Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a species of plant in the family Polygonaceae that are herbaceous perennials with large somewhat triangular leaves and long fleshy stalks. Rhubarb stalks are tart and are often paired with sweet ingredients and commonly used in pies, sauces and pastries. The roots and leaves are inedible owing to the high content of oxalic acid and possibly another unidentified toxin. Rhubarb varieties are mainly red, but also come in pink and green stalks. The redder the stalk, the sweeter the rhubarb is.
Nutritional Content of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is low in calories and fat and high in dietary fiber. Rhubarb stalks are enriched in nutrients, minerals, vitamins and plant phytonutrients including vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, B-complex vitamins and manganese. The red color of the stalks is due to presence of antioxidants such as lycopene and anthocyanin. Rhubarb also contains glycosides- especially rhein, glucorhein, and emodin, which impart cathartic and laxative properties.
Health Benefits of Rhubarb
1. Rhubarb contains polyphenols, compounds that may help destroy cancer cells and whose effectiveness can be harnessed by exposing rhubarb to heat by baking in an oven.
2. Red colored stalks contain more vitamin A than green varieties. In addition, the stalks also contain small amounts of beta-carotene, zea-xanthin and lutein, compounds that convert to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also essential for healthy eye sight and helps prevent the onset of age related macular degeneration.
3. Vitamin K found in rhubarb may reduce the onset and development of insulin resistance in men and thus help in resisting diabetes better. Vitamin K is an essential component that helps with blood clotting, protecting the bones and help fighting off liver and prostate cancer.
4. Rhubarb is a good source of calcium which helps strengthen bones and teeth, prevents the softening of bones and tooth loss.
5. Rhubarb contains several strong anti-oxidants such as lycopene and anthocyanin which promote heart health, eye health and strengthens the body’s immune system.
6. Rhubarb is a good source of potassium which is vital in regulating the amounts of fluids in the body which in turn impacts blood pressure positively.
7. For over 2,000 years, rhubarb has been used as a laxative to treat constipation, owing to certain chemicals that have cathartic and laxative properties. Rhubarb improves digestion, increases appetite and has also been used to treat intestinal parasites. Rhubarb contains dietary fiber which helps counterbalance acidity while providing bulk to stools, helping prevent and relieve the effects of constipation by promoting the movement of the intestines to propel waste elimination.
8. Rhubarb helps to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting certain enzymes involved in cholesterol synthesis, thus boosting heart health.
9. Rhubarb is an excellent source of vitamin C which is responsible for building collagen, a structural compound of body tissue needed for the repair and synthesis of blood vessel tissues and overall immunity.
10. Rhubarb stimulates metabolic rate of the body and so it is great for people who want to lose unwanted pounds.