With their small size and bright pink-red hue, radishes are pretty freakin’ adorable. But don’t let their size fool you — radishes are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. The tiny veggie also boasts a unique peppery taste, making it perfect for sprucing up salads, tacos, and more. Ahead, learn about the health benefits of radishes, plus delicious ways to enjoy them.
What Are Radishes?
The radish is a cruciferous veggie that can grow “wherever there is sunlight and moist, fertile soil,” according to the University of Illinois, which makes for easy growing. They also come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors — in fact, there are 35 (!!) different varieties of radish, says Vanessa Rissetto, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., co-founder of Culina Health. Some of the most common are cherry belle — round with red skin and white flesh, often what’s stocked at the supermarket — and daikon — long and carrot-shaped with white skin and flesh, according to Michigan State University.
Radish Nutrition Facts
“Radishes are a true superfood,” says Megan Byrd, R.D., founder of The Oregon Dietitian. “They contain high levels of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, vitamin K, magnesium, and zinc.” These nutrients are involved in a range of basic physiological processes, from creating red blood cells to promoting healthy digestion, she explains. Like fellow cruciferous veggies (i.e. cauliflower), radishes also contain glucosinolates aka sulfur-containing compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, according to an article in the journal Molecules.
The skin of a red radish contains anthocyanins or plant pigments that are responsible for the veggie’s ruby hue. Anthocyanins, which are also found in plants such as berries and purple corn, have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, further adding to the long list of impressive radish health benefits. Here’s a quick nutritional profile of one cup of raw radishes, according to the United States Department of Agriculture,
- 18 calories
- <1 gram protein
- <1 gram fat
- 4 grams
- 2 grams fiber
- 2 grams sugar
“The vitamin C and B vitamins in radishes help to boost your immune system by promoting the production of white blood cells,” explains Byrd. “They also boost the ability of your white blood cells to do their jobs,” which involve important duties such as destroying disease-causing germs and producing antibodies. B vitamins also help enzymes produce new organic molecules, according to a 2019 review, a basic component of all cells. This helps build new immune cells, which carry out the functions of your immune system.
May Reduce Cancer Risk
The vitamin C in radishes could also play a role in cancer prevention. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and it’s “a powerhouse when it comes to fighting free radicals in the body,” notes Rissetto. (A quick refresher: free radicals are harmful molecules that, in excess, can damage cells and contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer.)
When you eat a radish, for example, the glucosinolates are broken down into compounds called isothiocyanates, which have been found to hinder the development of cancer in rats and mice, according to the National Cancer Insitute. In fact, one type of isothiocyanate called sulforaphane found in radish seeds has been shown to play a role in the death of breast cancer cells in a 2017 lab study and lung cancer cells in 2016 research. (BTW, broccoli sprouts are also stocked with sulforaphane.)
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Supports Healthy Digestion
Veggies are some of the best sources of fiber, which plays a pretty large part in keeping things moving along your digestive tract. So it’s not surprising to learn that radishes, boasting 2 grams of fiber per cup, can be good for your belly.
“Radishes are rich in lignin, a type of insoluble fiber,” explains Rissetto. As insoluble fiber moves through your digestive tract, it remains intact and absorbs fluids, waste, and byproducts produced by the natural digestive process. This “keeps waste moving in a steady pattern through the gastrointestinal tract,” shares Rissetto, helping prevent constipation and other GI issues.
While radishes can have some advantages to gut health, if you have IBS or a similar gut condition or even just a sensitive stomach, know that cruciferous veggies, including radishes, can cause gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort due to their raffinose, a complex sugar that’s challenging for some folks to digest.