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Radishes are root vegetables that not only add a welcome crunch to your salads and a tangy pickled taste to your meals, but also provide beneficial effects for your heart, urinary tract and more
Radishes are root vegetables that might not command the most attention but offer plenty of health benefits. They come in a wealth of colors ranging from white to purple to black, and can be round or long and cylindrical.
Radishes can be cooked, eaten raw or pickled, depending on your taste or preference. People usually consume them raw as a crunchy vegetable in salads or as part of a number of European dishes.[i] Middle Easterners may drink radish juice to get their nutrients and other perks.
In folk medicine in Greece and the Arab world, radishes are regarded as household remedies for conditions such as gallstones, jaundice, liver problems, indigestion, rectal prolapse and other gastric woes.[ii] Here are some of their health benefits as backed by modern research.
1. Better Digestion
A half cup of raw radish (about 12 medium radishes) provides 1 gram (g) of dietary fiber, so several servings a day can help you reach your target daily intake.[iii] Fiber has been linked to improved digestion as well as an inverse relationship to obesity, Type two diabetes, cancer and heart disease.[iv]
Radish leaves may be particularly helpful for digestion. According to the findings of a 2008 study, animal models fed a high-cholesterol diet had a good fiber source in radish leaf powder, which helped enhance their digestive function.[v] Radishes are known to promote the production of bile, a crucial element of optimal digestion that assists the liver and gallbladder.[vi]
2. Relief of Urinary Discomfort
Radishes are diuretic, which means they help increase the production of urine. Since ancient times, extracts from the plant have been used to treat urinary infections among a host of benefits, mostly attributed to the presence of glucosinolates, polyphenols, and isothiocyanates in it.[vii]
A radish-containing diet was also found to increase the excretion of calcium oxalate, which forms kidney stones, versus self-selected diets. The crystal count in the urine was found to be significantly higher in both men and women.[viii] Radish also surfaced in a 2012 study to act against Candida albicans, a common cause of oral and vaginal yeast infections.[ix] The root crop was found to help induce cell death in the fungus.
3. Liver and Gallbladder Protection
Radish is known to have protective effects on the liver and gallbladder. Based on a 2012 study on animal models, white radish enzyme extracts may shield against hepatotoxicity.[x]
"R. sativus extract did not show any toxic effects and could be considered as a potent hepatoprotectant," the researchers wrote, noting that the leaf powder may be effective in reducing transaminase and total bilirubin -- two markers of liver health.
In another study, black radish juice relieved cholesterol gallstones and decreased triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol levels in mice.[xi] In Mexico, black radish juice is a folk treatment for gallstones as well as reducing cholesterol.
4. Anticancer Properties
A 2010 study linked radish root extract, particularly its various types of isothiocyanates, to cell death in some cancer cell lines.[xii] The root "exerts potential chemopreventive efficacy and induces apoptosis in cancer cell lines through modulation of genes involved in apoptotic signaling pathway," noted the researchers.
Radish seed extract, too, was seen in a 2019 study to induce cancer cell death and reduce the migration of oral squamous cell carcinoma, thus serving as a potential anticancer drug.[xiii]
5. Enhanced Cardiovascular Health
Radishes are a rich source of anthocyanins, flavonoids that not only give them their vibrant color but also a number of health benefits.
Epidemiological studies show that increased anthocyanin consumption lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.[xiv] These flavonoids usually interact with other phytochemicals for synergistic effects and possibly regulate various signaling pathways involved in heart disease development. Anthocyanins display vital properties that may benefit both heart disease and cancer cases in humans.[xv]
Radishes in Your Vegetable Garden
Consider planting spring radishes, with successive planting of short rows every 10 to 14 days.[xvi] You may also opt to plant them in late winter in a shielded cold frame, window box or container in the house or on your patio. Sow the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and thin the spring varieties to 1/2 to 1 inch in between plants. Winter radishes, on the other hand, should be thinned to 2 to 4 inches, or farther apart for the larger roots to develop.
The good news is radishes grow well in nearly any soil, as long as it's prepared properly, fertilized naturally and maintains enough moisture. The root vegetable matures quickly and so should be watched closely to ensure the right harvesting time.
You may eat radishes various ways, such as baking and sauteing them with garlic and herbs, adding thin slices to your sandwich or pickling them as an addition to your batch of kimchi.[xvii] You may also introduce added crunch to your salads through radishes. Learn more promising health benefits of the humble yet mighty radish on the GreenMedInfo.com database.
[iii] University of Illinois Extension, Radish https://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/radish.cfm
[iv] Lattimer J et al "Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health" Nutrients. 2010 Dec; 2(12): 1266-1289. Epub 2010 Dec 15.
[vii] Manivannan A et al "Deciphering the Nutraceutical Potential of Raphanus sativus--A Comprehensive Overview" Nutrients. 2019 Feb; 11(2): 402. Epub 2019 Feb 14.
[viii] Kumar A "Influence of radish consumption on urinary calcium oxalate excretion" Nepal Med Coll J. 2004 Jun;6(1):41-4.
[ix] Thevissen K et al "The plant defensin RsAFP2 induces cell wall stress, septin mislocalization and accumulation of ceramides in Candida albicans" Mol Microbiol. 2012 Mar. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08017.x
[x] Lee S et al "Effects of White Radish (Raphanus sativus) Enzyme Extract on Hepatotoxicity" Toxicol Res. 2012 Sep; 28(3): 165-172.
[xi] Castro-Torres I et al "Antilithiasic and Hypolipidaemic Effects of Raphanus sativus L. var. niger on Mice Fed with a Lithogenic Diet" J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012; 2012: 161205. Epub 2012 Oct 3.
[xii] Beevi S et al "Hexane Extract of Raphanus sativus L. Roots Inhibits Cell Proliferation and Induces Apoptosis in Human Cancer Cells by Modulating Genes Related to Apoptotic Pathway" Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010; 65 (200-9).
[xiii] Ahn K et al "L. seed extracts induce apoptosis and reduce migration of oral squamous cell carcinoma KB and KBcells by downregulation ofβ-catenin" Nutr Cancer. 2019 Nov 25:1-12. Epub 2019 Nov 25.
[xv] Muleke E et al "Coordinated Regulation of Anthocyanin Biosynthesis Genes Confers Varied Phenotypic and Spatial-Temporal Anthocyanin Accumulation in Radish (Raphanus sativus L.)" Front Plant Sci. 2017; 8: 1243. Epub 2017 Jul 19.
[xvi] University of Illinois Extension, Radish https://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/radish.cfm
[xvii] OrganicFacts.net, Health Benefits of Radish https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-radish.html