Properties and Benefits of Radishes: Rich in ascorbic and folic acid, vitamins B6 and B9, calcium, potassium and zinc, radishes are a nutritious and versatile vegetable, greatly appreciated in traditional cuisines around the world. Radishes (known as Raphanus sativus) come in a number of varieties. Depending on the season, they can be classified into spring, summer, fall and winter radishes. All of these varieties have different shapes, sizes and colours and can have a more or less pungent flavour. They may be red (European radishes), white (Asian radishes), pink, black or purple, either round or elongated.
If harvested early, radishes may have a slightly sweet, yet pungent flavour which only gets stronger in time. Although they are mostly known as root vegetables, meaning that the edible part is the one found underground, some dishes also require the leaves of the plant (also edible), which is why they are known as leaf vegetables as well.
A popular Chinese proverb says: ‘Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea, let the starved doctors beg on their knees.’ As you may already know, Chinese traditional medicine has been successfully used for millennia in order to cure a wide range of medical conditions. One would automatically presume there must be some truth to these ancient recommendations. After all, scientific evidence also suggests that radishes are a pretty incredible vegetable.
With only 16 kcal/100 g, they are a safe choice for anyone struggling to reach their goal weight. But what else should you know about the nutritional value of radishes? First of all, 100 g of radish provide around 25% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. An incredibly effective antioxidant, vitamin C is the key to a youthful, wrinkle-free complexion because it is a crucial requisite for collagen synthesis. Moreover, the vitamin is a potent immune system booster as a result of its antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Radishes contain decent levels of B-group vitamins as well: riboflavin (or vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (or vitamin B5), vitamin B6 and folate (or vitamin B9). B vitamins are known to help synthesize macronutrients from food (carbohydrates, fats and protein), a process which leads to nutrients being absorbed by the intestines and results in boosting energy levels.
B-group vitamins play a key role in a variety of body functions as well. For instance, they actively support nervous system health as well as contribute to digestive health. Vitamin E, also found in small amounts in radishes, is a great ally for beautiful skin.
In addition to this, radishes contain potassium and copper, as well as small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese, important dietary minerals with incredible health benefits. Iron is highly recommended for people struggling with anaemia. Calcium contributes to strong bones and teeth, while magnesium is essential for calcium absorption and muscle health. Potassium regulates body fluids and blood pressure, while copper boasts antioxidant mechanisms and helps delay premature hair graying and eye discoloration.
Good to know: a high intake of calcium combined with low levels of magnesium is a risk factor for arthritis and osteoporosis. A diet rich in calcium, but low in magnesium may lead to calcium slowly collecting in soft tissues such as joints or heart valves, increasing the risk for arthritis. At the same time, this means there is little calcium for bone formation, leading to frail bones and, in time, even osteoporosis.
Last but not least, radishes contain isothiocyanates, natural compounds occurring in the Brassicales order (radishes, mustard, horseradish, Brussels sprouts, wasabi and watercress). Isothiocyanates have been found to induce programmed cell death in cancer cells (apoptosis), especially in some types of leukemia and melanoma cells that are currently resistant to chemotherapy. (For further information on the subject, you can refer to the 2010 September issue of Plant Foods for Human Nutrition).
Folk medicine also recommend eating radishes for blood cleansing as it is believed they can help eliminate toxins from the blood. All in all, it would appear that we should not underestimate the curative properties of radishes because they bring surprising health benefits and may prove to be rather amazing additions to our diet and health.