Waterleaf, health, refreshing and hydrating
Waterleaf, health, refreshing and hydrating

Waterleaf: Healthy leaf

WATERLEAf (Talinum triangulare) is a leafy vegetable that belongs to the Portulacaceae family. It is native to tropical Africa and has many traditional uses. The leaves and stems of the waterleaf are used as food while the roots are used for medicinal purposes.

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Waterleaf is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, iron and magnesium. It is also a good source of dietary fibre and is an excellent source of vitamins C and A, iron, zinc and molybdenum.

This leafy green vegetable has a high water content, which makes it very refreshing and hydrating.

Properties

One study by Aja et al., (2010) found that waterleaf is an excellent source of tannins, alkaloids, saponins and flavonoids. Hence, it has good medicinal and dietary benefits. 

Farombi and Fakoya, (2005) revealed that antioxidants also help to prevent and minimise the reactive effects of free radicals, including oxidative damage to membranes and increased enzyme inactivation or susceptibility to lipid peroxidation.

Due to this, Liang et al., (2011) intro study of waterleaf established diverse antioxidant activities in this leaf. Hence, consuming waterleaf could help you fight free radicals, preventing ageing.

Liver support

Studies have demonstrated the potential benefits of consuming waterleaf in treating liver diseases by lowering the concentration of the enzymes in the blood.

One study by Ezekwe et al., (2013) found the leaves to contain bioactive compounds that can be used to treat liver diseases. A previous study by Liang et al., (2011) also found that waterleaf can be used to manage liver diseases.

Ezekwe et al., (2013) recommended that waterleaf should be part of pregnant women’s diet, as the vegetable helps to prevent anaemia, as well as boosts the blood level.

This is because the plant can clear bilirubin from the blood, which suggests that it can help the red cells to remain longer and be effectively utilised by the body.

A study by Ofusori et al., (2008) examined waterleaf aqueous extract on brain function of mice and found that it can improve brain health. These researchers recommend the need for regular intake of waterleaf as it supports the neurons of the cerebrum and enhances cerebral functioning.

Waterleaf has abundant dietary fibre. Hence, it improves constipation. Proper food digestion is essential for preventing gastrointestinal disorders such as indigestion, constipation, flatulence and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, it is a good source of a natural laxative. 

Blood sugar/cholesterol

For those battling blood sugar, one study by Joshua et al., (2012) found that waterleaf should be part of your diet as it helps to manage your sugar level. After any meal, you can drink the juice or the tea form as well, as the high dietary contents of this vegetable help to slow down the digestion and conversion of starch to simple sugars. This process helps in managing diabetes.

Joshua et al., (2012) study further revealed that waterleaf is paramount in helping to control cholesterol levels. It does this by using the high dietary fibre content to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the gut, thereby protecting the body from any sicknesses associated with bad cholesterol in the body.

Due to the high antioxidants found in waterleaf, studies reveal that it is suitable for preventing the onset of cancer and tumour growth. Waterleaf has chemopreventive activity against colon and breast cancers due to its squalene content (Kristine et al. 2015).

Uncontrolled high blood pressure could lead to stroke and many others. However, one study by Adewunmi et al., (1980) found that waterleaf can be useful for preventing the onset of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke.

Also, leaf and root extracts are used for treating asthma, fresh cuts, scabies, anaemia and high blood pressure (hypertension) (Ogunlesi et al. 2010).

Mensah et al., (2008) reveal that the high dietary fibre in waterleaf provides bulk in the diet, thus minimising the intake of starchy foods. This helps to prevent obesity and excess body weight.

Side effects

Though it has many benefits, it should be limited to people suffering from kidney disorders and gout due to its oxalate content.

When cooked, oxalates are reduced by 50 per cent and nitrates and nitrites (Willie and Eze 2016) reduce to negligible levels (Agunbiade et al., 2015). Also, when it is eaten in excess, it can cause stomach upset and frequent stooling.

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Waterleaf should not be incorporated into infant meals because of the antinutrients in it (Schippers 2000).

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a medical journalist/science writer/president, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. 
E-mail: [email protected].

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