5 Healthy edible flowers to add to your culinary arsenal

Decorating your kitchen with springtime blooms invites vibrance and joy into your space after a long and cold winter, but flowers can play a more compelling role in the kitchen if you’re feeling experimental.

Edible flowers add to the overall beauty of a dish, as well as fragrance, flavor, and texture. They have been used in many cultures for generations, not just for their aesthetic value, but for their potential health benefits as well.

According to Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN, there is a gap in the research when it comes to the direct impact edible flowers have on human health, but she still asserts that “some flowers have compounds that may offer some digestive relief.”

Here is a list of five edible flowers that could potentially boost your gut health. Just be sure that if you choose to incorporate flowers in your culinary arsenal, they are grown in a food-safe, pesticide-free environment. If you stray from this list, then confirm with a trusted resource or health provider that the flowers are safe to eat.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Nutritionist and author Ginger Hultin, M.S., RDN, says, “Fennel seeds and flowers are primarily known for improving digestion and calming gut irritation,” because fennel can help ease the muscles in the digestive tract.

On top of that, it’s high in fiber, which keeps your digestive system clean, encourages healthy bowel movements, and flushes cholesterol out of the body. Studies also show that fennel may offer antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Use fennel florets to enhance the flavor of salads, soups, or baked goods.

Calendula petals (Calendula officinalis). These vivid, golden-orange petals are the inspiration for this flower’s other name, marigold, and have been used by numerous cultures for thousands of years. Though more widely known for its role in skin care, calendula also has potential anti-inflammatory benefits.

These sunshine-hued petals would make a lovely garnish for any salad or soup.

Dandelion blossoms (Taraxacum officinale). Dandelion blossoms pack a punch of zesty flavor that works with a wide variety of dishes. They also possess bioactive chemical compounds that boast diuretic, liver-supporting, and anti-inflammatory benefits. There have even been some studies that suggest that the dandelion plant increases two types of probiotics associated with gut health, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla). Chamomile has long been known to have calming and therapeutic properties, but can also help with other gastrointestinal disturbances, like flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, anorexia, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting.

Traditionally, chamomile is steeped in hot water for tea, but you can also enjoy these flowers sprinkled atop oatmeal or in your morning smoothie.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus). These fiery red and orange flowers have long been used in traditional medicine in many countries, such as Iran, Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Mauritius. Many studies indicate that these blooms have antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. They have a high concentration of phytochemical content as well, which may support digestive function.

Their flavor is as bold as their color and can be great for infusing vinegar or as a garnish.

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