Six top reasons to eat rhubarb

My garden

Rhubarb taking over my garden!

The appearance of rhubarb leaves peeking through the ground in my garden is one of the first signs of spring sets my heart aflutter:  it  brings anticipation about the bounty of local produce soon to come.

Local rhubarb, along with asparagus and strawberries, is just one  of the treats that start off the parade of goodies. And it’s not only the taste buds that benefit.

Research is showing that there is a cornucopia of nutritional perks found in rhubarb. While it does contain nutrients like vitamin C,  calcium, potassium and fibre, the stalks appear to pack quite a phytochemical punch. The leaves, though, are poisonous and therefore should be discarded.

Rhubarb has a long history of medicinal use dating back to before the  Middle Ages.  It’s still used as an herbal remedy on its own and as part of medicinal mixtures. Rhubarb’s medicinal appeal in the past likely had to do with its ability to fight off infections.  It has been shown to have both antibacterial and anti-fungal effects, making it especially popular when antibiotics and the like were not yet available.

Nowadays when we’re battling lifestyle-related diseases, rhubarb still hasn’t lost its luster.  It’s chock full of a range of different phytochemicals with varying action.

Here are six top reasons to put rhubarb on your menu.

•    Contains anti-inflammatory compounds
Scientists have isolated a number of different stilbenes, a group of substances which belong to the polyphenol family which have anti-inflammatory properties. Resveratrol, the compound responsible for red wine’s health halo, is also a stilbene.  Getting your fill of anti-inflammatory agents may help to halt some disease processes  before they start as inflammation is thought to be behind ills such as heart disease and some cancers.

•    Supplies antioxidants
Rhubarb also contains a range of different antioxidants. Consider that oxidation is another prime culprit in the development of disease. For example, oxidized cholesterol is much more likely to be deposited in arteries, potentially leading to  heart disease and stroke.

•    Has anti-cancer effects
Scientists have been investigating both extracts of rhubarb as well as certain compounds contained and discovered an assortment of actions. Not only do they induce cancer cells death both with colon  and stomach cancer cells, they also   seem to reduce the spread of lung cancer cells.

•    Provides blood cholesterol lowering action
For many people, it’s not just what they eat that affects their blood cholesterol profiles. Their body produces cholesterol on its own. Here’s where foods such as rhubarb come in. It contains compounds known as  galloyl esters which appear to actually  inhibit cholesterol production.

•    Decreases risks of  bloods clots
Research shows rhubarb contains a number of  compounds that reduce the stickiness of blood, leading to lower risk of having blood clots and having a heart attack or stroke.

If you are taking  blood thinning medication such as, warfarin or Coumadin, eating large amounts of rhubarb, together with the medication,  can lead to excessive bleeding so keep amounts consumed in check.

•    Is delicious
As  kids, we used to pull   rhubarb stalks from the garden and roll them in sugar and sit and munch.  The sweet satisfaction of having picked them ourselves was enough to endure the tartness.

For many, the only way to eat rhubarb is in the form of  pie but this vegetable – while it’s thought of as a fruit, it’s really not – is much more versatile. While an occasional piece of pie can fit into any healthy eating regime, going for a crumble or fruit crisp with an oatmeal and nut topping or in a compote or salsa fits in better with rhubarb’s nutritional profile.

Coming up: Roasted Rhubarb recipe

Are you a fan of rhubarb? What’s your favourite way to enjoy it? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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9 Comments on “Six top reasons to eat rhubarb”

  1. Chris Hughes
    May 28, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    I love rhubarb. I generally make rhubarb pie but I also like boiling it without sugar and eat with chicken as a sauce love it

  2. Julie Wilbern
    September 22, 2019 at 9:13 pm #

    I cut and dehydrated one all my RUBARB stalks this year. Cut about One inch slices and put in dehydrator. The Rubarb turned out so amazing they shrunk to a little over 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch when done. The tiny pieces look so amazing and do they pack a punch of flavor. They retain a beautiful pink color. I can put them in any cookie , cake , salsa. Anything needing a brilliant bright bite. Lol.. I also accidentally found that if you just eat a few of the dehydrated pieces it took away my RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME. I was on an over night trip and forgot my dried Ginger, BUT I had brought a baggie of my dried fruits with me and I had dropped about 10 of the tiny dried Rubarb pieces and it just hit that.” I bet that could help my restless leg “, a
    And it sure did. From my kitchen to yours. Julie wilbern.

    • September 24, 2019 at 4:51 pm #

      That’s very interesting, Julie! I have never heard this before but I will definitely see if there’s any research on the topic.

  3. Karen
    June 4, 2020 at 11:45 am #

    Stewing some up in a pot making jam out of it for toast
    now I’ve been using Stevia to sweeten it and it’s all right
    Put it with my porridge today with apples cinnamon and nutmeg turmeric powder and ground pepper

  4. Mary Evans
    July 6, 2021 at 8:57 am #

    I cook rhubarb, then add strawberry sugar-free Jello. Makes a delicious ‘jam-type’ topping for toast.

    • July 7, 2021 at 9:10 am #

      Mary, it sounds like a tasty way to sweeten up the rhubarb!

  5. Kristin
    May 20, 2022 at 6:25 am #

    Rhubarb Sauce – chop then cook with a little bit of water and a stick of cinnamon until it’s mushy, cool and add sugar to taste. Refrigerate. I add about 1/2 c to my homemade unsweetened granola mix and plain whole fat yogurt every morning while in season or like applesauce scooped up with graham crackers as a dessert.

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