Super Food: Dandelion

Hello, and welcome to what I assure you will be another great day of discussing Super Foods. There are actually a lot more of these earthly wonders for us to take advantage of in our quest for optimal health than appear at first glance, and every week we like to bring you another example. We do this in part to let you know why the weekly Super Food we have chosen is nutritionally supreme, but it also serves as a reminder to us all. This reminder, especially coupled with the corresponding recipe article, is that these incredibly versatile and healthful gifts from nature should not be forgotten. It is our hope that you incorporate the Super Food that we present to you each week into your diet, and slowly build towards a nutrition plan that is eventually based entirely around these Super Foods. Today we are going to talk about that invasive weed that is the sworn enemy of the green lawn obsessed individual. Except dandelion tastes a lot better, and has a lot more to offer our body than a lawn does.

Dandelion is believed to have originated in the Central Asian region, but has become naturalized in many parts of the temperate, and semi-tropical regions including the Mediterranean. It is a very hardy plant, and grows vigorously everywhere in the fields, lawns, and meadows. It features long, stout tap roots from which jagged, dark green leaves rise directly from the ground surface in a radiating fashion.

Golden yellow flowers arise at the end of hollow stalks in late spring to early autumn. Hollow flower stalks are filled with a sweet-scented nectar that attracts bees. The flower-stalks rise straight from the root. Fully grown plants reach about 45 centimeters in height. Almost all parts of the plant exude a milky navajo-white color latex from the site where they are cut.

Fresh leaves are very low in calories. They provide just 45 calories per 100 gram serving. It is also good source of dietary fiber, providing about nine percent of our RDA per 100 grams. In addition, its latex is a good laxative. These active principles in the herb help to reduce weight, and control cholesterol levels in the blood.

Dandelion contains a bitter crystalline compound taraxacin, and an acrid resin, taraxacerin. Furthermore, the root also contains inulin and levulin. Together, these compounds are responsible for various therapeutic properties of the herb. Inulin converts to fructose in the presence of cold, or hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Fructose forms glycogen in the liver without requiring insulin, resulting in a slower blood sugar rise, which makes it good for diabetics and those that are hypoglycemic.

Fresh dandelion herb provides 10161 IU of Vitamin-A, which translates to about 338 percent of our RDA. This makes dandelion one of the highest source of vitamin-A among culinary herbs. Vitamin-A is an important fat-soluble vitamin, and anti-oxidant that is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, as well as skin and vision. Its leaves are packed with numerous health benefiting flavonoids such as carotene-B, carotene-A, lutein,crypto-xanthin, and zea-xanth. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids helps to protect our body from lung, and oral cavity cancers. Zeaxanthin also has photo-filtering functions which helps to protect our retina from UV rays.

It is also rich in many vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin-E, and vitamin-C. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural anti-oxidant. Dandelion greens provide 58 percent of our RDA of vitamin-C per 100 grams. Dandelion is considered the richest herbal source of vitamin-K. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in our bones. It also has established itself in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.

The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps to regulate our heart rate, and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

Here are some of the active chemical constituents found in dandelion:

1. Tof-CFr, a glucose polymer similar to lentinan, which has been found by Japanese researchers to act against cancer cells in laboratory mice. Lentinan is a yeast glucan (glucose polymer) that increases resistance against protozoal, and viral infections.

2. Pectin, which is anti-diarrheal, and also forms ionic complexes with metal ions, which probably contributes to dandelion’s reputation as a blood, and gastrointestinal detoxifying herb. Pectin is prescribed in Russia to remove heavy metals, and radioactive elements from body tissues. Pectin can also lower cholesterol. When combined with Vitamin C, the result is even more dramatic. Dandelion is a good source of both.

3. Apigenin and luteolin, two flavonoid glycosides which have been demonstrated to have diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxidant, and liver protecting actions, as well as to strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They also have anti-bacterial and anti-hypoglycemic properties. As estrogen mimics, may also stimulate milk production and alter hormones positively.

4. Gallic Acid, which is anti-diarrheal and anti-bacterial.

5. Linoleic, and linolenic acid, which are essential fatty acids required by the body to produce prostaglandin. Prostaglandin regulates blood pressure, and as such the body’s processes as immune response, which suppress inflammation. These fatty acids can lower chronic inflammation, such as proliferative arthritis, regulate blood pressure, as well as the menstrual cycle, and prevent platelet aggregation.

6. Choline, which has been shown to help improve memory.

7. Several sesquiterpene compounds which are what make dandelions bitter, may partly account for dandelions tonic effects on digestion, liver, spleen, and gall bladder. The are also highly anti-fungal.

8. Several triterpenes, which may contribute to bile or liver stimulation.

9. Taraxasterol, which may contribute to liver and gall bladder health, or to positive hormone altering.

Is that enough reasons to consider showing some respect to the next dandelion you lay eyes on? Better yet, I suggest the next place you view the humble dandelion is on your plate, prior to consumption. To help you with that, MrsToronto will be bringing you some inspiration with her recipes shortly to help you along.

Tomorrow is of course Muscle Talk: Hip Flexors Adductor/Abductors part 2. These aren’t the first muscles that come to mind when we talk about training our legs, or the function of our torso, but they certainly play a valuable part. If you missed part one, now is the time to get caught up on your reading as we will next be dealing with the training of these muscles. Join me here tomorrow my friends,

Happy Lifting!

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