Rhubarb is a compatible vegetable with plenty of foods and, considered by some, essential to our gardens and not to miss from the kitchen. Of course, studies have been made on rhubarb in order to see how valuable this plant is regarding health benefits. For example, in Ancient China, some of the rhubarb health benefits were soothing stomach ailments and relieving fever, swelling and constipation.
As Wikipedia puts it, “Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a species of plant in the family Polygonaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial growing from short, thick rhizomes. It produces large poisonous leaves that are somewhat triangular, with long fleshy edible stalks and small flowers grouped in large compound leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescences.”
In the kitchen, we use the fresh raw leaf stalks of this vegetable. Yes, it is a vegetable that is mostly cooked as a fruit in desserts and pies, cakes or bread. For this to happen, the stalks are cooked with sugar, honey or other sweet substitutes.
- An important thing to keep in mind: the rhubarb leaves are toxic and are NOT to be eaten since they contain high levels of oxalic acid.
Given the fact that rhubarb is cultivated throughout the year, it can be found in almost every season. This plant can be grown outdoor, in your garden, or in greenhouses. Those growing in greenhouses result in sweeter and deeper red versions of the rhubarb.
Rhubarb Health Benefits
Included in the list of rhubarb health benefits are the fact that it can improve digestion, it can help with weight loss, stimulate the growth of bones, improve the health of our skin and circulation, optimize metabolism, protect against cardiovascular issues and even cancer.
This plant is filled with minerals, vitamins, organic compounds, and other nutrients that provide the necessary health benefits. Amongst these components, there are also dietary fibers, proteins, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamins B, calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus. Besides these, rhubarb is also rich in beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Rhubarb also contains antioxidants such as anthocyanin and lycopene, which are good for our overall health.
Not all of you may know this but, rhubarb is actually cultivated and eaten for its incredible nutritional value. For example, a serving of rhubarb contains up to about 45% Vitamin K, which means that it helps the growth of bones and limits the neuronal damage on the brain.
Although milk is a great source of calcium, a cup of cooked rhubarb is just as good, even better. Rhubarb is actually placed near salmon and spinach due to the high amounts of calcium they provide.
- A cup of raw rhubarb contains the following:
- calories: 26
- proteins: 1g
- sugar: 1g
- fibers: 2g
- carbohydrates: 6g
Which are some of the main rhubarb health benefits? Take a look.
- Weight Loss
Rhubarb is one of the least calorie vegetables, so it’s recommended for those who struggle to lose weight. You’ve seen how many calories does a cup of rhubarb contain. A few. Also, a cool thing is that its compounds can increase the rate of losing weight, so there’s a win-win situation.
- Improves Digestion
Among the rhubarb health benefits is also the fact that it can guarantee a healthy digestive system, due to the dietary fibers it contains. Since ancient times, this plant was used to cure constipation, but only recent it was discovered that it can also make the bowel movements regular and smooth.
Being able to cure constipation, it also helps prevent more serious problems such as gastrointestinal disorders, bloating, cramps and infections, even colorectal cancer.
- Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
Being low in fat and cholesterol, rhubarb is quite healthy when it comes to the cardiovascular system. Due to its fibers, it can also increase the levels of good cholesterol while the antioxidants it contains help prevent free radicals and heart conditions.
- Promotes Bone Health
We’ve already established that vitamin K is responsible for promoting the growth of bones and rhubarb has plenty of it. It also helps with repairing bones. Rhubarb plays an important role in promoting bone health also because of the high quantities of calcium it contains.
- Prevents Alzheimer
Although I said that rhubarb contains vitamin K, I actually did not know that this vitamin is the most pronounced. Vitamin K is also responsible for the brain activity and the health of neurons. Therefore, it prevents the oxidation of brain cells and also stimulates the neuronal activity, preventing or delaying, thus, Alzheimer disease.
- Prevents Cancer
It is said that one of the greatest rhubarb health benefits is that it can prevent cancer. Should this be true? Given the fact that rhubarb contains beta carotene and other compounds that act like vitamin A, protecting us from free radicals which cause serious damage to our bodies (cancer and other chronic diseases), it may be possible that rhubarb could help in preventing such diseases.
- Improves Blood Circulation
Rhubarb contains iron and copper in enough amounts that it can help produce new red blood cells, increasing their number and increasing the oxygenation body areas. An overall health benefit of this should be the improvement and boost of the metabolism.
- Boosts Immune System
The vitamin C contained in rhubarb helps improve and boost our immunity. Because in spring and autumn-winter our immune system tends to get weaker, it’s important we find plenty of vitamin C sources, to help boost it. Also, this vitamin is important in the production of collagen, which means that it should help delay anti-aging.
How To Cook With Rhubarb: Recipes
First of all, rhubarb can be eaten in its initial form, meaning raw. You can sprinkle some sugar on it if you prefer it sweet. Second, rhubarb is mainly cooked under the form of a dessert, with or without other fruits. It can be paired lovely with strawberries, raspberries or cherries, but you can try whatever combination you feel like.
Rhubarb is great to be used when making jam, cakes, cupcakes or summer-like beverages. It can also be cooked under the form of a sauce for meat and fish.
An easy recipe would be this one (which I have adapted to my own liking): The Gluten-free Rhubarb Cake. Let me show you how to make it.
First of all, you need to have 3-4 large stalks of rhubarb. Wash them and cut them to pieces, small or large, so they can fit a round cake tray. Next, add them to a pan, together with some coconut oil and one tablespoon brown sugar. Let them stew for a few minutes (until you see how the rhubarb gets wilted).
Next, you will prepare the cake. For this, you will need:
- 100g oat flour
- 50g flaxseed flour
- 50g rice flour
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 175g butter (room temperature)
- 150g raw sugar (honey, coconut sugar)
- vanilla extract
- coconut flakes
- a couple of cherries (optional)
Mix the dry ingredients. Then, mix the butter, vanilla, and sugar. In another bowl, lightly mix the 3 eggs with a tablespoon water. Add the eggs a little at a time to the butter mix and whisk continuously. Fold in the flour mix until fully incorporated and scrape the mixture into a round tray.
Decorate with the cooked rhubarb and cherries, sprinkle some coconut flakes on top and bake on the middle shelf for about 40 minutes. Always check the cake by inserting, from time to time, a skewer. You will absolutely love this cake!
Want to cook Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam? It’s so easy, just take a look at what you need:
- rhubarb: 3 heaping cups chopped
- strawberries: 3 heaping cups
- sugar: 1 and 1/2 cups
First of all, you need to cut the strawberries and rhubarb stalks into small chunks. Then, combine them with sugar, in a large bowl. Let them in the bowl for about 1 hour, so that the juices come out.
Transfer the mix into a wide saucepan and stir constantly. Cook at medium heat. Continue to stir until it starts boiling and it thickens. If you do not stir constantly, your jam will burn. It should take up to about 20-30 minutes.
Your jam will be cooked when you see that the mixture is thick enough and it leaves an open trail behind the spoon. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Enjoy!
Of course, you can find other recipes in order to take advantage of the rhubarb health benefits. As long as you like it and love to use it in the kitchen, you will not be disappointed, I’m telling you.
There is no doubt that rhubarb is one of the most interesting vegetables to cook with during spring, summer and fall. It’s very easy to store and can be used also in winter, for that lovely dessert. What makes it more than a delicious dessert is the multitude of rhubarb health benefits that transform this vegetable a healthy one.