Of all the weeds that can overtake our yards and ruin our gardens, the dandelion reigns supreme. However, despite its invasive nature, nutritionists and herbalists have long understood the value of the misunderstood dandelion.
In fact, both American and Chinese traditional medicines have used all parts of the dandelion to treat a variety of ailments for hundreds of years. Modern bodybuilders still make use of dandelion root tea and the plant can have wide nutritional benefits for anyone.
So instead of just disposing of all those annoying little yellow flowers when they cover your lawn next spring, consider cleaning them up and putting them to use.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelions are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C and D. The plant also offers several minerals including iron, potassium and zinc. This is all in addition to the complex collection of plant chemicals that help the dandelion ward of bacterial and fungal infections.
Dandelions also contain a small amount of protein, carbohydrates and fiber, and are fat-free. The high fiber content means that dandelions will make you feel full quickly and, since dandelions have only about 25 calories per cup, the chances of you gaining weight from eating them are very slim, so to speak.
Other Uses and Benefits
The high levels of iron in the leaves and roots of the dandelion have contributed to its use as a liver tonic in many cultures. Although there is primary research to support that dandelions can help to improve both liver and gallbladder health, the studies were poorly designed and could not be replicated by other researchers.
Dandelion root is an effective and time-tested diuretic, however. Bodybuilders commonly use a tea made of dandelion root to quickly lose water weight and attain a more chiseled
look before a competition. The root tea is also thought to soothe an upset stomach and improve digestion, but these uses are generally based on anecdotal evidence. The dandelion root tea is conveniently available at many health food stores if you aren’t up to harvesting and preparing your own.
Animal studies have also shown that dandelions may help maintain healthy blood sugar, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. These results haven’t been reproduced, though, and human studies are needed to understand the full potential of this application.
How to Enjoy Them
All these factors considered, dandelions are pretty appealing from a nutritional standpoint. The flavor, though, can be a little off-putting. The greens are bitter and the roots are woody. The flowers do have a slightly sweet flavor but separating enough of them can be a difficult process.
Properly prepared, however, dandelions can be a tasty addition to any meal. The leaves can be tossed into a salad, steamed or even sauteed.
Recipes that call for bitter greens like arugula can easily be modified to include dandelion. The roots should be sauteed until soft and can be added to dishes for a nutty flavor.
If you decide to go foraging, pick a clean area, free from pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Use a short but sharp knife to cut the plant free, leaving the top of the root intact to hold the leaves together. If you plan on using the roots, simply dig the plants up. Stick to leaves that are small and young, since larger leaves will be more bitter. Make sure to wash the plants thoroughly in warm water.
Have you used dandelion in your diet before? Please tell us about it in the comments.