By: Jason Garvin, CSUN Dietetic Intern
Move over kale, there’s a new powerhouse green in town! Kale has long been the go-to leafy green for healthy eaters, but research shows that the dandelion plant (taraxacum officinale) may pack equal amounts of nutrients.1 The sustainability and weed-like disposition of the dandelion is what makes it an intriguing option as a food source. The dandelion plant grows easily in many climates and can readily be found in urban settings.2 This is no ordinary weed though, nutrient density testing shows high levels of B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, carotenoids, and xanthophylls.1,3 Some other greens still pack more nutrient density than the dandelion, but those plants may not grow with the same ease and likely cannot be harvested from the confines of your front yard!
The nutraceutical aspect of the dandelion plant is also creating buzz. Recent studies showing high levels of polyphenols, phytochemicals, and other biological properties believed to stave off disease make this plant a popular research subject.3,4 Polyphenols are important components in eliminating free radicals and reducing inflammation throughout the body. These free radicals are known to cause oxidative stress and start a cascade of negative health outcomes.5 The therapeutic values of the dandelion plant have been touted for millennia and medicinal uses are pervasive in ancient Chinese and Greek cultures. Nutraceutical and supplement companies exploit the unsubstantiated claims made from these early herbal practitioners. Proponents believe that dandelion consumption helps with cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, and aids in lowering cholesterol, blood glucose, oxidative stress, and cancer proliferation.1 Recent research may back some of these claims due to the high levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals associated with the leaves and roots of the dandelion plant, but many of these claims are a bit too lofty.1,3,4
Dandelion greens are a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. They can be served raw in mixed green salads, sautéed in olive oil and served atop a burrata cheese crostini, added to omelets, or even added to soups. For people sensitive to coffee or caffeine, ground and dried dandelion root makes an excellent coffee substitute. All parts of the plant are edible and have the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) classification by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).6 If you are looking for something new to spice up your meals, look for dandelion green recipes online, or try my recipe for a hearty, nutrient packed soup!
White Bean Soup with Dandelion Greens and Kale
- ½ c Carrots, diced
- ½ c Celery, diced
- ½ c Yellow onion, diced
- 1 Tbs Garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs Fresh oregano, minced
- 1 tsp Fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 Tbs Olive oil
- 2 c Dandelion greens, chopped
- 2 c Kale, chopped
- 2 c Great northern beans, canned
- 6 c Vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sauté carrots, celery, and onions for 5 minutes and then add garlic, oregano, and rosemary.
- Continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add vegetable stock and bay leaf. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
- Add dandelion greens, kale, and great northern beans. Simmer for 15 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Lis B, Olas B. Pro-health activity of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale L.) and its food products – history and present. Journal of Functional Foods. 2019;59:40-48. doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2019.05.012
- McLain RJ, Hurley PT, Emery MR, Poe MR. Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management. Local Environment. 2014;19(2):220-240. doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2013.841659
- González‐Castejón M, Visioli F, Rodriguez‐Casado A. Diverse biological activities of dandelion. Nutrition Reviews. 2012;70(9):534-547. doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00509.x
- Lis B, Jędrejek D, Stochmal A, Olas B. Assessment of effects of phenolic fractions from leaves and petals of dandelion in selected components of hemostasis. Food Research International. 2018;107:605-612. doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2018.03.012
- Hussain T, Tan B, Yin Y, Blachier F, Tossou MCB, Rahu N. Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2016;2016. dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/7432797
- Jędrejek D, Kontek B, Lis B, Stochmal A, Olas B. Evaluation of antioxidant activity of phenolic fractions from the leaves and petals of dandelion in human plasma treated with H2O2 and H2O2/Fe. Chemico-Biological Interactions. 2017;262:29-37. doi.org/10.1016/j.cbi.2016.12.003