The health benefits of rhubarb include its ability to promote weight loss, improve digestion, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, stimulate bone growth, avoid neuronal damage, boost skin health, prevent cancer, optimize metabolism, improve circulation and protect against various cardiovascular conditions.
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What is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a unique looking plant with a very interesting history and belongs to the Polygonaceae family of plants. It is widely considered as a vegetable, but in America, it is considered a fruit, since it is mainly used as a fruit in culinary practices. Scientifically, they are herbaceous perennials with leaves growing off the top of a thick rhizome. The leaf stalks are actually the most commonly used parts of rhubarb, sometimes as a dessert or an ingredient in sweet dishes.
They are cultivated throughout the year in different parts of the world, so they are widely available in almost any season. They can be grown in greenhouses, resulting in “hothouse” rhubarb, which is sweeter and a deeper red, while traditional rhubarb is grown outside.
Interestingly enough, the stalks are the only things eaten, because the triangular leaves are extremely high in oxalic acid, which can cause severe illness in people, resulting in the common belief that rhubarb is poisonous. If the plant is subject to extreme cold, the dangerous acid can migrate into the stalk, so be sure to store rhubarb in a warm or temperate space, just like the climate it normally grows in.
They first appeared in the United Kingdom approximately 400 years ago, and have become highly prized for their unique flavor and sweet taste that complements a number of other sweet fruits for pies, cakes, and juices. Rhubarb pie is a common dessert in various places around the world. However, despite the taste, rhubarb is also an amazingly healthy vegetable/fruit that can give a major boost to human health. But why? Let’s explore some of the wonderful nutrients that rhubarb contains!
Nutritional Value of Rhubarb
One of the main reasons why people cultivate and eat rhubarb is for its astounding nutritional value. Rhubarb is packed with minerals, vitamins, organic compounds, and other nutrients that make it ideal for keeping our bodies healthy. Some of these precious components are dietary fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, B complex vitamins, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. In terms of organic compounds, rhubarb is a rich source of polyphenolic flavonoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Now, let’s see how those components add up to the long list of health benefits that rhubarb can impart!
Health Benefits of Rhubarb
Promotes Weight Loss
Rhubarb is one of the lowest caloric vegetables on the market, and as such, it is often recommended for people who are struggling to lose weight but still want to remain healthy. 100 grams of rhubarb contains only 21 calories, so feel free to load up on the rhubarb without packing on any pounds. The impact that the various organic compounds in rhubarb have on the body’s metabolism can also dramatically increase the rate at which the body burns fat, thereby helping you lose weight in another way!
Treats Cardiovascular Diseases
Rhubarb is extremely low in fat and cholesterol, the vegetable poses no threat to cardiovascular health, and it can actually increase the levels of good cholesterol due to the presence of dietary fiber, which is known to scrape excess cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels and arteries. Furthermore, the impressive amount of antioxidants in rhubarb ensure that free radicals don’t cause heart disease and a wide range of other dangerous health conditions.
Our digestive system plays a huge part in our overall health, so it is important to keep the digestive system healthy and regulated. The high amount of dietary fiber found in rhubarb can guarantee a healthy digestive system by bulking up the stool and making sure that bowel movements are smooth and regular. Rhubarb has traditionally been used as a cure for constipation, but it was only recently discovered why it had such a powerful effect. By easing constipation and other digestive issues, you can prevent a wide range of more serious gastrointestinal disorders, including bloating, cramping, and even colorectal cancer.
The most prominent vitamin in rhubarb is actually vitamin K, and while it doesn’t often get as much attention as some of the other vitamins, vitamin K plays a very significant role in brain and neuronal health. It can prevent the oxidation of brain cells and stimulate cognitive activity, thereby helping to delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Improves Bone Health
Along with its role in protecting the brain from neural degeneration, vitamin K also promotes osteotropic activity, meaning that it stimulates bone growth and repair. Combined with the rich amount of calcium and other minerals found in rhubarb, the vegetable as a whole is a major player in bone protection.
Antioxidants have been widely studied in recent years due to their ability to neutralize free radicals throughout the body. Free radicals are by-products of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate or die, often resulting in cancer or other chronic diseases. Rhubarb is a good source of beta-carotene and other polyphenolic compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin which act in a similar way to vitamin A, protecting the skin and eyes from the effects of free radicals. A decent amount of antioxidants in your diet can help avoid premature aging, cataracts, macular degeneration, and wrinkles. Furthermore, these polyphenolic compounds have been connected to preventing oral and lung cancers!
Improves Blood Circulation
The trace amounts of copper and iron found in rhubarb are enough to stimulate the production of new red blood cells, increasing the total RBC count in the body and increasing oxygenation of essential areas of the body, thereby improving their function and boosting the overall metabolism of the body.
Words of Caution
Due to the potent nature of rhubarb, you should avoid it if you have a pre-existing kidney condition or certain gastrointestinal conditions, as it can make them worse. Also, be careful that children or pets do not eat the rhubarb leaves. There have been some cases of death due to the toxic levels of oxalic acid contained in the leaves. Other than that, rhubarb is a delicious and beneficial food for you and your family to enjoy!