Dandelion Greens: Nutrition, Benefits, Risks, Foraging and More

Dandelion greens are a great source of vitamins K and A.
Image Credit: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages

With its peppery flavor, dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) make a great addition to a variety of dishes. But this mighty leafy green also has solid nutritional value.

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"Dandelion greens are a nutrient-dense food that helps individuals get more variety in their diet," says Ryan Andrews, RD and nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition.

Dandelion Greens Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, one cup of dandelion greens contains:

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  • Calories:​ 25
  • Total fat:​ 0.4 g
    • Saturated fat​: 0 g
  • Cholesterol:​ 0 mg
  • Sodium:​ 41.8 mg
  • Total carbohydrates:​ 5.1 g
    • Dietary fiber:​ 1.9 g
    • Total sugars:​ 0.4 g
  • Protein:​ 1.5 g

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Macronutrients

  • Total fat:​ A cup of dandelion greens has 0.4 grams of total fat, including 0.1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat and 0 grams of mono and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Carbohydrates:​ A cup of dandelion greens has 5.1 grams of carbs, including 1.9 grams of fiber and 0.4 grams of natural sugars.
  • Protein:​ A cup of dandelion greens has 1.5 grams of protein.

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Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients

  • Vitamin K:​ 357% of your Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A:​ 31% DV
  • Vitamin C:​ 21% DV
  • Vitamin B2:​ 11% DV
  • Copper:​ 10% DV
  • Iron:​ 9% DV
  • Vitamin B1:​ 9% DV
  • Vitamin B6:​ 8% DV
  • Calcium:​ 8% DV
  • Potassium:​ 5% DV
  • Magnesium:​ 5% DV

Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens aren't very well-studied, but they have many purported uses including:

However, the claims above aren't backed by quality human studies, and so they must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, dandelion can be a nutritious addition to most eating plans.

1. Great for Eye Health

Dandelion greens are full of vitamin A: One cup has 31 percent of your DV.

Vitamin A is vital in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, according to an April 2019 study in ​Antioxidants.​ This eye disease could cause blindness.

Vitamin A deficiency is linked to the loss of maintaining proper night vision. Your eyes need vitamin A to produce pigments so your retina will work properly.

Another symptom of vitamin A deficiency is dry eyes. The eyes aren't able to produce enough moisture to keep them lubricated without enough vitamin A, according to the Mayo Clinic. Load up on vitamin A by having a nutritious dandelion greens salad.

2. Protects the Bones

One cup of dandelion gives you more than three times your DV for vitamin K.

This important nutrient helps prevent the weakening of the bones by producing certain proteins, including osteocalcin, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Higher vitamin K intakes are associated with a lower risk of hip fractures and low bone density.

3. Might Aid in Weight Loss and Bloating

Take your ordinary salad up a notch by substituting ice burg lettuce for the power-packed nutrition of dandelion greens. Remember, 1 cup has just 25 calories.

If you're the type to hang on to water weight, you'd be glad to know that dandelion greens act as a natural diuretic to help prevent bloating and increase urination, per an August 2009 pilot study of just 17 people in the ​Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine​.

Dandelion Greens Health Risks

Dandelion Side Effects

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering, taking too much dandelion can cause:

  • Heartburn
  • Stomach ache
  • Low blood sugar
  • Skin rash
  • Mild diarrhea

Stop taking dandelion and talk to your doctor if you develop these symptoms.

Dandelion Allergy

Dandelion greens are excellent for overall health but there may be rare cases of allergic contact dermatitis, per an August 2016 report in ​The Review of Diabetic Studies​.

Drug Interactions

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Cleveland Clinic, dandelion may interact with:

  • Diuretics
  • Substrate drugs
  • Some heart and blood pressure medications
  • Lithium
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Blood thinners

"Vitamin K is a necessary component in the blood clotting process and, among other things, it also helps with bone formation," says Andrews. Because of its blood-thinning effects, due to the high amounts of vitamin K, people on blood-thinning medications like Warfarin should be careful about introducing dandelion greens into their diet.

If you're on blood thinners and wish to try dandelion greens, talk to your doctor about how much of this veggie you can safely enjoy.

Recipes, Preparation and Tips

Due to its bitter taste, dandelion greens can take some getting used to. But there are a few ways to make eating dandelion greens more pleasing to your tastebuds. Try the following:

  • Enjoy it mixed with other greens.
  • To cut the bitterness, add a citrusy vinaigrette.
  • Cook dandelion greens by sauteing or braising them with olive oil and garlic.

Any of the greens in these recipes can be swapped out for dandelion greens.

Foraging for Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are so plentiful, so is foraging the best way to get your hands on fresh greens?

"Your safest bet is to actually find some grown in a garden or on a farm. You don't quite know if [foraged dandelion greens] have been tainted with something like a chemical, waste product or something that could be harmful to your health," Andrews says.

Instead, Andrews advises buying your dandelion greens from a farmers' market, grocery store or other reliable sources.

Alternatives to Dandelion

There are several alternatives you can substitute for dandelion greens. If you're looking for that similar peppery flavor, try:

  • Arugula
  • Mustard greens
  • Cress

Eating leafy greens, in general, is a great way to get bone-fortifying calcium, Andrews says. Most leafy greens, like spinach, contain oxalates, a substance that binds with calcium and prevents its absorption. But dandelion greens are different because although rich in calcium, they don't contain high amounts of oxalates, so the calcium is more bioavailable.

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