Lya Wodraska: Eating weeds — for your health
Fitness • Purslane, a common weed, represents the adventure of mixing up your diet.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I ate a weed for lunch this week, and I ate it on purpose. I wasn't desperate and lost in the wilderness but within a few feet of my refrigerator and my garden, which is overflowing with things purposely planted.

The reason I decided to be adventurous and gnosh on something that was growing in my front yard was due to the hype a common weed, purslane, has been getting lately.

From articles in the Tribune to articles on the web, I've read more and more about the nutrition levels in purslane.

It's high in omega-3 fatty acids, has six times the amount of vitamin E than spinach, seven times more beta carotene than carrots, and is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A.

Altogether the nutrition level makes purslane one of the best greens we can eat. Seems kind of silly to throw it in the compost bin instead of the salad bowl, doesn't it?

Since I couldn't kill the stuff no matter how much I yanked it or how much I dug it up, I decided to get the ultimate revenge and eat it.

I mixed it up with some fresh herbs, olives, tomatoes, fresh feta cheese, let it marinate for a bit, and then dug into it.

It wasn't bad. In fact, it was actually really tasty. It had a nice light lemony flavor that paired well with the salty, fresh taste of the other ingredients.

Would I eat it again? You bet. I've already found several recipes I want to try. Of course, now that I have plans for it, the weed will suddenly decide it wants to die.

Hopefully, this column will encourage you to be adventurous in your food choices, too.

It's important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables into our diets for optimum health. Doing so ensures we get all the nutrients we need and helps prevent food intolerances, which sometimes can flare if you continue to eat the same thing over and over again.

One interesting study published in Diabetes Care found people who average 16 different types of fruits and vegetables over a week's time were about 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who averaged just eight different types.

In a perfect world, everyone would follow a 4-day rotation diet, in which you avoid eating the same thing within four days. In other words, if you have chicken on a Monday, you wouldn't have it again until Friday.

Whether you choose to follow such a plan or not, now is the perfect time to experiment with different vegetables because we are entering the harvest season. You might find doing so improves your energy levels and overall health.

One of the best places to find new items is our farmers markets, where many heirloom and unusual varieties of vegetables can be found.

But don't forget your front yard either — no telling what you might find there.