This Unusual Veggie Aids Digestion!



Rhubarb is a vegetable that thinks it’s a fruit, even though its stalks look like red celery. If you accidentally grab a stalk of rhubarb thinking it’s celery, you’ll realize your mistake as soon as it touches your tongue. Few food plants are as tart as rhubarb. Thankfully, cooking and sweetening can tame the tartness. In fact, it’s a popular pie filling.

Rhubarb roots have been harvested for centuries because of their medicinal value, but they usually come from varieties grown only in China and Tibet. The stalks of those varieties aren’t eaten.

The rhubarb grown and eaten in America and Europe has a powerful taste and potent nutritional punch. A single cup, raw and diced, contains 2 grams of fiber. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, and manganese. Rhubarb also contains potent phytochemicals called polyphenols and tannins.

Improves digestion. Rhubarb benefits digestion from the moment it enters your mouth. It stimulates your taste buds with its pleasantly bitter flavor, making your mouth feel clean and refreshed. Once it reaches your stomach, rhubarb’s digestive benefits really kick in — stimulating the production of gastric juices and improving digestion. It also helps control the absorption of fat in the intestines.

Relieves constipation and diarrhea. The phenol anthraquinone glycosides gives rhubarb stalks their red color and act as a laxative. In fact, they are the same compounds found in other laxative herbs, like cascara and senna. The tannins, on the other hand, help stop diarrhea.

The effects of rhubarb root extract have received lots of attention in scientific literature. Low doses seem to relieve diarrhea, while higher doses help keep you regular. But before you head to the herb shop, consider this — the same phytochemicals contained in the roots are found in smaller amounts in the edible stalks. Plus, you’ll get vitamins, minerals, and fiber not found in the extract.

4 things you should know about rhubarb

Not many people are familiar with this unusual vegetable. Here are a few things you should know.

  • Go easy on the sweeteners. Remedy rhubarb’s tartness without white sugar. Try alternative sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup. Cooking it calms the tartness a little. Then you can add enough sweetener to suit you.
  • Enhance rhubarb’s flavor by stewing it in orange or pineapple juice or with sweet fruits, like apples or strawberries.
  • Don’t stew rhubarb in aluminum or cast-iron cookware. Because it’s acidic, you could end up with a blackened pot and black rhubarb.
  • Preserve rhubarb’s natural color. Parboil it for 30 seconds before you freeze it.

    The Complete Guidebook to Digestive Health


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    • FC&A Staff Writer