Hello everyone! Welcome to the first edition of “What in the Health Food”. There’s so many different “health foods” out there and sometimes it can be very overwhelming to figure out what exactly these certain foods are doing for your health anyways. So I thought I’d dedicate some posts to talking about some of these different foods and ways you can incorporate them into your diet. Here we go…
Dandelions. These are my favorite flower. Seriously. People think I’m kidding when I say that, but I’m not. I genuinely get giddy when I see a field, yard, whatever- full of dandelions. Not just because I think they are the happiest little flower on the block and they make me all nostalgic for my childhood and making “dandelion crowns”, but because they serve so many purposes. Not only do they have about a million ba-jillion health benefits (that’s the scientific count too if you’re wondering), but they are also one of the first foods for the bee’s and other pollinator’s in the spring. Why does that matter? Well, let me ask you- do you like honey, fruit from tree’s, or the visually aesthetic pleasing sights of other flowers? If you answered yes to any of those things then pollinator’s are important and so dandelions are important to them! So aside from being food for the winged friends, let’s explore what kind of health benefits dandelions offer:
- Dandelion is a natural “detoxifier”. By this I mean the herb, namely the root, contains compounds that help our livers function in tip-top shape. Antioxidants in the dandelion, when consumed, help stimulate the production of bile (needed for digestion) and helps ease constipation.
- It’s a natural diuretic. Have you ever looked at the ingredients of pretty much any brand of PMS tea? Most contain dandelion root to help combat the period bloat many of us ladies experience when Auntie Flow comes to town. With this said, because it’s a diuretic, it can also help with urinary issues (UTI’s anyone?).
- It’s rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron. All of these nutrients have their own benefits, most of which we’ve all heard of before. One not talked about as much is Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat soluble nutrient which promotes cell turnover and growth. It’s excellent for your vision and for your skin (ever heard of retinol?). This said, you may not want to rush out and buy a Vitamin A supplement just yet as it can be toxic in too high amounts- because of this, dandelions are a great natural source for the vitamin in your diet.
- It can help diabetics regulate their blood sugars. Because of their diuretic properties, dandelions can help the kidney’s remove excess sugars and help to control insulin production. This can potentially help to keep blood sugars in check.
So how can you reap the health benefits of this wondrous food?
In case you’ve asked yourself at all while reading this “can you even eat dandelions?” the answer is an astounding YES! Every single part of the dandelion is edible from the flower to the root! Here are some tips for harvesting and enjoying dandelions:
- To harvest dandelions, it’s really important to consider what you are going to be using them for. If you are only using the greens (i.e. leaves) in something like a salad, then only remove the leaves- do not take the whole plant. If you are making dandelion wine or jelly, only the flowers are needed. For something like tea, the root is usually best to use. To harvest the root:
- Find a large plant- the larger the plant, typically the bigger the root is which means you won’t need to harvest as many.
- Use a gardening tool such as a “weed puller” (it hurts me to even call my precious dandelions a weed by the way!) can be helpful in removing the full root.
- If you don’t have a tool, get as close as you can to the base of the flower and gently and slowly pull. You should pull out a root that looks a little like a white carrot.
- Once you’ve removed the roots, wash the excess dirt off. The root can then be dried out to use later or used right away.
- Pay attention to WHERE you are harvesting your dandelions. Location, location, location. It’s best not to harvest near highways or roads. Not only does the exhaust from vehicles pollute the dandelion, but often if you are harvesting near a road, it’s been sprayed with pesticides. Harvest only from areas you know are safe.
- Stick to the rule “if there is four, take one. If there is three take none”. As with any herb or resource, you want it to be able to replenish itself so you can continue to utilize it. Not gonna lie, it’s also a bit selfish to take ALL the dandelions….bee’s need food too!
- Dandelion’s tend to be a little on the bitter side. Some people like this. I personally like dandelion tea when mixed with other herbs, like cinnamon; and dandelion greens in a salad mix with other greens. The flowers I enjoy best in a jelly or wine (I’ll post recipes later if there’s interest).
(Dandelion) seeds in the wind…..
I hope this gives you a little more insight into the life in the world of a dandelion. Hopefully a new appreciation for this sunny colored powerhouse too! So now, with your new found knowledge on all things dandelion, how will you incorporate this powerful herb into your life?
Until next time,
Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. If you have a health concern, please see a medical doctor. This blog is not meant to diagnose or treat anything. What you read here is my opinion based on my experience and is not intended to replace medical treatment.