Radishes: the overshadowed disease-fighting summertime treat

At this time of year, when you visit a farmer’s market, who can blame you if you’re immediately drawn to the tomatoes and corn? But don’t forget about those bunches of summertime radishes. The sweetness and the crunch as you munch on one is definitely a seasonal treat but one that gets left out of the conversation when everyone is raving about other summertime bounty.

Other produce also gets much of the attention when nutritional perks are considered. But radishes are no slouch in this department either. One cup of radishes supplies a mere 19 calories but for that paltry amount, you also get 2 grams fibre and 270 milligrams potassium (compared to a small banana with its 362 milligrams).

But it’s the radish’s esteemed botanical family roots that grab much of the scientific attention. Radishes are part of the powerful brassica clan that’s known for its cancer-fighting compounds. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, kale, watercress and Brussels sprouts are all kissing cousins to the radish. Each contains compounds known as glucosinolates but in the different brassica plants, it seems that in individual members, these substances work in different ways yielding anti-cancer action.

A number of studies have pointed to radish’s anti-tumour effects in various cancers, such as lung and breast cancers. The researchers point out that to achieve the cancer-fighting action, such as halting the spread of cancer cells as well as promoting apoptosis or cancer cell death, only small amounts need to be consumed.

Red and pink varieties also supply anthocyanidins, the same colourful pigments found in blueberries, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Yet radishes don’t seem to be treated with the same respect on North American tables as they are in other countries. I remember on my first trip to Paris, at each bistro where we dined, radishes, bread, salt and butter were immediately put on the table to start our meal.

According to Foodland Ontario, for thousands of years, radishes have been seen as an appetite stimulant. The Roman poet Horace said they were a vegetable “to excite the languid stomach.”

When you buy bunches of radishes, for longer storage, be sure to trim off the leaves before storing them in the fridge. In this age of food waste consciousness, keep in mind you can also cook the greens. You can enjoy radishes raw and naked or sliced into salads. Chop them and add to dips. My husband loves them diced and added to tuna salad. Alternatively roast them or make a radish soup. The possibilities are endless.

But just eat them!

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

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

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