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The veggie might have a pretty impressive impact on your health.

March 10, 2021
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You've probably had radishes in salads, but there are so many different ways to enjoy this crisp, refreshing veggie—and several reasons to eat them more often. Radishes, a cruciferous vegetable in the same plant family as kale and broccoli, offer some potentially impressive health benefits. Here are four major radish perks, as well as healthy ways to incorporate them into meals and snacks.

Radishes are low in calories and provide a range of nutrients

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of raw radishes has fewer than 20 calories, just 4 grams of carbohydrates (nearly 2 grams as fiber), almost a gram of protein, and no fat. A cup of sliced radishes also provides about 30% of the daily value for immune-supporting vitamin C, as well as small amounts of B vitamins, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Radishes contain health-protective compounds

As a member of the superfood cruciferous veggie family, which also includes cabbage and mustard, radishes contain natural sulfur-containing substances. These compounds have been shown to reduce inflammation, protect cells against cancer-causing agents, and interfere with the growth of cancer cells. The compounds in radishes have also demonstrated antibacterial activity, including against Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are linked to ulcers and stomach cancer.

Radish antioxidants may help fight cancer

Antioxidant has become a buzzword that designates a food as healthful or having functional benefits. Antioxidants have indeed been shown to play a role in reducing inflammation and protecting cells from damage, to fend off premature aging and disease.

In a 2019 comprehensive review published in the journal Nutrients, researchers noted that radishes, which have been used in folk medicine since ancient times, provide several types of antioxidants. These are found in the veggie's edible root, as well as in the sprouts, seeds, and leaves. Scientists believe the natural compounds may help guard against certain cancers, including cervical, breast, prostate, colon, liver, and lung cancer.

Radishes may protect against diabetes

By 2060, the number of US adults diagnosed with diabetes is projected to nearly triple. While simply eating more radishes alone won't negate the risk, research does show a beneficial relationship between the veggie and the disease.

A 2017 review that was published in Nutrients looked at the link between radishes and diabetes. This included radish root juice, extract, and sprouts. Researchers noted that the protective effects are likely related to the veggie's ability to enhance the body's antioxidant defense mechanism and positively impact hormonal-triggered glucose changes. Radishes also seem to reduce glucose absorption in the intestine, and promote glucose uptake, which reduces blood sugar levels.

Don't forget about daikon radishes

Daikon radishes, which are much larger and longer, are native to China and Japan, according to the USDA. They can be spherical, oblong, or cylindrical and have flesh that is white, pink, or purple.

This variety is also low in calories, at roughly 20 per cup. The USDA reports that each cup has about 5 grams of carbs, nearly 2 grams of fiber, no fat, and less than 1 gram of protein. One 7-inch daikon packs nearly 125% of the daily value for vitamin C, which supports skin health and helps produce collagen. This portion also provides over 20% of the daily value for potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, as well as nerve and muscle function.

Ways to enjoy radishes

Traditional red and daikon radishes can be eaten raw or cooked. Place raw slices over toast covered with mashed avocado or hummus; add them to sandwiches, grain bowls, and tacos; or incorporate them into slaw. Dip fresh radishes into seasoned tahini, guacamole, bean dip, olive tapenade, or cashew cheese sauce. Or oven roast, grill, or sauté radishes with olive oil and garlic, and add them to hot dishes like stir-fries and soups. Finally, radishes are amazing pickled or fermented, used as a garnish or side dish. One note: Eat radishes in moderation to prevent dips in blood sugar, and avoid them if you've had gallstones, unless you have your doctor's OK.

Radishes grow easily and quickly, so you can plant them in your yard or in a pot. When buying radishes at your farmer's market or grocery store, look for firm veggies with bright green, perky tops. They'll store longer in the fridge if you remove the greens. But you can eat the greens too. Braise or saute, or add them raw to salads or pesto.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.

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