Dandelion Greens for Health

 

As I walk around my yard I notice the abundance of what some people feel are obnoxious weeds, but I see them as healthy food. In spring these plants are prolific with their big yellow flower brazenly  sticking out of the greenery. I, however, see their distinctive leaf pattern and know what great benefit they bring to body wellness. In the botanical world, dandelion greens are best known as a liver tonic. And goodness knows liver function needs a lot of help in this toxic soup in which we live.

 

Some healthful  properties of this common plant:

  • The greens are rich in iron and calcium
  • The leaves are high in anti-oxidants like vitamin C and betacarotene; vitamin C helps with iron absorption too!
  • Dandelion is a tonifier for the liver. This herb can be found in many formulas  enhancing the detox process. If you chew on the leaf you’ll notice a bitter flavor; bitters enhance liver and gallbladder function.
  • High in minerals, this plant helps support many biochemical functions. It has  copper (10% RDA), manganese (8% RDA), phosphorus (5% RDA), potassium (5% RDA) and magnesium (5% RDA).

How to eat dandelion. Wash well. Try it in smoothies, or add some leaves into your salad greens, or sauté in garlic or spring onion. See my smoothie recipes for additional basic smoothie recipe ideas.

Pick dandelions only from land that has NOT been sprayed with chemicals. The younger leaves (before the flower appears) will yield  less bitterness. Spring and early summer is best time to choose wild/yard dandelion. They are one of the best proactive health foods to lower your risk of cancers, inflammatory diseases and cardiovascular illness .

For pro-health activities such as detox, improved energy, greater immunity and true disease prevention, include dandelion this spring. Eat it often while it’s available. Click here for further reading about dandelion.

Eating On The Wild Side!

dandeliongreensHow has food farmed today evolved over the last few centuries? This is an important question especially in light of increasing chronic illnesses currently facing so many people in our nation. Through spontaneous mutation and laboratory genetic changes, food grown today is very different than how it was grown fifty to one hundred and more years ago.

In my own eating habits, I notice my preference to sweeter and often “softer” foods that are easier to chew and swallow. Food that is not cultivated, in other words, that is grown wild, is more fibrous and contains less readily available sugars. But the tendency is to eat what is grown for us by our local farmer. Farmers sell what people want to eat. We want to eat sweeter and softer foods, not higher fiber, less sweet food.  Gradually Americans have been lured into the sweet low fiber food trap.

 A New York Times article reports that corn has been bred to increase its sweetness but at the cost of lost nutrients. As an example, deep yellow corn has beta-carotene along with anthocyanin – two very important nutrients for health, not found in sweeter white corn so popular now. The article encourages us to eat blue cornmeal in our pancakes for greater nutrient density. A very good idea!

Here are a few starter food tips:

  • Eat more scallions but use the green part of the plant as well as the white bulb.
  • Eat arugula which is a richer salad green and close to its ancestor plant.
  • Dandelion greens are definitely very good for your health.
  • Bitter greens like  mustard greens and Swiss chard can be added to regular salads or stir fried with mushrooms.
  • Add fresh herbs to salads and soups; make vegi/herb-burgers or add herbs to smoothies for added nutrition.
  • Parsley either flat leaf or curly leaf plant, along with cilantro are excellent due to rich plant nutrients like chlorophyll, minerals and iron. Use regularly.

We can no longer depend on food manufacturers, farmers or the government for best practices for our food consumption.  Be your own advocate and do your own research. Know what is best for your health. Here is an excellent book as a food  resource that gives you the qualities of  nutrients in foods, how to select them, identifying foods that enhance health: The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael Murray, ND.  Every kitchen should have this book right along with the cookbooks we love!

As a naturopathic physician there is no doubt in my mind about the relationship between food and health. Eat more wild grown foods for excellent health. Make a promise to yourself and family to add a new wild food to your diet at least once a week. Experiment and have fun!

wild greens

Health Foods – Which Are NOT?

Buying foods in containers or packages can be confusing to many. Reading labels is overwhelming trying to sort out what really is good for us. The buzz words “healthy” and “natural” adds to the confusion, because of what they imply. For example sugar is a natural food; however the addition of sugar to packaged foods for the purpose of increased sales (for the sweetness) is not healthy. Learning to discern our food purchases is essential to eating well. What is even more critical is food given to children under the pretense of healthy and natural which is also deceiving.  It is a red flag when a package contains those two words because the manufacturer wants us to make a purchase. Food that comes directly from the ground intact is the real deal – healthy and natural.

