I don’t know about you, but I am L-O-V-I-N-G the fact that summer is (almost) officially here. While the longer and warmer days get a gold star in my playbook, the extra weeds popping up in my garden do not. Well, except one. The dandelion.
Dandelions are a powerful source of nutrients. Plus, they’re free, organic (provided you don’t use pesticides), and literally in your backyard. Before you mow the lawn and toss those beauties into your compost bin, here are seven reasons why you should incorporate these seasonal gems into your diet:
1. Higher in calcium and iron than traditional (cultivated) greens
Check it. One cup of chopped dandelion greens has 103 kg (10% of the recommended daily value) of calcium, which is – wait for it – more than kale, the darling in the nutritional powerhouse popularity contest! High in iron too (1.7 mg in one cup).
2. Low calorie
Not that I’m an advocate for the silly practice of counting calories, as evidenced here, but it should be noted that one cup of dandelion greens contains a whopping 25 calories. You can burn that in the time it takes you to read this post.
3. Super duper detoxifying
Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamin A and have diuretic actions, while the roots appear to support and potentially clean out the liver. The bitter principles in both the leaves and roots have slight laxative, bile-stimulating and digestion-stimulating actions. You know I love me a good detox, right?
4. Antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral powerhouses
Dandelions are nature’s richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, from which Vitamin A is created, and the third richest source of Vitamin A of all foods (cod liver oil and beef, taking 1st and 2nd). They also are rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine, and riboflavin.
5. High in protein?
Yes. Cup for cup, dandelion greens are higher in protein than spinach. Take that, Popeye!
6. Blood sugar stabilizing
Coupled with its high fiber content, which is a known blood sugar stabilizer, dandelions also contain inulin, which converts to fructose in the stomach, which allows the liver to produce glycogen without insulin, facilitating a slower blood sugar rise.
Thanks to its high linoleic and linolenic acid content, two essential fatty acids, dandelions help to regulate the body’s immune response and suppress inflammation. Chronic inflammation is bad news. Read more here.
Now what? After picking and washing your bounty, for starters, the greens make a great addition to salad. Just be sure to combine with other mixed greens, as they are somewhat bitter. Dandelion greens (and stems) also make a great addition to smoothies, in place of any other green that you may toss in (kale, spinach, chard, etc.). This theory was tested, tasted, and loved in the test kitchen with success in this Berry Detoxifying Dandelion Green Smoothie. Super yum.
Have you ever tried dandelion greens? If so, what’s your favorite way to enjoy them (cooked, in salad, in smoothies)? I’d LOVE to hear! Please leave a comment.