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Perfectly petite and vibrant in hues of pink, purple and white, radishes make for an Instagram-worthy addition to your plate. But what, exactly, do radishes offer other than a burst of cool color, a peppery, zesty taste and a bit of crunch?
At first glance, radishes might seem more like a garnish than an important ingredient. But these little vegetables have a whole lot to offer, particularly when it comes to your health. Keep reading to learn about five hidden health benefits of radishes.
1. Better, smoother digestion
Like any other vegetable, radishes are filled with fiber. And there’s nothing quite like fiber for your digestive system.
However, what makes radishes so great for digestion is the specific kind of fiber they offer. Radishes are rich in lignin, which is an insoluble fiber. While your body works to digest radishes, that particular fiber stays intact, absorbing fluids and pulling it into the waste that’s produced during digestion. And that helps your waste move steadily through the process, preventing issues like constipation while keeping you nice and regular.
Additionally, research shows that radish juice in particular can protect your digestive system. A study discovered that drinking this juice helps prevent gastric ulcers, offering protection for gastric tissue and bolstering barriers in the stomach and intestines. This can help your GI tract fend off unfriendly bacteria and inflammation. So while radishes may not be the first veggie that comes to mind when you’re shopping for juicing, definitely consider tossing a handful in your juicing mix.
2. A stronger immune system
Like any other vegetable, radishes are packed with vitamins – including two standouts, vitamins C and B. These two vitamins are closely connected to your immune system at a cellular level.
The vitamin C in radishes can strengthen your immune system by helping boost the production of white blood cells. Research shows that vitamin C can increase the body’s ability to create lymphocytes, one of the most common kinds of white blood cells, and positively influences their function. Simply put, that means vitamin C makes sure your immune system’s cells are working well to keep you healthy.
Vitamin B has a similar effect. Research shows that B vitamins encourage the production of new organic molecules, or the building blocks of cells. This lays the foundation for new white blood cells too, giving your immune system the support it needs to keep running smoothly.
3. Reduced risk of diabetes
Every inch of a radish can be beneficial for your blood sugar. And if you’re hoping to prevent diabetes – specifically, type 2 diabetes – you’ll want to eat some from tip to stem.
A research review published in the journal Nutrients found that radishes can not only reduce your risk of developing diabetes, but they can also have protective effects. This particular vegetable enhances the defense mechanisms of antioxidants. It also appeared to reduce the amount of glucose absorbed into the intestines and reduce blood sugar levels overall. These benefits came from almost any part of the veggie, including radish juice, extract and sprouts.
Another research review concluded that the fiber present in radishes also had a risk-reducing impact. That fiber helps slow the rate at which glucose is absorbed, which prevents blood sugar spikes. This could be key if you’re hoping to avoid insulin resistance later in life.
Of course, filling your plate with radishes won’t completely eliminate your risk for diabetes. But adding this peppery veggie into your diet can help you better control the factors that may influence your risk.
4. Protection against certain fungal infections
Here’s an unexpected surprise: radishes are actually natural antifungals. And you can take advantage of this handy benefit if you’re prone to yeast infections.
Researchers have found that radishes contain RsAFP2, a protein that works as an antifungal. This particular protein can kill Candida albicans, a fungus that’s common in humans. It’s what causes vaginal yeast infections, thrush (or oral yeast infections) and invasive candidiasis. In other studies, RsAFP2 has also been found to get rid of other Candida species too; however, it isn’t as effective on those strains.
You might want to give radishes a try if you’re prone to or struggling with any of these common woes. Otherwise, eating this veggie may be able to help you fend off these fungus intruders before they take hold.
5. A lower risk for certain cancers
Remember that vitamin C present in radishes that boosts your immune system? It also offers another significant health benefit: thanks to their vitamin C content, radishes can potentially reduce your risk for some types of cancer.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C is able to combat cancer-causing free radicals that may be present in your body. It can reduce inflammation and protect against cellular damage too. And radishes don’t just offer vitamin C – research has shown that other kinds of antioxidants are also present. They’re sprinkled all over the plant and can be found in the veggie’s root, sprouts, seeds and leaves.
All of these antioxidants can help protect you against cancer. Research has found that radish seeds can kill breast cancer cells and lung cancer cells. Another study discovered that radishes’ antioxidants can also offer protection against cervical, breast, prostate, colon, liver and lung cancers.
While it’s unclear just how much protection or reduced risk radishes really offer, there’s plenty of reason to start eating these vegetables more often.
How you can put radishes to use
With all of these good-for-your-health qualities, there’s no reason to skip over radishes the next time you’re at the grocery store. These cruciferous veggies are just as incredible as their more popular counterparts. And they even come in an array of brilliant colors, zesty flavors, and unique shapes and sizes.
You can incorporate radishes into your diet in so many ways. Whether you’re slicing them thin and topping off your avocado toast, adding them to a salad or roasting a sheet pan of nothing but radishes and a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper, this veggie is versatile. Give some of our favorite radish recipes a try: