I’m not sure who said it first, but I’ve always loved the phrase: One man’s garbage is a another man’s gold. I find it to be a true statement in many areas of life…including right outside in my front yard. Most people consider dandelions a noxious weed and every spring I see neighbors out there trying to eradicate them with all sorts of toxic chemicals. What most of those people don’t know is that the common dandelion is a valuable medicinal plant! This article from my team at UpWellness will tell you all about it…
Dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) are part of the sunflower family, which is one of the largest of the plant families and includes over 20,000 species including daisies! If you have ever spent time trying to eradicate dandelions from your lawn, maybe now is a good time to look at them differently.
Dandelions have a wide array of health benefits which is the big reason to elevate them above the pesky weed status. With spring approaching and dandelion season not far behind, let’s take a look at why you should eat these greens – especially when they are young and tender.
Health and Nutrition Benefits
The dandelion plant is a powerful remedy for numerous maladies including digestion-related problems, blood purification, and preventing gallstones and piles.
Dandelion greens provide a higher amount of vitamins and minerals than most cultivated greens including:
- Multivitamins include vitamin C, vitamins B1, B2, B6, vitamin E, riboflavin, thiamin, folate, and more. Vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene, is good for vision, shielding the retina from ultraviolet rays, the skin, mucous membranes and may help lower the risk of mouth and lung cancers. The greens also provide 535 percent of the recommended daily vitamin K to strengthen bones and fight Alzheimer’s disease.
- Rich in minerals. Besides calcium, they also provide iron that generates red blood cells, potassium that helps regulate blood pressure and heart rate, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
- More protein per serving than spinach. The greens are 14 percent protein and contain all of the essential amino acids.
- High in inulin and pectin, which are soluble fibers that help you feel full longer, assist with controlling weight, and maintain optimal levels of cholesterol. The greens are also loaded with antioxidants.
- One cup of low-calorie chopped dandelion greens has only 25 calories. Yummy!
Dandelion greens studies
- A 2008 study found that extracts of young dandelion leaves may have an anti-obesity effect.
- Dandelion root extract may also reduce the risk of cancer. It has been found to stop the growth of melanoma cells without causing toxicity in non-cancerous cells – including those that are considered drug-resistant.
- A 2011 study showed that dandelion root extract may have the ability to kill leukemia cell receptors. Research shows that dandelion tea did not send the same “kill” message to healthy cells. The study demonstrated that dandelion root extract could be a potential nontoxic alternative to conventional leukemia therapy.
Harvesting and storage tips
Dandelion greens can be found at farmers markets, health food stores, co-ops, and perhaps available during the spring and early summer months in your own backyard.
Picking the greens that are both young and tender will have a milder flavor. Be sure that they are from real dandelion plants and not from similar-looking ones because consuming inedible parts may put your health at risk. Never harvest from areas contaminated with harmful substances like pesticides, lead, heavy metals, parasites, or other pollutants.
Do not wash the greens because that may lead to spoilage. Wrap them in paper towels to absorb condensation and excess moisture and store in plastic bags or containers in the refrigerator. They remain fresh for only two to four days.
Dandelion greens in recipes
Blanch the greens for one to two minutes to reduce a possible bitter taste. To mask that, blend them with sweet and flavorful fruits such as strawberries, bananas, oranges, mangoes, papaya figs, kiwi, pineapple, or citrus. You will have more calcium than any dairy product and slightly more calcium than kale.
Add them to stews, soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetables, and herbal teas.
-The UpWellness Team