Offering a peppery, satisfying crunch with every bite, radishes have a unique place in the hearts of veggie lovers. A root from the Brassica family and a cousin to cabbage, the many shapes, sizes and colors of different radish varieties is surprising.
In the U.S., the average large radish is red, round with a glistening white interior and roughly the size of a ping pong or golf ball. Another type is the creamy white daikon - a true tuber with the tail to show for it, and a winter radish, while the red ones proliferate in the spring. The original radish was black. Other varieties come in pink, dark grey, purple, two-tone green and white, and yellow.
The radish is well-traveled and ancient, mentioned in historical Chinese annals as early as 2,700 B.C. Egyptians cultivated them even before building the pyramids. Greeks and Romans liked them as large as they would grow, and served them with honey and vinegar. Radish cultivation reached England, Germany, Mexico, and Puerto Rico by the 1500s. In Britain, radishes had medicinal as well as culinary uses, usually for kidney stones, bad skin, and intestinal worms. It may have worked, because the colonists brought radish seeds with them to the New World.
Radishes are still a popular garden crop, planted and harvested early and seemingly impervious to light frost. When harvesting or buying red radishes, make sure they're not too large or they're apt to be hollow or pithy. The greens and the roots are used in cooking, especially with additions like spinach. Just wash them well and make sure they're not limp or yellow.
Before refrigerating radishes, wash, remove greens from the top, and place in plastic baggies with a paper towel at the bottom. This optimizes moisture content from the rest of the radish and helps keep them fresh for about a week. Sliced, they make a zippy addition to sandwiches and salads.
Health Benefits of Radishes
While you may not consume 10 large radishes in one sitting, the 100-gram portion serves as a way to better determine the nutritional value of just a few, since that amount doesn’t equate to any discernible dietary value.
Radishes are a very good source of vitamin C – 25% of the daily recommended value – helping to rebuild tissues and blood vessels, and keeping bones and teeth strong. Vitamin C fights disease and rescues the cells from an onslaught of destructive free radicals. This is done through electrolytes and natural antioxidant action of this one vitamin, increasing immunity of the body, and helping to fight against all kinds of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Folate, fiber, riboflavin, and potassium, as well as good amounts of copper, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, and calcium are less prominent nutrients that support the healthy properties of radishes.
It's probably no surprise that radishes contain fiber, aka indigestible carbohydrates. This keeps your system flushed and functioning with regularity and also aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Ironically, these naturally-heated veggies may help put an end to any burning sensation experienced during urination. That may be because radishes are a natural diuretic, purifying the kidney and urinary systems and relieving inflammation.
Radishes can also regulate blood pressure, relieve congestion, and prevent respiratory problems such as asthma or bronchitis. They have antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying properties, and contain compounds that soothe rashes, dryness, and other skin disorders.
Eating radishes can help in the removal of bilirubin, a condition evidenced by a yellow tinge in the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes, often present in newborns. This type of jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up in bile faster than the liver can break it down and pass it through your body. Meanwhile, the beneficial properties in radishes also inhibit red blood cell damage by supplying fresh oxygen to your blood.
Another mouthful of phytochemical goodness in radishes includes detoxifying agents called indoles, and the powerful flavonoids zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene. Radishes also contain an important isothiocyanate antioxidant compound called sulforaphane, a proven inhibitor of prostate, colon, breast, ovarian and other cancers.
Radish Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Radishes
One study reported that in comparison with other crucifers, Spanish black radishes contain four times more glucosinolates, believed to enhance detoxification. Clinical tests showed them to have a greater ability to detoxify enzymes, metabolize faster, and quickly reduce DMBA-induced bone marrow toxicity. Scientists concluded that the findings support the hypothesis that glucosinolates in Spanish black radishes are protective against acute toxicity1.
Scientists evaluated the chemopreventive effectiveness of radish plants (Raphanus sativus L), including the root, stems, leaves, and extracts, and investigated the molecular mechanism leading to growth, arrest, and induced cell death of human cancer cell lines. The root showed significant cell growth inhibition and induced cell death, which substantiated the premise that radishes possess potential chemopreventive efficacy and apoptosis-inducing capabilities in some cancer cell lines2.
Radish Healthy Recipes:
Snap-Pea, Radish, and Lime Salad
|2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
||3 cups yellow wax beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
||3 Tbsp. lime juice
|2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
||½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
||¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
|Freshly ground pepper
||1 bunch (about 10 pieces) of radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
- Steam peas in 2 inches of boiling water until crisp-tender – 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towel.
- Steam wax beans until crisp-tender – about 5 minutes. Add to snap peas. Refrigerate until chilled – about 20 minutes.
- Whisk lime juice, oil, cilantro, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add radishes, peas and beans; toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled.
Radish Fun Facts
That the word "radish" comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root,” and the Greek word "raphanus," which translates to "quickly appearing” may have to do with the fact that radishes are one of the fastest sprouters in the garden when they're planted from seed. For this reason, other veggies like carrots and beets are planted in the same row as radishes, so the row can be easily identified.
Radishes are a favorite vegetable all over the planet. They contain significant amounts of vitamin C and several other vitamins and minerals, and a few not-so-familiar phytochemicals such as indoles, which detoxify, and the powerful antioxidant flavonoids zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene.
Radishes also contain an important isothiocyanate antioxidant compound called sulforaphane, a proven cancer fighter. They remove bilirubin from the liver, preventing jaundice, and perform other healthful tasks like purifying kidney and urinary systems, regulating blood pressure, relieving congestion, and preventing respiratory problems such as asthma or bronchitis.
To liven up a salad and get some healthful benefits at the same time, buy a bunch of radishes and slice them thinly in your next tossed salad. Zingy!