Radicchio (pronounced ra-dee-kyoh) is a leaf chicory, sometimes called Italian chicory, and is a perennial. Radicchio (Cichorium intybus) is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red or purple leaves and it belongs to the Asteraceae family. Radicchio in general, has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when grilled or roasted. Radicchio has been in existence since ancient times and Pliny the Elder, the ancient Roman philosopher, praised radicchio for its medicinal properties, claiming that it was useful as a blood purifier and an aid for insomniacs. He was definitely on to something because when Italian scientists recently tested radicchio phenol content it scored high!
Nutritional Content of Radicchio
Radicchio is a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It also has high amounts of antioxidants and plant phytonutrients. It is low in calories and is free of fats and cholesterol. Radicchio is a good source of selenium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E and folate.
Health Benefits of Radicchio
1. The bitter principle in radicchio is lactucopicrin (intybin), a sesquiterpene lactone which is a potent antimalarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic (painkiller) effect.
2. Radicchio promotes weight loss by virtue of its high fiber that makes one full and keeps one satiated for longer.
3. Radicchio is high in antioxidants that boost overall health, wellness and energy.
4. Radicchio promotes bile production which in turn improves digestion and reduces cholesterol. Reducing cholesterol is directly beneficial to organ health and vigor.
5. Radicchio is an excellent source of vitamin K which has an important role in bone healthy promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strength) activity. Further, adequate vitamin K levels which can be got by consuming radicchio helps limit neuronal damage in the brain and is thus an established treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Radicchio is an excellent source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as zea-xanthin and lutein which are known to offer protection to age related macular disease by filtering harmful ultraviolet rays.
7. Radicchio neutralizes free radicals in humans, helps fight cell damage and fights cell damage to DNA that may lead to coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
8. Radicchio contains a substance called inulin that naturally helps to regulate blood sugar levels. This is linked to a reduction in the risk of strokes and other heart diseases.
9. Radicchio aids digestion and colon cleansing by its high fiber content. Also radicchio has been used to fight intestinal worms and parasites to great effect.
10. Polyphenols found in radicchio help neutralize free radicals and give a mental sharpness, keen eyesight and lower incidence of stomach flu.
Interested in growing radicchio? Find Heirloom Radicchio Seeds at our online store.