How many times have you walked past those bunches of little red jewels nestled among the salad racks in the supermarket, noticing them only for the splash of colour they provide among the garden of greenery? I used to consider them too fiddly and boring to add to my salads, until I discovered the wealth of benefits each little treasure yields up.
The radish (Raphanus sativus) is part of the Brassicaceae family. It is a small, cherry-red, root vegetable with a crunchy texture and mild peppery flavour (a littlel bit like rocket or watercress) and is cultivated pretty much all over the world, but grows best in temperate regions. The more exotic coloured radishes, such as purple and black, usually come from the Mediterranean. The vegetable can be cooked and pickled, but is mostly eaten sliced and raw in salads.
So why are they so good for us? Well they are rich in folic acid, which has a multitude of benefits in its own right, but which also boosts the production of anti-oxidants. They are also rich in potassium and and good source of magnesium and Vitamins C and B6, as well as calcium and riboflavin. OK, all the right buzz-words, but how do these actually help in our diet?
Let's start with the liver. Radishes have the ability to regulate the production of bilirubin (a bile pigment produced by the breakdown of red blood cells and associated with jaundice and other liver diseases), as well as flushing this from the blood. This makes radishes beneficial for healthy liver and gall bladder functions.
By acting as a detoxifier, coupled with the natural roughage radishes contain, they also aid the digestion and relieve constipation - which is a frequent cause of haemorrhoids or piles.
The diuretic effect of radishes also helps to cleanse and flush the kidneys and relieve urinary tract infections and disorders.
Asthma and respiratory disorders can be helped by eating radishes because they relieve congestion and, thanks to their vitamin content and antibiotic properties, they protect the respiratory system against infection.
For controlling weight or use in weight loss, radishes can work wonders! They are low in calories, fat and cholesterol and, because they contain water and roughage, they bulk the stomach, making you feel full and satisfied, while being completely healthy. If you don't fancy munching them on their own, why not try a quick and delicious, crunchy salad of radish, watercress and fennel, drizzled with olive oil and lemon and see what I mean?
There are also claims that radishes can help with various forms of cancer and skin disorders, which does not surprise me in the least, because as far as vegetables go, radishes are truly one of nature's little miracles.