Alugbati is a leafy green plant that is most commonly consumed in warm regions of the world. This vegetable is similar to spinach — so much so that it's often referred to as Malabar spinach. Like spinach, alugbati contains a variety of different nutrients, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
What Is Alugbati?
Alugbati (Basella alba) is particularly popular in Africa and Asia. You may not know this vegetable as alugbati, though, as this is its common Filipino name. According to a January 2014 review in the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, English names for this plant include Malabar spinach, Ceylon spinach, Chinese spinach, Indian spinach, vine spinach, climbing spinach and cyclone spinach.
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Although its leaves resemble spinach and are similar in flavor, this plant is actually a type of climbing vine. Alugbati is unique compared to other leafy green plants as it's able to survive in both temperate and very hot environments. This allows it to be grown and commonly consumed worldwide.
Alugbati can be treated like regular spinach or chard. You can eat it baked, boiled, fried, sautéed or steamed. It goes well with salads, smoothies and stews. This plant can even be used in curries or coated in batter and fried.
Alugbati Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA, 100 grams of cooked alugbati provide 23 calories, 3 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat and 2.7 grams of carbohydrates. Almost all of the carbs (2.1 grams) are dietary fiber.
In addition to these macronutrients, 100 grams of alugbati contain different vitamins and minerals, including:
- 10 percent of the DV (daily value) for calcium
- 8 percent of the DV for iron
- 5 percent of the DV for potassium
- 11 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 12 percent of the DV for copper
- 11 percent of the DV for manganese
- 6 percent of the DV for vitamin A
- 9 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 10 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B3 (niacin)
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 28 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- 7 percent of the DV for vitamin C
Alugbati also contains small amounts — between 1 and 4 percent — of other essential vitamins and minerals, like phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B5 and zinc. According to a September 2015 review from the International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research, this veggie provides a variety of beneficial bioactive compounds and antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenolic acids.
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Nutrition of Alugbati vs. Spinach
Alugbati is very similar to regular spinach. In fact, 100 grams of both of these vegetables have the same amount of calories and very similar amounts of macronutrients. However, regular spinach has twice the net carbs (which are carbohydrates, minus fiber) compared to alugbati. There are 1.4 net carbs in every 100 grams of regular spinach compared to 0.6 grams in alugbati.
There are some key differences in micronutrient content as well. According to the USDA, every 100 grams of regular spinach has:
- 10 percent of the DV for calcium
- 20 percent of the DV for iron
- 10 percent of the DV for potassium
- 21 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 19 percent of the DV for copper
- 41 percent of the DV for manganese
- 7 percent of the DV for zinc
- 58 percent of the DV for vitamin A
- 8 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 18 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 14 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 37 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- 11 percent of the DV for vitamin C
- 14 percent of the DV for vitamin E
- 411 percent of the DV for vitamin K
While alugbati and regular spinach have the same amount of certain micronutrients, like calcium, spinach boasts substantially larger amounts of other nutrients, such as manganese and vitamin A. It also contains additional nutrients that alugbati doesn't have, including vitamins E and K. Overall, regular spinach is the more nutritious choice out of these two vegetables.
Read more: 16 Diet-Friendly Healthful Carbs
Alugbati’s Health Benefits
Although alugbati contains fewer nutrients than regular spinach, it still has the potential to benefit your health in a variety of ways. In particular, the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science review and an April 2012 article published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Research report that alugbati may be able to:
- Inhibit microbial activity
- Reduce and prevent gastrointestinal ulcers
- Reduce inflammation
- Regulate sex hormones
- Promote wound healing
- Protect the kidney and liver
- Prevent diabetes
- Resolve dysentery
- Treat certain types of anemia
- Treat gastrointestinal issues
There are other uses of alugbati as well. For instance, the whole alugbati plant has been said to help resolve skin diseases, while the leaves and stem are thought to function as diuretics.
However, it should be noted that these health benefits are not well studied. While the whole plant has been used to support the treatment of many medical issues, its therapeutic benefits have been primarily tested on animals. Although this plant is regularly used as a type of herbal medicine, randomized studies on its consumption are limited.
Other Nutritional Benefits of Alugbati
Alugbati's medicinal benefits are not well-studied. However, this vegetable may be particularly beneficial to people who consume low-carb or ketogenic diets. These dietary plans limit carbohydrate consumption but still allow the consumption of fiber, meaning that it's necessary to count the net carbs.
Consumption of dietary fiber is important for everyone. This is because, as reported in an April 2017 review in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, most adults don't get enough fiber in their diet.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, most people need around 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day to stay healthy. However, the average American consumes just 15 grams of this nutrient daily. People following special diets, like low-carb diets, tend to consume even less fiber — around 10 grams per day.
Since alugbati is rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and low in overall net carbs, it's easy to consume large amounts of it on a daily basis without worrying about dietary restrictions. Making sure that you consume enough fiber may help prevent gastrointestinal issues like constipation, as well as cardiovascular problems, diverticular disease and diabetes.
- International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Research: "A Review on Medicinal Importance of Basella alba L."
- International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research: "Nutritional Analysis, Phytochemical Screening, and Total Phenolic Content of Basella alba Leaves From the Philippines"
- Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science: "A Review of the Taxonomy, Ethnobotany, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of Basella alba (Basellaceae)"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Comparison of Cooked Spinach and Cooked Malabar Spinach"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Fiber"
- Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners: "Fiber Supplements and Clinically Proven Health Benefits: How to Recognize and Recommend an Effective Fiber Therapy"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Cooked Malabar Spinach"