Water spinach – intolerance and allergy

Water spinach

Water spinach is a green vegetable that enriches Asian dishes in particular. It belongs to the morning glory genus and can be both annual and perennial. Other names – especially in the culinary field – are Phak Kwang Tung or Kangkung .

Here’s what you should know about water spinach

Water spinach belongs to the morning glory genus, which botany also knows as morning glories or Ipomoea. The genus includes around 650 different species of plants, including the sweet potato , and belongs to the morning glory family.

The water spinach thrives above all in humid locations up to 1550 m altitude. The green leafy vegetable probably comes from Asia and is now at home in tropical and subtropical areas. It’s very common there. While the water spinach grows herbaceously on the ground in some locations, it can also swim on the water in paddy fields, ponds or slow-flowing water bodies. It is not only adapted to different locations, but can also cope with changing environmental conditions. The plant can be both annual and perennial. Annual water spinach flowers only once and then withers; Farmers have to reseed it every year.

However, this does not have to be an economic disadvantage if farmers harvest the whole plant anyway. On the other hand, they can only collect individual leaves from the perennial water spinach. The plant in this case remains intact and lives on. In this way it lasts for several years.

Perennial water spinach can flower and seed several times a year under good conditions. It differs from perennial plants, which are also several years old, but only bloom once a year. The leaf shape of water spinach is elongated, but can vary in individual cases – depending on growth conditions and adaptation.

The leaves are either lanceolate or ovate. Sometimes the leaves have fine hairs that help the plant regulate its water balance with the help of evaporation. Water spinach is a relatively undemanding plant and will thrive most of the year as long as temperatures don’t drop below freezing. In greenhouses (including cold greenhouses without artificial heating), farmers also grow water spinach all year round.

importance to health

The carbohydrates in water spinach are mostly complex carbohydrates; the human body can only digest them slowly because enzymes first have to break down the individual carbohydrate building blocks. Only then can the digested carbohydrates pass through the intestinal wall into the blood .

Complex carbohydrates are in contrast to simple carbohydrates such as sugar . These carbohydrates only consist of short chains of sugar molecules – the body therefore hardly has to split them and can therefore absorb them more quickly. Complex carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels relatively slowly and keep them constant for longer. Consuming water spinach and other foods that contain more complex than simple carbohydrates helps prevent diabetes and other metabolic diseases .

Humans cannot digest some carbohydrates in water spinach. They are dietary fibers that have no nutritional value per se. Nevertheless, they are of great importance for the functioning of the intestine : They promote muscle movements and thus prevent constipation and other digestive problems. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends consuming 30 g of fiber per day. In addition, water spinach contains numerous phytochemicals such as chlorophyll. Nutritionists and physicians still do not agree on the importance of these substances for the human organism.

However, some studies show possible positive effects of phytochemicals on health, especially in relation to cardiovascular diseases and cancer . However, these data are not considered to be reliable and require further detailed research in the future.

Ingredients & nutritional values

Water spinach contains about 48% carbohydrates – including many complex carbohydrates – and 24% protein on a dry basis. 100 g of fresh water spinach contain an average of 3.4 g of carbohydrates and 2 g of dietary fiber . The intact plant consists of 90% water and is very low in calories: 100 g contain only 19-20 kcal. Water spinach is therefore ideal for a calorie-conscious and low-carbohydrate diet.

Intolerances & allergies

A specific allergy to water spinach is very rare and does not belong to the common allergies . However, if typical allergy signs such as reddened skin, hives , swollen skin, eyes or throat appear after eating water spinach , medical evaluation is necessary. Intolerances often manifest themselves in the form of digestive problems.

However, these can also be due to the fiber and complex carbohydrates that water spinach contains. People whose previous diet was deficient in such substances usually have to get used to this change. However, the digestive system learns to deal with the new food after a short time. The digestive problems therefore often disappear after about two weeks of regular consumption of complex carbohydrates and fiber (at least 30 g per day).

If the person concerned suffers from serious complaints such as swelling of the esophagus or is not sure, he should rather refrain from enjoying the water spinach for safety reasons.

Shopping & kitchen tips

Water spinach is also often commercially available under the name Phak Kwang Tung or Kangkung. Asian cuisine makes the most use of water spinach. It is used in numerous dishes, often with other vegetables, but also just with rice .

Fresh water spinach should be stored in the fridge. A closed container in the vegetable compartment is best for this, as the cooling for the green leafy vegetables is ideal there. The leaves tend to wither quite quickly – which is not only visually less appealing, but also has a negative effect on the ingredients: many vitamins decompose very quickly if the uprooted plant is exposed to free air circulation. Sunlight also breaks down some nutrients, such as vitamins, and alters them at the biochemical level, making them biologically inactive. They then no longer have the desired health effect for humans.

Preparation tips

Water spinach complements vegetable and rice dishes and is suitable for both steaming and sautéing. In the modern kitchen, a microwave is sufficient for steaming. To do this, place the water spinach in a cooking bag or a microwave-safe container and briefly steam it at low power. Cooks steam the vegetables in the cooking pot by filling a small amount of water in the pot and placing the water spinach in a colander or simmering basket on top.

The water spinach must then stand for about a minute and is then ready for further use. A simple water spinach dish consists of rice and steamed water spinach, topped with spices (depending on region, season, and occasion) as desired. A teaspoon of sesame oil completes the meal.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.