Weeding out toxins

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Sure, it’s the middle of winter, in all its glory — snow, ice, grey skies, chilly temperatures — with at least 8 more weeks to go before a bona fide thaw can be expected. However, many an avid gardener already have their sights set on what varieties of delicious and nutritious vegetables to plant this year, and how to transform the brownish lawn into a lush, green, inviting backyard retreat.

No gardening experience would be complete without fully accepting the drudgery associated with weeding. Yes, along with those tender shoots that will eventually blossom into a hearty cornucopia of produce, those pesky weeds manage to slip through the fertile soil as well. However, recent studies have revealed that not all weeds are created equally, and that we might not want to be so hasty in banishing those dandelions to the lawn clippings bag.

Traditional Native Americans have taken advantage of the medicinal properties of dandelions for centuries, treating such issues as spleen problems, digestive upset and diseases of the liver and kidneys. Today, it seems that modern medicine is catching up. In August 2009, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published proof of the health properties of dandelion greens. Dandelion root affects the liver by controlling the gall bladder’s release of bile. This improves digestion, especially of fats. Since the liver’s function also includes filtering the blood to remove toxins, keeping this organ in top working order is a priority for good health.

In addition to possessing tremendous detoxifying effects, dandelions pack a serious nutritional punch. Compared to other so-called “power greens,” dandelions certainly can hold their own. These leafy greens provide 1.5 as much Vitamin A as broccoli, quadruple the calcium content, and over 7 times as much Vitamin K. When it comes to iron, these wonder weeds even beat spinach by 2:1.  I do love spinach — cooked and raw — but it’s hard to overlook the fact that it completely lacks some crucial carotenoids which are present in abundance in the dandelion green, lutein and zeaxanthin.


Now that you are opening your mind to embracing this formerly pesky garden invader, what are some ways in which to enjoy these greens?  Similar to spinach and kale, dandelion greens add an interesting taste to both salads and stir-fry dishes.  Add cooked greens to a sautéed mix of onions/garlic/salt/pepper, toss with a few sprinkles of Parmesan cheese, and you have a brand new side dish to awaken your taste buds. Along with cooked spinach, add some dandelion greens to your favorite vegetarian lasagna recipe. Add interest to a plain salad dish by tossing dandelion greens with thinly sliced apples, toasted walnuts and blue cheese.  The possibilities are endless.

This coming spring, it might be a delightful change of pace to consider inviting weeds to your next family meal. Detox and enjoy!