12 Health Reasons Dandelions Should Be Your Next Superfoodby Carissa Andrews - May 1st, 2017
For many of us, the last thing we think of when we see dandelions pop up in our yard is how healthy they are to consume. Instead, we start thinking of the ways we can exterminate this little yellow flower from as soon as they arise. But did you know, dandelions have a host of health benefits that may make you reconsider your yearly purge?
In fact, I’d go so far as to call them the next superfood. Dandelion roots and greens are packed with antioxidants, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber—and more. Let’s take a closer look at the many ways dandelions are known to enhance our health:
Health Benefits of Dandelions
1. Strengthen bonesIn addition to dandelions being rich in calcium, they are also rich in antioxidants such as Luteolin and vitamin C, which protect our bones from aging poorly and being as susceptible to damage.
2. Stimulates insulin production and lowers blood sugar levelsConsuming dandelion can stimulate the production of insulin. They also act as a natural diuretic, removing excess sugars from the body, which prevents sugar deposition in the kidneys. The alkalinity and bitter flavor also lowers blood sugar levels.
3. Lowers blood pressureDue to the diuretic properties, dandelions help reduce blood pressure by increasing the frequency and quantity of urination. The potassium content will replace sodium, and the fiber will help reduce cholesterol – all working to lower your blood pressure.
4. Treats acne and skin diseasesThe dandelion sap (you know, the white goo that comes out when picked) is useful in treating eczema and acne. It’s highly alkaline and has germicidal, insecticidal, and even fungicidal properties. Using it on the affected area can inhibit microbial infections, and outward appearance of acne. The vitamin C can also promote and speed up healing and reduce the appearance of scarring.
5. Keeps your kidneys functioning properlyThis superfood helps kidneys clear out waste, salt, and excess water by increasing urine production. Clinical research from a study published in 2009 found that dandelion significantly increased urine output. It also replaces any potassium lost, and inhibits microbial growth in the urinary system. All good things!
6. Helps promote digestion and cure liver disordersThe same antioxidants that protect our bones, vitamin C and Luteolin, also keep the liver functioning and protect it from aging. They can also aid in maintaining the proper flow of bile, as well as stimulating the liver and promoting digestion.
7. Treats anemiaDandelions are high in vitamins, protein, antioxidants, and iron. The combination of these help the formation of red blood cells and other integral components in your blood.
8. Aids in weight lossDid you know that up to 4% of our urine is fat being flushed out of the body? The more we urinate, the more fat cells vanish. All good things. In addition, more frequent urination helps the body flush out excess water weight.
9. Prevents UTIsThe natural diuretic really is a wonderful thing. By increasing the frequency and quantity of urine, the body flushes out toxins more quickly. The antimicrobial nature of dandelion also helps to kill bacteria and helps prevent urinary tract infections.
10. Relieves constipationDandelion acts as a mild laxative that promotes digestion, stimulates appetite, and helps balance gut flora. It can also release stomach acid and bile to aid in keeping your digestion running smoothly.
11. Immunity boosterStudies suggest dandelion can boost immune functions as it fights off microbes and harmful fungi.
12. Cancer-FightingSome studies suggest the Lupeol found in dandelions might block growth of cancerous cells. Another study found that the taraxinic acid had similar anti-cancer results. Clinical trials are still ongoing, but promising.
Did you know you can eat every part of a dandelion? From the flower, to the leaves and stalk, and even the roots, dandelion is a nutritious superfood to incorporate into your daily diet. Here are a few ways to use them:
Flowers: Be sure to pick younger, tender plants as they are less bitter. They can be pressed into teas, wines, and even jellies and syrups. I can personally attest to this one. Not only is it super-healthy, but it’s also super delicious! Here’s the recipe I used, if you’d like to give it a try.
Roots: Dig down deep and pull up the entire mass of entanglements. Sometimes, many flowering plants can be attached to the same root system. Clean the roots off until all the dirt is removed. Then you can boil, roast, sauté, or even eat them raw.
Leafy greens: The leaves can be incorporated into any kind of salad you’re already consuming. The leaves and stalk can also be ground or chopped and made into a pesto.
Remember, when harvesting dandelions, make sure you’re taking them from a yard that has not been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals – and with any luck, not next door to anyone who treats their own yard, either (as the chemicals can be airborne). You’ll want your plants to be as close to organic as possible to get the maximum health benefit.
Save the Bees – a side note
With the bee population dwindling, you might be surprised to know that busting out the weed killer to get rid of these bright yellow flowers isn’t helping the cause. Dandelions are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, giving the bees their first source of nutrients to make honey from. By killing it off, the bees have nowhere to turn to and many end up dying before the season has even begun.
There are myriad ways this hardy little yellow flower is awesome—from superfood health reasons, to environmental reasons. This spring and into summer, before you pluck, spray, or mow these beauties over, I hope you pause to consider a few more possibilities. You might just be surprised by the results!
Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.