Dandelion greens are my number one choice for a smoothie green. Not only do they provide a higher amount of calcium and iron than most cultivated greens, they have a wide array of health benefits that make them the perfect all around nutritional boost.
Here are ten reasons you should use dandelion greens in your next smoothie.
#1 – High in Calcium: Dandelion greens are loaded with calcium. Just one cup of chopped dandelion greens has 103 milligrams (10% of the recommended daily value) of calcium! That’s slightly more than kale! Add two to three cups of dandelion to a smoothie with calcium-rich fruits like orange, kiwi, fig or papaya and you’ll have a green smoothie that has more calcium than any dairy product!
#2 – Rich in Iron: Next to fresh parsley, dandelion greens have a high iron content. One cup contains 1.7 milligrams of iron.
#3 – Low Calories: Like all leafy greens, dandelions are low in calories. One cup of chopped dandelion greens has only 25 calories. While leafy greens are a low calorie food, I actually prefer to use dandelions because they have more calories than other greens. Since I try to get as many calories as I can into my morning smoothies, I add up to 4 cups of dandelion which adds 100 calories of nutrient-rich food!
#4 – Loaded With Antioxidants: Dandelion greens are high in vitamin A in the form of antioxidant carotenoid (beta-carotene) and vitamin C. Vitamin C also helps facilitate iron absorption.
#5 – The Ultimate Detox & Cleansing Green: If your goal is detoxification and cleansing, dandelion greens should be the ones you use in green smoothies! They are said to help cleanse the liver and many detox recipes call for them.
#6 – Lots Of Minerals: Dandelion greens are rich in minerals. Besides calcium and iron, they are a good source of copper (10% RDA), manganese (8% RDA), phosphorus (5% RDA), potassium (5% RDA) and magnesium (5% RDA).
#7 – 14% Protein: Dandelion greens have more protein per serving than spinach. The greens themselves are 14% protein and contain all essential amino acids so it’s a complete protein. One chopped cup contains 1.5 grams of protein.
#8 – Multivitamin Green: Besides vitamin A as beta-carotene (186% RDA) and vitamin C (21% RDA), each cup of chopped dandelion greens are also good sources of vitamins B1 (9% RDA), B2 (11% RDA) and B6 (11% RDA), vitamin E (13% RDA) and especially abundant in vitamin K (357% RDA).
#10 – Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens: The nutrients in dandelion greens may help reduce the risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and stroke. Dandelion contains anti-inflammatory properties which may provide benefit to those with asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
How To Select And Store Dandelion Greens
While dandelion greens can be found at health food stores, co-ops and farmers markets, they are probably widely available during the spring and early summer months in your own backyard.
Select unblemished, dark green leaves or bunches when purchasing them in the store. When foraging, young greens that are harvested before the flower head appears will be less bitter.
Commercially cultivated dandelion greens may have whitish/green or red stems. The leaves are highly perishable. I store them in the fridge in a large plastic tub with a piece of paper towel to absorb excess moisture and condensation. They will keep for 2-4 days this way. If you store wet leaves in a produce bag, they will likely only last a couple days.
The dandelion greens that you find in the store are typically organic. If you forage for dandelion, be sure to harvest them from land that has not been treated with pesticides, herbicides or other contaminants. Avoid harvesting dandelion greens from urban or industrial waste lots as heavy metals (lead, mercury) and other pollutants in the soil might be absorbed into the plant.
How To Use Dandelion Greens In A Green Smoothie
Dandelions are bitter, so it makes sense to blend them with fruit to mask the flavor. I recommend blending dandelion greens with sweet, flavorful fruit like banana, strawberries, mango, citrus and pineapple.
I use up to 4 cups of chopped greens in a single smoothie recipe. If you are trying dandelion for the first time, start with a small handful or 1 cup of chopped leaves.
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Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Weight Loss Program, the 30-Day Whole Foods Challenge and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.