The Many Benefits of Radishes

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Radishes, crisp and unexpectedly spicy, are part of the cruciferous family, which is widely acclaimed for its anti-cancer properties. Radishes in particular are a great source of vitamins A, C, beta carotene, and folate, which support proper cell function, a healthy immune system, and bolster the body’s existing antioxidant systems. The cruciferous family as a whole is packed with vitamins A, C, K, beta carotene, folate, which support a wide variety of processes needed to maintain healthy function throughout the body.

These vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense, fiber-packed foods you can eat. In addition to this impressive resume, cruciferous vegetables contain phytonutrients such as anthocyanins and isothiocyanates, particularly sulforaphane, all of which have been shown in cell studies to have anti-cancer properties. It is, however, important to note that this research, though extensive, is still in its early stages and we cannot use it to draw any direct links or specific recommendations.

Observational research has also found a positive connection between eating cruciferous vegetables and a lower risk for development and progression of some cancers, suggesting a potential protective effect.

Though this research is promising, and it is exciting to acknowledge the current momentum in the field of phytonutrients’ potential role in cancer treatment and prevention, the evidence is not conclusive; therefore, we cannot use it to inform any specific recommendations. This highlights the importance of including a wide variety of plant foods with an abundance of phytonutrients in our diet in hopes of providing the best protection against the development of cancer and other chronic diseases.

As luck would have it, there’s a fresh radish for every season. In the spring and summer, the common Cherry Bell radish pops up with beautiful pink coloring and a sharp, spicy taste. Summer also brings us oblong, pink-tipped breakfast radishes, the hot white radish, and a number of heirloom varieties, like the richly pigmented watermelon radish. In winter, the larger, milder Daikon radish comes into season, which perfectly complements a comforting winter meal.

Radishes themselves may be nutrient-dense and versatile, but don’t forget about their greens. Radishes are sometimes sold with greens removed, but if you can find radishes with their tops intact, put the greens to good use, as they are a nutrition powerhouse. These tender greens provide many of the same great vitamins and minerals found in dark leafy greens, such as vitamins A, C, K, beta carotene, just to name a few. These in particular are important in reducing inflammation and supporting both immune function and your body’s internal antioxidant systems.  Their bitter profile also supports digestion. Radish greens have a mild peppery flavor and can be enjoyed raw or cooked.

Chef Tips

Fresh Cherry Bell radishes are available from late spring and all summer long, but as the weather gets hotter, so do they. By the dog days of August, the mildly spicy radishes of late spring can become pretty fiery, so beware.

When buying radishes, make sure their attached leaves are crisp and green, and the roots are firm and unblemished. If you’re buying pre-packed topped radishes, make sure they are firm and free from mold. Daikon roots should be firm and white with a light satiny sheen to the skin and have no bruises or blemishes.

Radishes are most often used in salads, but with their slight bite and crunchy texture, they are a perfect vegetable for roasting. Try roasted radishes in our Spring Pea Salad and Farro and Roasted Radish Salad. For an extra nutrient-rich dish, try our Simmered Daikon with Chicken—classic Japanese comfort food that is sure to make you feel better.

For a bit of indulgence, eat them as the French do, dipped first in a little cold, unsalted butter then in flakey sea salt.

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