Rhubarb: Benefits And Side Effects

Rhubarb is known in natural medicine because it is able to regulate cholesterol levels and improve digestion. What other uses does it have? What are its unwanted effects? We talk about it in detail in this article.
Rhubarb: benefits and side effects

Rhubarb, whose scientific name is  Rheum rhabarbarum , is a plant that belongs to the Polygonaceae family  . It is considered a vegetable, since its edible stem can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Do you know what are the benefits of rhubarb?

In ancient times this plant was used exclusively for medicinal purposes; in particular, its dry roots were used. Today its stems are consumed in sweet soups, jams, sauces and cakes.

It is also known as a ‘cake plant’ because it is the main ingredient in some traditional sweets from the UK and North America.

Nutritional benefits of rhubarb

It is important to mention that rhubarb does not have many essential nutrients. It also has a low calorie intake. Nonetheless, it is useful to include it in a healthy and varied diet.

According to information gathered in the U.S. Department of Agriculture database, 100 grams of rhubarb contains approximately:

  • Calories: 26
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Folate: 1% of the recommended daily dose
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbon hydrates: 6 grams
  • Vitamin C: 6% of the recommended daily allowance
  • Sugars: 1 gram
  • Vitamin K1: 26% of the recommended daily allowance
  • Potassium: 3% of the recommended daily dose

Rhubarb also contains calcium, which is present in the antinutrient form of calcium oxalate. For this reason, the human body cannot assimilate it efficiently.

The fibers contained in the rhubarb stem.
Rhubarb is low in calories and is used as an ingredient in many recipes.

Rhubarb and its health benefits

At present, we do not have scientific studies that present solid data to support the health benefits of rhubarb. Nonetheless, anecdotal information and some research suggest it may help prevent some diseases. What benefits can rhubarb offer us?

Regulates cholesterol levels

Rhubarb stalks provide a significant supply of fiber, which helps regulate cholesterol levels. According to a controlled study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition , the fibers contained in the rhubarb stem reduce total cholesterol by 8% and bad cholesterol (LDL) by 9%.

Contains antioxidants

As a publication in Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences reports , antioxidants play an important role in the prevention of chronic disease. They don’t just reduce the negative effects of free radicals, they also strengthen the immune system and help fight inflammation.

Rhubarb is a good source of antioxidants, superior even to cauliflower, as seen in a study published in the International Journal of Food, Science & Technology . Specifically, it contains anthocyanins, which contribute to the improvement of cardiovascular, brain and skin health.

Promotes digestion

The fibers contained in the rhubarb stem also have a positive effect on digestive health. Their regular consumption is believed to contribute to the prevention and treatment of some gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation.

On the other hand, a study conducted on guinea pigs and published in BioMed Research International states that the tannins in rhubarb regulate the absorption of water in the digestive system, thus preventing diarrhea.

Side effects of rhubarb

Woman with back pain.
Rhubarb should be consumed in moderate quantities, as calcium oxalate causes kidney stones to form.

Moderate rhubarb consumption has no negative consequences for most healthy adults. It is good to know, however, that it is one of the most important dietary sources of calcium oxalate, mainly contained in the leaves. Excessive consumption must therefore be avoided.

As reported in a report shared by  BMC Nephrology , an excess of calcium oxalate can cause hyperoxaluria, a frequent cause of kidney stones. Without proper treatment, it could cause kidney failure.

As a result, this vegetable must be avoided by those suffering from kidney disease or who have suffered from stones. It is good to consult your doctor before consuming rhubarb on a regular basis in case you are following a drug treatment.

How can we enjoy the benefits of rhubarb?

Getting rhubarb into your diet is relatively easy, despite its sour taste. There are those who combine it with foods such as strawberries to obtain a sweet and sour flavor. Its stem can also be eaten alone, although it is preferable to cook it.

In general, it is often included in oat-based recipes, salad dressings, chia seed puddings, diet cakes, etc. Do you plan to try it too?

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