible without actually freezing for up to 5 days. In the refrigerator, this dark green leafy vegetable can stay up to 12 months.

Side Effects

Some sensitive individuals can experience allergic reactions. Symptoms include – itchy eyes, scratchy throat, nasal congestion, or hives. There are no other known side effects.

Image credit – Shutterstock

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