Radishes - More Than Just A Garnish

Radish

(HealthCastle.com)  I had dinner with a friend recently who was talking about her two good-sized garden beds that came with her new house. She was telling me about the different vegetables she was planning to grow and I clearly had garden envy, not because she has a garden, but due to its rather impressive size. Her first harvest of radishes is just a few months away.

A radish is the root of a plant related closely to mustard, another surprisingly healthful plant. It’s generally used as a garnish or a minor salad ingredient because of its mild-to-peppery flavour and unique red-and-white colouration, but it’s so much more!

Radish is a cool-season, fast-maturing, easy-to-grow vegetable hence the early pickin’; they can be planted in early May I’m told. Garden radishes can be grown wherever there is sun and moist, fertile soil, even on the smallest city lot. Early varieties usually grow best in the cool days of early spring, but some later-maturing varieties can be planted for summer use.

Radish nutrition. The technical stuff

Radishes are cruciferous vegetables (along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, turnip, watercress, cauliflower, turnip and more). These vegetables are particularly effective in the fight against cancer. They contain a group of phytochemcials called glucosinolates. Unlike other phytochemcials that act directly to prevent the development of cancer, glucosinolates work by releasing two classes of compounds that possess extremely high anti-cancer activity: isothiocyanates and indoles.

There are over one hundred different glucosinolates. These compounds are latent within the radish (and other cruciferous vegetables) and therefore act indirectly. When the vegetables are eaten, e.g. chewed, the various glucosinolates are mixed together creating new anti-cancer chemicals. These newly activated compounds help to flush out toxic substances linked to the formation of cancer and act directly on the level of the tumour itself by inducing cellular suicide or apoptosis. Normally cells have a limited ability to reproduce, cancer cells do not have this ‘off’ switch, which allows them to continually multiply which ultimately leads to the invasion of surrounding tissues and organs. Truly, one of the original superfoods.

Caveat

The anti-cancer arsenal found in radishes and other cruciferous vegetables are very susceptible to heat and water, both of which destroy their cancer-fighting super-powers. Aim to have several servings of crucifers each week and/or only lightly steamed, or cooked in a minimal amount of water for a short period of time (like 5 minutes max) to maintain their cancer-fighting properties. Microwaving these superheroes can destroy over 85% of their phytochemical content. One of the best ways to eat radishes and other crucifers is to enjoy them chopped as a salad, or the classic veggies and dip.

Time to elevate the once relegated radish from its status as a minor player or garnish to centre stage – they will play a significant role in your overall healthy eating strategy.

For more information on all things radish - check out Foodland Ontario's website

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