Here's why you should add dandelion to your diet
Often overlooked in favour of more trendy superfoods such as kale, dandelions are popping up on restaurant menus across the UK - they can be added to soups, smoothies, salads - in fact, almost anything! But why should you add dandelion to your diet and what are its nutritional benefits?
Dandelions are little powerhouses of nutrition, low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. A source of vitamins A, B, C and D, they're also full of zinc, iron and potassium. These tiny flowers also contain plenty of beta-carotene, for healthy skin and vision. Zinc can help maintain hormone levels whilst consuming more potassium can reduce your risk of stroke by lowering your blood pressure.
Every part of the dandelion is edible, from the roots to the leaves and petals. In fact, dandelion leaves contain more calcium than most dark leafy greens and the petals are packed with antioxidants. Dandelion roots are frequently used in teas and herbal coffees for digestive complaints such as constipation, and as an appetite stimulant. The leaves and roots have a detoxifying effect and contain fibre to help you stay full, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Part of the reason why dandelions are becoming a hot new superfood is their versatility. From using the petals as a garnish to adding the raw leaves to a salad, there are plenty of ways to incorporate dandelions into your diet. Drinking dandelion is popular, and new dandelion herbal teas and coffees are taking the market by storm, providing you with a sustained energy boost and a more gradual 'buzz' than regular coffee. Tea bags and powdered coffee blends can be found in health food stores, with blends usually also containing chicory root, roasted barley rye and sugar beet.
As a good-for-you green, the bitter flavour of dandelion leaves and their nutritional content are a great option. Try blending dandelion greens and flowers with your choice of fruit to create a delicious, nutritious smoothie. Or blend them with herbs and extra-virgin olive oil to create a dressing for salads. Tossing dandelion leaves in heart-healthy olive oil and garlic, then adding them to sauteed kale and spinach makes a great vegan starter, served with quinoa.
If you're wondering how to use dandelions in your cooking, we have some great recipes for you to try!
Sauteed in olive oil with garlic, chilli flakes and onion, the bitter taste of dandelion greens is a great accompaniment for fish or chicken.
This simple salad utilises the fibre-packed raw leaves of the dandelion, with a simple extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, lemon and garlic dressing. Delicious served alone or as an accompaniment to some spicy chicken breasts.
Really, dandelion burgers? That's what we thought too, but this clean-eating recipe is surpringly tasty and makes the most of store-cupboard herbs and spices. Packed with vitamins and minerals, serve these patties with some salad and sweet chilli sauce for a healthy vegetarian meal. Yum!
This retro British soft drink is seeing a revival, and it's relatively simple to make your own at home, so you know exactly what's going in it. You'll need burdock root and dandelion root - you can pick these up dried online if you can't find fresh - and a few other ingredients to make the base syrup. A great, refreshing drink for kids and adults of all ages; perfect for summer!
Next time you spot some dandelions on your morning run, consider picking them for use later in salads and smoothies - but don't forget to wash them thoroughly before use!