Rhubarb is most often considered a living fruit because of its sweet, tart taste, especially because it is most often used to make sweet jam or a filling for buns. But did you know that this is actually a vegetable? The rhubarb plant has many useful properties due to the fact that it contains important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which can be of great benefit when it comes to your health.
In the article we consider – what is a rhubarb plant, useful properties for the human body.
What is rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a perennial plant that is known for its excellent taste and vibrant color. It grows from short thick rhizomes and has triangular leaves, as well as brightly colored stems. Although rhubarb was originally used in many types of traditional medicine, it has become a popular ingredient in a wide range of desserts, including pies, chips and pastries.
Most often it is met at farmer’s markets and in grocery stores near the stems, like celery. Spring is the best time to harvest, usually from April to June. The stems are easily recognizable by their bright pink color, as well as light pink and pale green flowers, which have nothing to do with ripeness or sweetness. However, stems and flowers are the only edible parts of the plant . It is very important to know, since the leaves are actually poisonous .
What does rhubarb taste like
Rhubarb is like a very tart fruit. That’s why it is most often used as a filling for pies, boiled jams or stewed with lots of sugar and other sweet fruits such as strawberries. While the stem, known as the petiole, is the most common edible component, unopened flowers are also edible and are considered a delicacy in northern Asia.
Is rhubarb poisonous?
Although cases of rhubarb poisoning are very rare, it is important to be careful when eating, especially if you are preparing the plant at home for use in your favorite recipes. What for? Certain compounds from the store can actually be unhealthy.
So what part of rhubarb is poisonous? The stems and flowers of the rhubarb plant have beneficial properties and are the only edible parts of the plant. Whereas rhubarb leaves can be toxic due to the presence of compounds such as oxalic acid glycosides and anthraquinone. Symptoms of poisoning may include difficulty breathing, burning in the mouth and throat, nausea and diarrhea.
Useful properties of the rhubarb plant
Consider the 6 health benefits of rhubarb.
1. Facilitates digestion
As a high-fiber product, adding this vegetable to your diet can be an effective way to ease digestion.
One study evaluated how rhubarb can alleviate stomach discomfort and contribute to a healthy and normal digestion process. The study focused on alleviating bloating and stomach discomfort. Scientists came to the conclusion that rhubarb can help protect the intestinal wall due to increased secretion of gastrointestinal enzymes, while ensuring normal contraction of the muscles that mix the contents of the gastrointestinal tract ( 1 ).
Rhubarb is one of the approved GAPS diet products .
2. Strengthens bones
Rhubarb contains a good dose of vitamin K, which plays a central role in bone metabolism and may even provide protection against osteoporosis. This is because vitamin K is needed for the carboxylation of osteocalcin, an important protein hormone that is involved in bone formation and metabolism. According to a review in Nutrition in Clinical Practice, Vitamin K has a “positive effect on bone mineral density and reduces the risk of fractures.” This means that it can be especially important to prevent osteoporosis and bone loss ( 2 ).
3. May prevent brain disorders
The rhubarb plant, whose beneficial properties are due, inter alia, to the presence of antioxidants, is used to improve brain health.
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that help fight free radicals to protect and enhance brain health. In vitro studies published in Molecular Medicine Reports evaluated the effect of different concentrations of rhubarb extract on neuronal damage caused by irradiation ( 3 ). Researchers found that extract treatment significantly reduced brain inflammation caused by radiation, which demonstrated the protective role of this extract against oxidative stress. This, in turn, can potentially help prevent brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and stroke, among others.
4. Fights free radicals
Rhubarb is a high antioxidant product and contains many powerful free radical scavengers, such as quercetin (an antioxidant flavonoid) that gives plants color.
Scientists have studied the seeds of rhubarb. As a marker, the method of removing free radicals was used to assess the total antioxidant ability of extracts ( 4 ). Ten free radical scavengers from seed extracts were screened, five of which were identified and quantified, including epicatechin, myricetin, hyperoside, quercetrin and quercetin. All of them can be considered as the main strong antioxidants in rhubarb seeds, as they represent most of the total free radical removal activity.
