When it comes to nutrition, athletes are notorious for adding exotic foods and supplements to their diets. But what if you had a readily available superfood right outside your door? The humble dandelion is more than an obnoxious weed. It’s a nutritional powerhouse packed full of health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and protein. Here are some of the health benefits of dandelions — and reasons why you should stop trying to get rid of them.
What Are Dandelions Good For?
Despite their reputation as an aggressive and invasive plant, these weeds are traditional healers, prized as a part of a healthy diet and essential ingredient in health tonics. While we curse them for their tenacious grip on our landscapes, their jagged-edged leaf was once admired for its resemblance to a row of lion’s teeth. The name harkens from French “dent de lion” or lion’s tooth.
Dandelions have been useful throughout history, treating everything from water retention to high cholesterol. They are low in calories but rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and K. They also deliver a generous serving of minerals, including calcium, iron, and manganese. Another nutritional benefit? Dandelions contain a high level of fiber, essential for proper digestive tract function.
It’s not just the flower we prize. Every part of the dandelion plant delivers potent antioxidants — molecules that work overtime to keep your body healthy. It’s filled with beta carotene and polyphenols that protect against cellular damage. In clinical studies, dandelion components have shown anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Dandelions and Bodybuilding
If all this sounds great but you’re not sure what’s in it for you, unpack that below.
Great for helping to shed those last few pesky pounds of water weight before a competition, dandelion leaves made into tea or juice have a natural diuretic effect. Because diuretics cause dehydration, you won’t want to make this a part of your normal routine, but rather use it as a tool to get shredded before an event.
Dandelions for Digestion
Not everyone’s digestive system loves the protein drinks and bars so many bodybuilders use to help bulk up. Dandelion is known as a digestive aid, so even just adding some leaves to your salads may help reduce gas and bloating and keep things running smoothly.
When it comes to weight lifting, we all know that going hard can leave muscles aching for a couple of days. Dandelions to the rescue! While only tested on animals so far, there is strong evidence suggesting that supplementing with dandelion may help relieve inflammation.
The Incredible, Edible Plant
Every part of the dandelion plant is edible, in one way, shape, or form, but each requires a different approach.
The easiest way to eat a dandelion is via the leafy greens, often described as earthy, nutty, and bitter. You can eat them raw in a salad, or pureed into a pesto. If the tartness is too much for your tastebuds, try sauteeing them to neutralize their bitterness.
While it’s possible to find dandelion greens at the farmers market or a health food store, it’s even easier to find them growing close to home. But you need to be mindful not to harvest from a yard that’s been sprayed with chemicals or by the neighborhood dogs!
Recipes for dandelion flowers range from wine to cookies. For a real treat, look up recipes for Appalachian-style fried dandelion blossoms. Cooking with dandelion blossoms yields some exotic results, but they can also be dried and steeped in boiling water for a soothing herbal tea.
While the flowers get all the glory and the leaves give the plant its name, the lowly roots are the real medicinal part of the dandelion. Often dried and ground to create a coffee substitute, the roots are also used to make tea. Some adventurous eaters sautee or roast the roots and eat them like carrots. Dandelion roots can reduce inflammation, improve skin tone, and ease digestive distress.
Love them or hate them, dandelions are not going away anytime soon. Instead of fighting this useful plant, why not see if they belong in your nutritional regime? So close your eyes, blow on the seeds, and make a wish for more dandelions. At the very least, you’ll always have a handy local backup for when you run out of spinach.
Author Ryan Collins