Ever wonder about the health benefits of samphire? In fact, what is it?
Also known as sea beans, this is a unique vegetable that is often served with fish, pasta, or lamb. Because it is a vegetable near the sea, it absorbs minerals from the ground that can provide many health benefits.
This vegetable is similar to other edible seaweeds, and it can be added to the diet in many different ways. You can have it boiled, steamed, or blanched. Also, you can fry it to increase its intense flavor.
What Is Samphire?
Samphire is an edible succulent native to Australia’s salty flats. It basically grows near salt water, such as marshes and beaches.
Samphire plant is woody at the base and has a lot of branches. This plant is recommended to use in the summer because it is the time when its fleshy leaves are aromatic and bright and green.
Samphire is a type of plant known as a halophyte, which are plants that can grow in soil or water with high levels of salt. There are different types of samphires depending upon their location.
The most common type of samphire is called marsh samphire. This type of sapphire is found in the United Kingdom and on the coasts of the United States.
The taste of samphire is basically salty, strong, and vibrant. It has the ability to add fresh flavor to dishes, especially those with high fats like some types of fish and dark meat.
Samphire is also very popular with some other names like:
- Sea beans
- Sea asparagus
- Baby asparagus
Samphire does look like that little asparagus, but these plants are not the same.
Types of Samphire:
Although many different species of samphire exist, there are only two types: edible marsh samphire and rock samphire. The marsh samphire is more common since it is very difficult to harvest the rock samphire.
Marsh Samphire: This type of samphire is similar to the little shoots of the asparagus. This plant has small green, segmented twigs and a texture just like asparagus. It has a fresh and salty taste, just like seaweed. The difference is that marsh samphire does not have a fishy smell and taste like the seaweeds have. This samphire is mostly found on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts in the U.S. and in Europe.
Rock Samphire: This type of samphire is not easily found in stores because it is very difficult to harvest. It is mostly found on the high coastal cliffs in Northwestern Europe and Great Britain, which makes it dangerous to forage for. This species has a spicy and intense flavor as compared to other varieties. It is also different from the marshy variety because it does not have segmented twigs and has a darker green color.
Health Benefits of Samphire:
Why should you add samphire to your diet? Well, samphire contains a high amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, and mineral content, making it a good option to add to a diet.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help in protecting against some serious diseases like heart disease.
1. High Nutritional Value
Samphire contains a lot of nutrients, which are necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are some nutrients which present in this plant is the large amount:
- Vitamin C
Not only this, but samphire also has a large number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, including fucoidans, and glucopyranosides, which are also found in other different vegetables, such as seaweeds, and algae.
Studies have also shown that it also contains flavonoids, polyphenols, and tannins like quercetin, tungmadic acid, and chlorogenic acid.
Samphire also contains a large amount of sodium carbonate called soda ash. This sodium carbonate makes samphire to be used in making glass and soaps.
2. Provides Protective Antioxidants:
Samphire consists of many antioxidants which reduce the number of free radicals damage and oxidative stress, which can be a reason for various diseases.
A study (Patel, 2016) found that medicinal attributes like immunomodulatory, lipid-lowering, osteoprotective, and antiproliferative render marsh Samphire significant for phytochemical studies.
Studies show that it is high in fucoidanases and fucoidans, polysaccharides that have many biological effects due to the sulfate ester groups and l-fucose.
Moreover, another study (Bo Li, 2008) shows that samphire has an antioxidant effect and anti-inflammatory, antiviral, blood lipid reducing, and immunomodulatory properties.
These compounds have proven to protect human cells from tumor and cancer development, infections, gastric problems, high cholesterol, and many more.
3. Boost the Immune System:
Like hundreds of other sea vegetables, samphire is also a great source of vitamin C, a nutrient with a great antioxidant effect that boosts the immune system.
Vitamin C has the ability to fight against certain illnesses by increasing the production of white blood cells.
According to a recent study (You Ah Kim 1, 2009), samphire contains some compounds which can suppress the expression of cytokines that increase inflammation, such as nitric oxide synthase, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and interleukin-1beta.
Vitamin C not only increases the number of white blood cells in the body but can also work as an antioxidant and fight against free radicals to protect the body cells.
Vitamin C neutralizes the free radicals and stops them from causing any chronic diseases or oxidative stress.
4. Improves Digestive Health:
Samphire has been used as a traditional diuretic and detoxifier for centuries. This is because of the detoxification properties of the sapphire.
It helps in forming stool, preventing constipation, and regulating bowel movement. It is also considered to protect the liver against any kind of damage.
Moreover, the fiber present in samphire is also a primary reason behind its improving gut health. This is because fiber can make the good bacteria present in the gut healthy.
Fiber can also make you feel full for a longer time, which means it can regulate your appetite and control your calorie intake.
The dietary fiber present within samphire can bulk up the stool and make it pass through the digestive system more easily without causing constipation or any discomfort.
