I Used to Think Dandelion was a Pest, Until I Discovered its Many Health Benefits5 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Dandelion, also known as “lion’s tooth” and part of the daisy flower family, is often the biggest nuisance to gardeners and people trying to keep their lawns clear of this rapidly growing yellow flower.
But the truth is if you have dandelions, you may have gold as far as a nutritious food is concerned.
The flower, root and leaves (greens) of the dandelion are all edible and packed with tons of nutrients. Dandelions reportedly evolved in Eurasia more than 30 million years ago and have been used in ancient Chinese, Arabic and Native American medicine to treat ailments including indigestion, heartburn, kidney disease, eczema and hives.
Today, we still carry on these ancient medicine practices. If you look in the tea and coffee aisle of your grocery store, you will likely see dandelion root tea, which is said to aid digestion, cleanse the liver, promote weight loss and help prevent urinary tract infections. Tea can also be made from the leaves of the dandelion.
Dandelion flowers can even be used to make tasty, earthy wines. If you are feeling adventurous, try this recipe.
The benefits of the dandelion seem never-ending. For example, dandelion root may also help fight skin cancer. A 2011 study, published by National Institutes of Health (NIH), reported dandelion root extract (DRE) killed human melanoma cells. Melanoma is a rare but very aggressive skin cancer. The DRE killed the cancerous cells while not killing healthy cells. The melanoma cells in the study were also resistant to chemotherapy. The study reports, “[m]elanoma is notoriously chemo-resistant and the modes of treatment for melanoma are very limited, relying mainly on surgical excision of the primary site during early detection, and whatever limited chemotherapy and immunotherapy for metastasized melanoma that is available.” When melanoma cells were treated with DRE, the cells showed sign of apoptosis (cell death) in just 48 hours. On top of that, “melanoma cells retain the signals to commit suicide long after DRE has been removed from the system.”
You can buy dandelion root extract in the form of drops or a pill. The leaves (greens) of the dandelion are just like any other green such as kale, spinach, arugula or romaine. You can buy dandelion greens in some grocery stores and most health food stores and farmers markets. Sautee the greens with olive oil and garlic for a simple side, throw them in a smoothie and toss in a salad or add to soups and sandwiches for a nice peppery bite.
Changing up your greens, like you change up other vegetables and fruits, may help you maintain a healthy diet because variety prevents boredom. We can be proactive by making a conscious effort everyday to eat different healthy foods, that we likely never even thought of before. And one cup of raw dandelion greens contains many essential vitamins and minerals including:
- Vitamin K, 428.1 micrograms. Several reports say this is about 535 percent of the RDA for this vitamin. This vitamin plays a role in helping blood clot properly, protecting the heart, building bones and balancing insulin levels. Some reports even say vitamin K may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- Vitamin A, 5,589 international units. Several reports say this is 112 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. This vitamin is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and is good for skin and eye health. Vitamin A also promotes cell growth.
- Vitamin C, 19.2 milligrams. Vitamin C has numerous benefits. It helps boost the immune system, prevent scurvy, promote healthy hair and collagen growth (which keeps your skin youthful and beautiful) and may help you recover faster from wounds, even wounds after surgery.
- Fiber, 1.9 grams. Fiber helps relieve constipation, soothe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may even help prevent colon cancer.
- Potassium, 218 milligrams. This critical mineral helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Potassium can also help with muscle cramps. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, and the loss of potassium can cause cramping.
- Calcium, 103 milligrams. You probably know that this mineral is essential for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Did you know this mineral may also decrease your risk for colorectal cancer? Recent studies confirm that high calcium intake is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer among both men and women. Maintaining the correct levels of calcium in your system could also reduce your risk of breast cancer as well.
- Phosphorus, 36 milligrams. This mineral works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. It is also needed to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium and zinc.
- Magnesium, 20 milligrams. Magnesium is a calming mineral with muscle relaxing and antioxidant properties. It is also believed to help people with high blood pressure and improve symptoms of depression. There is even some evidence that suggests magnesium may reduce the overall risk of cancer.
- Iron, 1.71 milligrams. Iron is a critical mineral that every single cell in your body needs. It is needed to make hemoglobin, a component of your red blood cells that delivers oxygen to all the cells in your body. Without adequate iron, the resulting lack of oxygen may cause fatigue. Decreased levels of iron may also result in apathy and depression. Many women are depressed during their childbearing years (25-45), and one reason for this could be that women lose iron during menstruation.
To check out the complete nutritional value of dandelion greens, click here.
There are so many greens and different vegetables out there you may have not even heard of. Stay tuned for future blogs on less common fruits and vegetables. Food is medicine and one of the best ways we can be proactive about our health and prevent disease before symptoms even begin to occur.
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Enjoy your healthy life!
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