It might be the bane of lawns and gardens, but dandelion is not only a frustrating weed that comes back year after year. It is also a nutrition-filled plant that can be eaten or made into a tea. Dandelion has a long history of use in European and Chinese cultures, both as a medicine and as a food. You can use the fresh greens in a salad or saute them and serve as a side dish, where the high fiber content can make you feel fuller, potentially reducing the amount of food you consume. Dandelion tea can substitute for higher-calorie drinks, helping you lose weight.
Dandelion Greens and Fiber
A 1-cup serving of raw, chopped dandelion greens has 1.9 grams of fiber. This provides 5 percent to 8 percent of the recommended intake of dietary fiber, which is high considering the small serving size. Foods high in fiber add bulk to your diet, which can help you feel full and eat less, which may help you lose weight. Dandelion greens, which have a slightly bitter taste, can be eaten raw or cooked. The texture ranges from delicate to more fibrous, depending on the age of the leaves. Dandelion greens are common in Chinese and Italian cooking, where they can be used in place of rapini and spinach.
Calories in Greens
Raw dandelion greens have just 25 calories per cup. Because of their low calorie content, they can help you keep your calorie intake low while still providing you with essential nutrients as part of a healthy weight-loss diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating filling foods that are naturally low in calories, like dandelion or other leafy greens, can help you cut calories, an important part of losing weight. The CDC recommends emphasizing fruits and vegetables in your diet to help you lose weight. Leafy greens such as dandelion can also be consumed in large quantities with little caloric impact. Dandelion greens count as part of your recommended daily vegetable intake as set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is 2 to 3 cups per day.
Calories in Tea
A 1-cup serving of dandelion tea has only 2 calories per serving and minimal amounts of carbohydrate. It contains no fat, protein or sugar. Substituting this low-calorie drink for a higher-calorie one can help you lose weight gradually over time. For example, a 12-ounce can of lemon-lime soda has 151 calories per serving. Because it takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of body weight, substituting a cup of dandelion tea for a single can of soda once a week can lead to a loss of over 2 pounds over the course of a year.
Keep Your Dandelion Healthy
To keep your dandelion tea healthy, avoid adding sugar -- including natural sweeteners such as honey. Added sugar provides little nutritive value and, according to the American Heart Association, is a primary contributor to obesity and weight gain. To keep dandelion greens healthy, use a minimal amount of added fat. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 25 percent to 35 percent of your total calories be from fat. On a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, that means fats should make up 500 to 700 calories per day. If you do use fat to cook your greens, choose an unsaturated fat, such as olive oil which, if used in place of trans or saturated fats, can reduce your risk of heart disease. You can use dandelion greens as part of a salad or as a side dish with a healthy protein choice, like baked salmon.