Fiber can also reduce inflammation in the gut and ensure the uptake of nutrients.
5. Improve Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health:
Samphire is not only popular due to its anti-inflammatory properties, but it also has some minerals, including potassium and magnesium. These can be very helpful in regulating blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health.
A study (Pichiah, 2015) has found that samphire supplements can be used as a natural anti-obesity agent and help improve metabolic health in many ways.
In the study, the samphire was given to the rats with a high-fat diet, as it was shown that the samphire significantly decreased body weight, liver weight, insulin levels, and serum leptin.
Moreover, samphire is also a rich source of calcium, which helps in protecting arteries from damage. Calcium is also very beneficial in increasing bone density and keeping the bones strong when we get older.
6. Support Thyroid Function:
Samphire is a good source of iodine, which has proven to be very effective in improving thyroid function. Iodine is very essential for the thyroid to create hormones.
Impaired thyroid function can have a multitude of negative effects on the function of many different parts of the body.
7. Improve Sleep:
Magnesium does not have a lot of value in the mineral world, but it can be very effective in balancing hormones and neurotransmitter production and improves the quality of life for many people.
Samphire is rich in magnesium and a good option for those suffering from magnesium deficiency without even knowing it.
If you suffer from insomnia or irregular sleep, adding samphire to the diet can be very helpful.
8. Bone Health:
Almost all sea vegetables are a rich source of calcium, which makes them an ideal option to be added to the diet.
By increasing the calcium intake, you are also increasing the iron intake, which is essential for good circulation in the body.
Most importantly, calcium is essential for keeping bones strong and healthy as we age. Our bone density starts to drop with age, so taking the proper amount of calcium is crucial to remain healthy.
9. Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
Certain inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, infected wounds, hemorrhoids, and gout, could be aided by this plant.
Samphire is anti-inflammatory, making it a valuable herbal remedy when both applied topically and consumed. It also helps in easing pain and soothing swelling and inflammation.
10. Helps With Losing Weight:
Low in fat and calories, samphire is a good option for those who are struggling to keep their diet in check.
Moreover, the dietary fiber in samphire helps optimize exertion and nutrient intake. This fiber helps make you feel full for a longer time and suppresses your appetite.
So, adding samphire into your diet can lead to less snacking, more energy, and lower calorie intake, so you could shed more pounds.
How to Eat Samphire?
The recommended season to use samphire is in summer, usually during July and August. This is because it is important to have it fresh, as it starts to change its taste and flavor after some time and becomes unpleasant.
Samphire can be added to the diet in many different ways. It can be eaten raw, like in salads, or cooked in vegetable side dishes. It does contain a lot of salt in it, therefore, most people like to cook it without adding any salt for better flavor.
There are also many other ways of adding samphire to the diet:
- Pickling it: Samphire is often pickled so that its nutrients can be preserved. It is pickled into jars in certain markets. It should be combined with other ingredients like vinegar, horseradish, peppercorn, cider, and salt to pickle it.
- Lightly steamed: Some people like to lightly steam samphire and serve it with butter or oil, along with some protein.
- Frying: Samphire can be flash-fried like other veggies, including zucchini or squash blossoms.
- Raw: You can add some samphire to salads for additional taste and texture.
- Cooked otherwise: It can also be added to stir-fries and pasta dishes.
How to Cook Samphire?
Samphire can be cooked in many different ways. Here are a few simple steps through which you can enjoy delicious samphire.
- Before cooking samphire, wash it thoroughly with cold water so that all the dirt and excessive salt can be removed.
- Cut away the stems and the roots of it.
- Boil it in water for about five minutes.
- Drain the water and serve the boiled samphire with vegan butter, black pepper, and some olive oil.
- If you don’t like it boiled, you can also steam it for a few minutes.
Whenever you are out to buy samphire, always look out for a crispy and bright-colored one.
You can refrigerate the fresh samphire after buying it, however, try to use it within two to three days to avoid unpleasant smells and tastes.
Risks and Side Effects
Samphire is a natural herb and contains a lot of nutrients. However, it is a fact that samphire is high in salt, which means it is not good for people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases.
High-sodium foods are not recommended for people with such medical conditions. So, if you fit into this category but like to eat samphire, try to eat it in moderation or consult your doctor about how to add it to your diet.
Samphire is an edible succulent that grows near seawater. There are different types of samphire, but only two of these plants are edible: Marsh samphire and rock samphire.
Marsh samphire is easily found in the U.K and U.S., but it is not easy to find rock samphire as it is hard to cultivate and harvest. This vegetable has a resemblance to asparagus, although they are not related at all.
Samphire is high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins, fiber, iodine, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Samphire can be added to the diet in many different ways. You can have it raw, or cooked to improve its salty flavor.
More herbal information:
Get discounted copies of my cookbook here.
Fortunately, because of the ads on our website, readers and subscribers of Healthier Steps are sponsoring many underprivileged families.