Food is life

A package that has a paragraph of ingredients is a “put it back on the shelf” message.

Here are a few examples:

    • Granola bars: very often the first ingredient is sugar.
    • Energy bars: sugars or artificial sweeteners can dominate.
    • Fruit flavored yogurts: high in sugars, which can be as much as 6 tsp per 8 oz container!
    • Fruit smoothies (commercial): comprised of sugary juice and yogurts and may contain as much as 600 calories

In these categories there are better options such as adding your own fresh fruits to yogurt and smoothies, which relies on fruits for natural sweetness, not added sugar like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar. The important message is to eat mostly (80%) unprocessed foods. Buy fruits and vegetables fresh and eat with minimal cooking/processing. It does not take much time to chop a salad or steam veggies – really. Simply the largest percentage of foods we eat needs to be fruit and vegetables – that’s it. To maintain hormone balance, wellness and longevity, this is the plan to follow now. In every case that I see as a naturopathic physician, nutrition is the gateway to health & wellness.

The truth really does lie in eating 6-8 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. So many food products in the market place may claim to be health foods which are not really good for us. Healthier foods may cost a little more now, but continuing to eat the American SAD diet will cost us much much more later on. Think about it…

Winter Water Therapy

In colder months we often don’t think about using water therapy or hydrotherapy, but it is an excellent time to utilize water for healing and improving immunity. Here are some three easy treatments you can use at home.

  1. Winter mineral bath: adding salts to hot bath is a comforting therapy on a cold winter night. If you feel cold symptoms come on, your cold and achy, or you want to fall asleep easily this is the right treatment for you! Add 2-4 cups of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) depending on the size of your tub. Soak for 20 minutes, rinse off with cool water, dry off and then lay down for at least 30 minutes. Sea salts can also be effective and can be mixed with the magnesium salts. Try adding wintergreen essential oil to a bath.
  2. Hot foot soak: fill up a basin with hot water, add Epson salts 4-6 tablespoons and a few drops of lavender oil. Immerse both feet into the hot tub, wrap a warm blanket around yourself and soak for 20 minutes. When done dip feet into a cool basin of water for 30 seconds, dry off and rest. Use the treatment for tired feet, a congested stuffy head cold, of symptoms of flu.

Both of these old time remedies allow the body to rest, become warm or even sweat which allows a gentle detox release to occur. These treatments can be done daily if necessary.

3. Steam Inhalation:Inhaled steam is so helpful for irritation and inflammation of the nasal passage, sore throat, coughs and bronchitis. Place a large pot of water on the stove filled with water. Bring to a boil.

Remove the pot off the stove to a hot pad on a table. Add 3-4 drops of essential oil such as eucalyptus or pine oil. Sit in a chair at the table with your face over the steaming pot. Place a towel over your head and steaming pot to trap in the steam. Slowly inhale and exhale the steam . Enjoy the warming sensation of the steam as it opens up passage ways. The essential oil vapor can have healing effects as well.

Hydrotherapy is centuries old. The treatments take some time, but when we are tired, overworked or sick, these therapies can shorten the illness or improve our body’s immune work. Try it out – it is worth the time.

Whole Food Smoothie Recipes

  1.  Whole Food Smoothie
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 chard leaves
  • ¼ cup spinach
  • 1 small ripe banana
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup blueberries  Blend until smooth.

2.   Cucumber Drink

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium sized cucumber
  • 1 ripe pear – Blend until smooth.

3.       Nut smoothie

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 ripe banana (frozen)
  • ripe pear
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract or ½ vanilla bean. Blend until smooth.

Compliments to jazz the smoothie:

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ “ slice of fresh ginger

Use lemonade as the water diluted 1:1

Add 1 scoop of protein powder; Add raw cashews or walnuts instead of almonds

Recipe for Winter: Potato Leek Soup

Here is an easy to make potato leek soup recipe.

3-4 potatoes – leave skins on.
2-3 leeks well washed
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp dill or more as you like
Butter or olive oil

Boil potatoes until done. Chop leeks and sauté in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter. Add minced garlic and sprinkle in dill.

Save potato water.

Combine leeks and potatoes with water in blender and puree. Add enough water to desired thickness of soup. Season with sea salt as desired.

Enjoy your Potato Leek Soup Recipe!