Spring Radishes

Heirloom Radish Bunches at Farmers MarketI’ll admit that until recently, I’ve ignored radishes. I’m putting my past behind me and moving my cuisine to a new level by adding these powerful detoxifiers and cancer-fighting vegetables into my culinary routine. They can enhance our health and even the taste of food.  Even in ancient Greece, radishes were once so valued that gold statues were created in their image.

It shouldn’t be surprising they are so nutritious, given they are part of the famously healthy cruciferous family which include foods like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Radishes contain significant amounts of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and fiber, as well as vitamin B-6, riboflavin, thiamin, manganese, calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and selenium.

But it’s the phytonutrients together with these nutrients that really make radishes so valuable to us. Such phytonutrients include indoles, which detoxify, and flavonoids like zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene – all powerful antioxidants. Phytonutrients are potent cancer-fighters due, in part, to important isothiocyanate antioxidant compounds called sulforaphane, which seem to protect our cells from the genetic mutations that cause cancer. They can also help prevent cancer by eliminating potentially cancerous cells before they can start to form a tumor.

Some phytonutrients in radishes can even function in antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory ways. They also help remove bilirubin from the liver, preventing jaundice, as well as purifying the kidney and urinary systems, relieving congestion, regulating blood pressure, and helping to prevent respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma. Radishes have a natural laxative effect that can help push waste smoothly through the body. They also facilitate bile secretion to improve digestion. 

Take April’s Healthy Challenge and try a variety of colored radishes like red, rose, purple, lavender, and white and incorporate them into meals as more than a garnish. Make them the main event in roasted vegetables, stir-fries, salads and sandwiches. These vegetables have a nice tangy taste that provides flavor to almost any food, with almost no calories (10 calories for a 1/2 cup) but a major amount of nutrition!