Radish: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses

Radishes are a group of root vegetables with light-colored, crunchy flesh, variable skin color, and an almost spicy, peppery taste. They vary in shape from short and round to long and narrow, and the skin can be red, black, white, yellow, pink, or purple. 

Raphanus sativa is the parent domesticated species for all types of radishes. The color and shape of the radish is what separates them into different varieties. The radish is likely native to Southeast Asia or Central Asia. Ancient Greeks and Romans about 2,500 years ago also used it for food and medicinal purposes. Several thousand years ago, people began to cultivate the wild radish and encourage its spread across new lands. 

For example, red radish, also called round radish or globe radish, is what most often comes to mind when people think of radishes. However, red radish is just one variety. 

The daikon, or Japanese radish, is white and resembles a carrot or parsnip. The watermelon radish has a pale green skin and pink interior. The black, or Spanish radish, has a black skin.

Today, red radish remains the most common radish in supermarkets, but daikon and other varieties are gaining popularity.

Health Benefits

Radishes are a good source of antioxidants like catechin, pyrogallol, vanillic acid, and other phenolic compounds. These root vegetables also have a good amount of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant to protect your cells from damage. 

Some health benefits of radishes include:

Reduced Risk for Diabetes

Radishes contain chemical compounds like glucosinolate and isothiocyanate that can help regulate blood sugar levels. Eating radishes also enhances your body's natural adiponectin production. Higher levels of this hormone can help to protect against insulin resistance. Radishes also contain coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant that helps block the formation of diabetes. 

Enhanced Liver Function

Along with other compounds, radishes contain indole-3-carbinol and 4-methylthio-3-butenyl-isothiocyanate, which help the liver detoxify and heal against damage. These same compounds also help the kidneys flush out toxins. 

Cardiovascular Improvement

Radishes are rich in antioxidants and minerals like calcium and potassium. Together, these nutrients help lower high blood pressure and reduce your risks for heart disease. The radish is also a good source of natural nitrates that improve blood flow.

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Nutrition

Radishes are very low in carbs, which makes them a great choice  for people monitoring their carbohydrate or sugar intake. The vegetables have few calories and a low glycemic index level, but they're rich in several vitamins and minerals. 

Nutrients per Serving

A half cup serving of fresh, sliced radish contains:

  • Calories: 9
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 1 gram
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 23 milligrams

Portion Sizes

Since radishes are packed with vitamins and minerals without many carbs or calories, they are a healthy vegetable to add to your diet. However, eating significant amounts of radishes may interfere with hormone production in your thyroid if you have an iodine deficiency. So, it’s best to eat radishes, and other cruciferous vegetables, in moderation.

How to Eat Radish

Radishes are widely available in supermarkets, farmers markets, and specialty grocers. They are primarily a winter and spring vegetable. Eaten raw, radishes have a zesty, somewhat spicy taste. This flavor is caused by enzymes that are also found in mustard, horseradish, and wasabi. Cooking a radish dulls the pungent flavor and brings out an earthy, sweet taste.

Here are some ways to incorporate radishes into your diet:

  • Make your own pickled radishes using white vinegar and spices
  • Add sliced radish to a fresh salad
  • Top a burger with lettuce and sliced radish
  • Add radishes to a platter of veggies and dip
  • Roast radishes with garlic and olive oil
  • Make a radish and onion dip with plain yogurt as the base
  • Top braised pork chops with crunchy sliced radish
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 18, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Missouri Botanical Garden: "Raphanus sativus."

NSW Government - Department of Primary Industries: "Radish growing."

University of Illinois Extension: "Watch Your Garden Grow."

Nutrients: "Deciphering the Nutraceutical Potential of Raphanus sativus–A Comprehensive Overview."

Nutrients: "Radish (Raphanus sativus) and Diabetes."

Victoria State Government - Department of Health and Human Services: "Radish."

Nutrients: "Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Specific Vegetable Types: A Narrative Review."

American Heart Association: "How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure."

Oregon State University - Linus Pauling Institute: "Cruciferous Vegetables."

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