Veggies A-Z: D for Dandelion Greens
Stuck in a spinach rut? Killing yourself with kale? With so many varieties of leafy greens available, especially during the summer, there’s no reason to limit yourself to the same old all the time. In fact, doing so can actually be hazardous to your health, only inasmuch as you’re limiting yourself from reaping the benefits of a broader range of fresh produce. And please don’t fool yourself thinking those chocolate kale chips you picked up at the check stand count towards your daily veggie intake; their still chips! Both spinach and kale contain oxalates1, organic acids found in many plants, which can bind to minerals to form compounds, including calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. This mostly occurs in the colon, but can also take place in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. For most people, these compounds are then eliminated in the stool or urine, but for some, high-oxalate diets have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones and other health problems. However, it doesn’t mean we have to avoid them like the plague; rather we just need to balance them out with other leaves. Including….dandelion greens! Part of the weed family (no, not that weed, guys), this healthy veggie is renowned for supporting healthy liver function as well as providing calcium, iron, fiber, Vitamins A, E and K, and powerful antioxidants including beta Carotene and lutein2. In addition, as with many plants consumed in their natural state, this bitter green offers a cancer fighting punch: a study in 2011 involving the testing of dandelion root tea showed there may be a “kill switch” on leukemia cell receptors through a process called apoptosis. Researchers reported that dandelion root tea didn’t seem to send the same “kill” message to healthy cells. The study concluded that dandelion root extract may prove to be a non-toxic alternative to conventional leukemia therapy. Dandelion root extract also showed itself to be a possible cancer fighter, halting the growth of melanoma cells without inducing toxicity in non-cancerous cells – even those cells considered to be drug-resistant3. While their bitter flavor may take some getting used to, think arugula times ten, by adding a hint of sweet and some more subtle tones to a recipe, you can segue into enjoying this more off-the-beaten-path veggie option. Try them sautéed in garlic and rendered duck fat (what doesn’t taste good prepared this way?), whizzed in your Vitamix with some lemon, garlic, ginger and cayenne for a quick immunity shot, or check out my recipe for an easy summer salad!