Other than the exercise they provide while weeding your lawn, do dandelion greens offer health benefits?
Can You Eat Dandelion Greens?
Not only are dandelion greens safe to eat, but they also provide a range of health benefits. All parts of a dandelion plant are edible, from the top of the yellow flower down to the roots. The green leaves of the dandelion can make a healthy addition to salads, sandwiches, omelets, and more.
A few words of caution before we take a closer look at dandelion green’s secret life as a superfood, though: If you have allergies, be mindful of any sensitivities you might have before adding dandelions to your diet. Allergic reactions are more likely if you're allergic to related plants, such as ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and daisies.
The safety of dandelion greens is well established when you're eating the amount of vegetation commonly found in food. Less is known about the safety of consuming very large quantities of dandelion greens. In particular, if you're pregnant or nursing, dandelions are likely safe but it's best to avoid consuming large amounts.
Dandelion Greens Health Benefits
Dandelion greens are credited with a wide range of health benefits.
Controlled blood sugar. Dandelion greens can lower blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Diuretic effects. Due to the high potassium content of dandelion greens, they work as a diuretic. Diuretics help increase urine output and treat water retention.
Lower blood pressure. Since dandelion greens are a diuretic, they can treat high blood pressure for some people. While the diuretic effect isn’t as powerful as a prescription medication, it can still be helpful when a mild diuretic is needed.
Lower inflammation. Dandelion greens contain natural anti-inflammatories. Reducing inflammation in your body can reduce your chances of developing certain cancers and heart disease.
Antioxidants protect your health. Oxidative stress can damage your cells and contribute to cancer, metabolic disorders, and disease. The antioxidants found in dandelion greens can protect your body and keep your immune system strong.
Control cholesterol. Dandelion greens affect lipid metabolism. Preliminary studies show they might be useful in lowering cholesterol.
Dandelion Greens Nutrition
In addition to the many health benefits, dandelion greens offer your body a lot of nutrition in every bite. In fact, dandelion greens are one of the most nutrient-dense greens you can eat.
With just 25 calories a cup, raw dandelion greens are a source of:
- Calcium (103 mg)
- Folate (14.8 µg)
- Iron (1.7 mg)
- Potassium (218 mg)
- Vitamin A (279 µg)
- Vitamin C (19.2 mg)
How Dandelion Greens Taste and Where to Find Them
By now, you might be sold on the idea of trying this beneficial plant but also wondering “how do dandelion greens taste?” The answer is "bitter." If you don’t normally enjoy foods with a bitter taste, cooking the greens can greatly reduce the bitterness. You'll also want to select younger greens and avoid older leaves if you prefer a more mild flavor.
Dandelion greens are readily available in health food stores and many major grocers, but you might be also tempted to harvest the greens in your own yard. Proceed with caution, however. Lawns and parks are often treated with chemicals, and the neighborhood dogs may have marked their spots in a dandelion patch as well. If you choose to harvest your own dandelion greens, make sure the area hasn’t been treated with any chemicals and avoid dandelions found near parks, pets, or roadways.
How to Cook Dandelion Greens
As with most foods with strong or challenging flavors, knowing how to prepare your dish will make a big difference affecting whether or not you can successfully integrate it into your diet.
You have many options when it comes to how you prepare your dandelion greens. No matter what you choose, be sure to wash your greens thoroughly before cooking. If you have any leftover greens, store them in your refrigerator.
- Raw. If you enjoy the strong flavor, raw dandelion greens are the easiest way to eat them. You can mix them into a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
- Sauteed. Sauteeing the greens with olive oil and garlic is a good treatment for any leafy green. Boil the greens for 5 minutes, then sautee them in a pan of hot olive oil and garlic for up to 5 minutes.
- Baked. Similar to how you might bake kale chips, you can make dandelion leaf chips by baking them in your oven. Coat the greens evenly with a light amount of olive oil and seasonings. Place the greens in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for up to 8 minutes or until the desired crispiness is achieved.
- Soups. Dandelion greens can easily replace kale or chard in your favorite soup recipe.
- Eggs. Add dandelion greens to an omelet the way you would any other leafy green.
- Juicing. If you enjoy juicing, try adding a handful of dandelion greens into your juicer. Cucumbers can help water down some of their bitterness, and apples can add sweetness. Remember, the favor is very strong, so you won't want to add too much dandelion into the mix if you are averse to their taste.
Experiment with your favorite recipes that include other leafy greens, such as kale or spinach, and replace all or a portion with dandelion greens. Dandelion greens can add something new to your palate and provide you with one of the most nutrient-rich forkfuls of food you’ve ever eaten.