Nutrition

Orach is the new kale! 5 reasons to eat more of this healthy green

By: Ashley Posluns

Orach is the new kale. Author: Getty Images

Nutrition

Orach is the new kale! 5 reasons to eat more of this healthy green

By: Ashley Posluns

It's popping up at farmer's markets and CSAs across the country. Find out why orach is so good for you, where you can find it and the best ways to serve it up.


Never heard of this super-healthy green? That's not surprising—a distant relative of spinach (and part of the same plant family as quinoa), orach has been playing second fiddle to its more famous cousin for decades. But its popularity has surged in recent months thanks to its many health benefits. Read on to learn more.

What is it?

Though it's native to Western Asia and the Mediterranean, orach (which is also known as saltbush, mountain spinach or French spinach) has been naturalized across North America. The garden or red variety is best for eating—it has a flavor similar to chard—and also makes for a good ornamental plant because of its beautiful colour.

Fun fact: the nickname "saltbush" comes from the fact that it can grow in alkaline or saline soil. It retains the minerals from the soil in its leaves, giving it a saltier taste than most greens.

What are the health benefits of orach?

Jam-packed with vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, anthocyanins, phosphorous, iron, protein, zinc, selenium, tryptophan, vitamin C, vitamin K, carotenes and dietary fibre, orach is a nutrient-rich superfood. Here are five ways it makes you healthier:

1. It stimulates digestion. Ample dietary fibre (11 grams per 100-gram serving) improves the health of your digestive system, reducing your chances of constipation and more serious gastrointestinal issues. High-fibre foods also lower cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar levels.

2. It improves heart health. Orach is a good source of heart-healthy potassium—a 100-gram serving has 800 mg of this mineral, which is necessary for proper heart function. Some studies have also linked low potassium levels with high blood pressure.

3. Its rich hue is from health-boosting anthocyanins. These flavonoids give fruits and veggies their vivid red and blue hues, but studies indicate they could also have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic powers. They may also prevent cardiovascular disease, help control obesity and alleviate diabetes.

4. It's good for your immune system. High levels of magnesium and zinc support a healthy immune system: magnesium has inflammation-fighting properties, while zinc helps ward off infection.

5. It's a calcium powerhouse. A single 100-gram serving of orach yields 200% of your calcium requirements for the day. And that doesn't just lead to strong teeth and bones; calcium is also essential for proper heart, muscle and nerve function.

Where do I find it?

The best place to get orach right now is a local market, as it'll probably still be a while before it's stocked on grocery store shelves. Look for tender leaves that give off a ruby red sheen when held to the light.

Or, try growing it yourself. It's easy to care for, and grows from late spring through to fall. The young leaves on orach plants begin to emerge in the spring and may be harvested right away, but the more tender leaves will come in the early- to mid-summer months. It can even handle some (moderate) frost.

How do I use it?

Typically, orach is used much like spinach. Eat it raw in salads, and boil or steam as you would spinach or chard. The younger leaves tend to be better for eating raw, while the more mature leaves make a good spinach substitute. When cooking or meal planning, think of all the places you would normally use spinach and substitute with orach instead: pizza, stir-fry, pasta, soup, risotto… the list goes on. Just remember its salty flavor; you may need to cut back on the salt in your recipes.

Check out 8 of the healthiest greens you can grow in your garden—and add orach to the list!
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Nutrition

Orach is the new kale! 5 reasons to eat more of this healthy green

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