Dandelion greens are a member of one of the largest planet families, one that also includes daisies, sunflowers, and thistles. The health benefits of this plant have been documented as far back as the 10th and 11th centuries. Even today there are folk medicine claims about dandelion in terms of its ability to aid indigestion, purify the blood, and even help prevent gallstones. But dandelion greens are actually a really helpful food to add to your diet for a number of reasons. First, they are low in calories. One cup of chopped dandelion greens has only 25 calories. Additionally, they’re loaded with antioxidants including vitamin C and vitamin A (beta-carotene).
Animal studies have demonstrated significant improvement in various parameters of blood lipids, and even atherosclerosis, as a consequence of receiving dandelion greens in their diet. Dandelion greens are also rich in minerals. Perhaps, most importantly, they are a very rich source of prebiotic fiber. It is, for me, this last characteristic, being high in prebiotic fiber, that makes dandelion greens such a compelling food.
Dandelion greens are rich in a particular prebiotic fiber called inulin. Inulin, also found in foods like chicory root, Mexican yam, and Jerusalem artichoke, enhances the gut’s production of friendly bacteria, like the bifidobacteria group. Boosting bifidobacteria has a number of benefits including helping to reduce the population of potentially damaging bacteria, enhancing bowel movements, and actually helping boost immune function. New research demonstrates that higher levels of bifidobacteria may reduce colonic enzymes that may be involved in enhancing the carcinogenic effect of certain chemicals.
There are a variety of ways to prepare dandelion greens. In fact, even dandelion tea has become quite popular as a detoxification drink. My choice when it comes to dandelion greens is having them sautéed with onions. This is not a challenging recipe, and it basically calls for steaming the dandelion greens until soft, and then sautéing them in olive oil. It’s a good idea to sauté the onions first as they require a little bit longer to cook. Ultimately the whole dish takes about 12 minutes, cooking the onions for about four minutes and then adding in the dandelion greens. I like to add lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and a little cayenne as well. If you want to get creative, you can always add some garlic and that will help boost the inulin content of this dish even more.
Remember, the good bacteria living within you are called commensals. That means that we share our food with them. They eat what we eat. Keeping gut bacteria healthy will help keep you healthy, and one of the best ways to do that is to add foods rich in prebiotic fiber, like dandelion greens to your daily menu.