Why to eat weeds, especially right now.

Urtica dioica, or as we know it, stinging nettle, is sometimes thought of as a weed and an invasive plant that takes over gardens, paths and woodland if left to go wild. But did you know that is is also a nutrient rich food?

I know what you are thinking, "Who in their right mind would put a stinging nettle in their mouth?!" Okay, bear with me, hopefully by the end of this post you will be convinced of their value if not inspired to head out and forage for some today.

I think we can all agree that immune support and modulation are something to be conscious of, especially at this specific time in history. The only thing standing between your health and the COVID-19 virus is your immune system so let's do all we can to ensure it is properly balanced and ready to take on whatever you are exposed to.

Some reasons why you should be eating nettles right now and regularly...

  • Vitamin A is one of the nutrients that our bodies use to support our immune function and 100g of cooked nettles will give you 100% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A and beta carotene (which is used to make vitamin A in the body). Just to give you a reference point -- this is approximately the same levels as carrots.

  • Nettle leaves contain omega 3 essential fatty acids which we all need right now to support the anti-inflammatory processes in our body. Their seeds are even richer in omega 3s but you won't find those at this time of year.

  • Nettles have an anti-allergenic effect of which there are a few mechanisms, one of which is the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines. (Have you heard about the cytokine storm involved in those that are most severely effected by COVID-19? Yes, nettles have compounds that can reduce those cytokines.)

  • Nettles have been proven to prevent intracellular viral replication of a variety of viruses, although, the effect on COVID-19 have not yet been studied.

  • Nettles are a good source of fibre -- remember the post on prebiotic foods?

Some reasons to eat nettles all the time...

Nettles contain compounds that have been proven to be immunomodulating, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, anti-oxidant, anti-ulcer, anti-hypertensive, analgesic and cardioprotective. Wow, are you convinced yet?

If not, keep reading and I will keep trying.

They have been used for 1000s of year medicinally and are used to treat a range of conditions from benign prostate hyperplasia, high blood lipid levels, allergic rhinitis, improving milk production in lactating woman, to arthritis and many in between. There is no safe upper limit to consuming nettles or using them in teas, or dried forms so you can consume as much as you like without risk.

They contain a good level of protein (30% of the dried mass) so can make up an important part of adding protein to your diet. They have high levels of calcium. Calcium is often high in dark green leafy vegetables and nettles are no exception. 100g of nettles will provide you will 50% of the RDI of calcium. For a reference point, the same amount of cooked kale will only give you 7% and the same amount of cow's milk with give you 11%. Nettles are also a good source of the plant form of iron. 100g will get you 10-14% of your RDI of iron depending on how it is prepared. For reference you will get 20% of your RDI from the same amount of beef. They are also rich in zinc, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium as well as many vitamins -- various B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E.

Convinced of their nutritional value but not sure about putting something with 'stinging' in the name in one of the most sensitive areas of your body? Don't worry, as soon as they are crushed, blended or cooked the sting is completely gone and you can chew in safety. In my opinion, nettles are delicious and so easy to use. You can add then to soups, stews, curries, smoothies, pestos, risottos, whatever strikes your fancy. Where would you add a handful of spinach? Use nettles instead. Or collect some leaves, dry them and use them for tea. Or make tea with fresh nettles!

Last but not least, they are free. You can head out for a walk and find a patch on the way, pick them, wash them and add them to your food. No grocery delivery slot needed and no human contact (so social distancing is still being adhered to). As easy as that. Who doesn't love easy free food?

If you are uncomfortable with foraging for your own food you can buy nettle as tea, powder in capsules and as tincture so you can avoid the sting and get all the benefits.

Here are some useful links to get you on your way to falling in love with nettles:

Good Luck with your foray into foraging and do let me know what delicious nettle dishes you have come up with.

To wellness!


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