Dandelion Greens: 4 healthy reasons to eat them
Dandelions are everywhere!
Their cheery yellow flowers are popping up in every yard, park and field to welcome our almost forgotten sun. That’s how it is in my part of the world anyway. And since I first decided to post about dandelion greens I have seen numerous articles by herbalists, homesteaders and foragers. But of course! This is the time of year when they tend to work their best green magic. So I decided I would join in and add my own thoughts on our sunny ambassador of Spring.
Some of you may have never thought of dandelions as anything but an annoying weed. And I suppose amid the strategy of having perfect green lawns they can be antagonistic. But let me share some ideas that might lend a new perspective to a foe that might turn into a friend. Let’s start with eating them! Did you know that the whole dandelion, the flowers, leaves and roots, are edible? They are. But today I will be focused on the benefits of eating the greens.
4 Reasons to Eat Dandelion Greens
1. Dandelions are packed with vitamins & minerals –
Who knew that a common “weed” could be so packed with nutrition? Did you know that one half cup of fresh dandelion greens give you over twice the daily vitamin K needed? Vitamin K is essential for healthy bones, heart and cognitive health as well as proper *coagulation of blood. *Note: if you are on antigoagulents check with your doctor before consuming excess vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary and the best way to get it is with leafy greens. Common greens with these benefits are kale, spinach, collard greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli. But our dandelion is a huge contributor of the same vitamins and minerals! The table on the right shows some of the many nutrients found in one cup of dandelion greens.
You may already be taking supplements for some of these. But keep in mind that getting them from your food gives you a synergistic blend of components that has more benefit than isolated elements. For example, dandelion is a known diuretic, which means that consuming a lot of dandelion you will notice you pee more. But within itself it contains the potassium needed so this is not depleting! Cooking the greens decreases some of the vitamins and minerals except vitamin A. Cooking dandelion greens will actually triple the vitamin A!
- Nutrition facts for cooked greens;
- Mercola – Benefits of Vitamin K;
- Nutrition facts for raw greens;
- Medical News Today – Vitamin K
2. Bitter is good for you –
In today’s world the bitter taste is sweetened or spiced out of most foods. That’s an unfortunate dietary move when it comes to our health and digestion. The bitter taste initiates the digestive process properly. Starting in our mouth it activates salivary glands and begins a cascade of reactions to prepare our digestive systems for food. Digestive juices are secreted, and enzymes and bile are produced which helps us better utilize the nutrients we consume. No only that, but it activates our liver to do it’s job in removing toxins from our systems. Knowing this is helpful as we get used to adding a little bitter to our favorite tastes. I can tell from experience that it doesn’t take long to actually enjoy some of the bitter tastes. My favorite salads are the ones that include bitter ingredients. Now I usually leave the bland iceberg lettuce and other tasteless greens as my last choice. Try just a few clippings of fresh young dandelion greens next time you have a salad and see how it goes!
3. Variety is healthy for your gut –
Eating a variety of healthy foods promotes bacterial diversity which is a good thing to do for your gut. “Each type of food and micronutrient seems to have a [bacterial] specialist that can utilize it. So maybe the best diet has a little bit of everything,” says Mark Heiman, vice president and chief scientific officer at Microbiome Therapeutics. We are learning more and more about the importance and health benefits of having healthy gut flora. The more “friendly” bacteria we have the less room there is for unfriendly bacteria and overgrowth that can cause illness. A digestive system that is healthier supports all of our functions, making us healthier overall. So adding a new green thing [dandelion greens] to the green things we already eat gives us all the benefits of a new micronutrient in the mix. More about this here.
4. Dandelions are free!
It’s not that you will save tons of money by going out and picking your own dandelion greens. But you will be adding to your health and well-being at no cost. Foods picked fresh are the most beneficial in that their vitamins and minerals have not had a chance to diminish. That’s why the sooner you eat a plant food the better. Also, there is something satisfying and calming about eating fresh foods you have respectfully collected yourself. Plus you are cultivating a more sustainable way of thinking.Always pick un-sprayed dandelion greens and that they are at least 50 feet away from roads and highways. You don’t want to eat exhaust and chemical laden greens. Don’t worry though, if your access to dandelions is limited. Check out your local farmers market or health centered grocery stores. If you don’t see them, ask! You might be able to get them to carry them if they don’t offer them now.
If you are interested in learning more about foraging check out Sam Sycamore’s Good Life Revival blog with lots of foraging info. Or the rest of his Good Life Revival site which is dedicated to the pursuits of self reliance, natural living & ecological thinking.
Have I changed your mind a little about dandelions?
I hope so. But before you go out and gather as many leaves as you can, make sure you know you are getting the right thing. Here is the best identification I know of for dandelion ID, as well as a look-alike. Dandelion identification and a look alike.
And just for some interesting reading here is a story you might enjoy. A woman who ate 3 dandelion leaves a day for 30 days.