5. Relieves constipation and diarrhea
Rhubarb is known for its laxative properties, which are used to relieve bowel movements and ensure regularity. It is known that it helps to reduce the load during bowel movements and, in turn, can help relieve pain during hemorrhoids or wounds on the mucous membrane of the anal canal, known as anal fissures.
As a herbal remedy, it can also help treat gastrointestinal discomfort caused by constipation and diarrhea. Typically, the roots and stems of rhubarb are used in the form of tincture, extract and powder. However, it is imperative that you consider these methods with your doctor, as excessive consumption can aggravate any disease.
6. Reduces inflammation
Traditional Chinese medicine uses the rhubarb plant for its beneficial properties to improve skin health, eyesight and be a cancer prevention. All this is due to the content of antioxidants and its powerful role as an anti-inflammatory product.
One study found that rhubarb powder is effective in reducing inflammation and improving prognosis in patients with Systemic Inflammatory Syndrome Syndrome (SIRS), a serious condition that sometimes occurs in response to an injury or infection. Another study published showed that rhubarb extract helps heal wounds, reduce inflammation, and block bacterial growth ( 5 ).
Nutrition Facts of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is low in calories, but high in fiber and essential micronutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C and manganese.
One cup (about 122 grams) of diced rhubarb diced contains the following nutrients:
- Calories – 26 kcal
- Carbohydrates – 5.5 gr.
- Proteins – 1.1 gr.
- Fats – 0.2 gr.
- Fiber – 2.2 g.
- Vitamin K – 35.7 mcg (45%)
- Vitamin C – 9.8 mg (16%)
- Manganese – 0.2 mg (12%)
- Calcium – 105 mg (10%)
- Potassium – 351 mg (10%)
- Magnesium – 14.6 mg (4%)
How to eat rhubarb
Since rhubarb itself has a very astringent taste, it is often combined with other sweet ingredients such as strawberries to balance flavors. Rhubarb pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, and rhubarb bread are just some of the more common foods that contain this nutritious ingredient. However, you can also use it to make rhubarb or salad dressing, oatmeal and salsa.
You can also eat raw rhubarb, but it is often recommended to cook it to reduce the content of oxalic acid. There are many ways to make rhubarb. It can easily be fried, stewed or baked. The rhubarb plant retains its beneficial properties in a raw and processed form. It does not need to be cleaned, but before use it should be thoroughly cleaned and the leaves trimmed.
How to store rhubarb
Fresh rhubarb quickly deteriorates, so proper storage is the key to increasing shelf life. Ideally, store the stems in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to five days. Rhubarb freezing is another option if you do not plan to use it for a short period of time. Simply cut the stems into small pieces of one inch in size and place in a sealed airtight bag. Frozen rhubarb can last up to a year and can be used as a substitute for fresh rhubarb in most recipes.
Despite its beneficial properties, a rhubarb plant can be toxic if you mistakenly eat its leaves. Medically, this can cause some side effects, such as gastrointestinal problems. And prolonged use can cause additional health problems due to oxalic acid in the leaves. Fortunately, heat treatment of rhubarb can significantly reduce oxalic acid and reduce the risk of side effects.
If you are pregnant or have kidney disease or liver problems, it is best to consult your doctor before taking rhubarb medicine. There have been problems with a combination of rhubarb medications and certain medications, including diuretics or blood thinners. During moderate consumption of plant stems, negative effects are not observed. But if you have any questions regarding safety, consult a nutritionist or nutritionist.
Rhubarb is a plant often used in cooking and baking. It is known for its brightly colored stems and excellent tart aroma.
Note that roots, stems and flowers are the only edible parts of the plant. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and can be harmful to health when consumed.
What are the beneficial properties of rhubarb plants? Due to its stellar nutrient profile, some of the main benefits of rhubarb include improved digestion, stronger bones, and less inflammation. It can also help fight free radicals, prevent brain disorders and reduce constipation and diarrhea.
This versatile ingredient can be added to savory and sweet foods, including pastries, sauces, jams, salads, and more.
Best of all, it’s easy to grow at home and even store in the freezer for up to a year for use in your favorite recipes.