Radicchio, sometimes known by the name Italian chicory is a leafy vegetable that offers a whole lot of health benefits. It is a nutrient rich vegetable that has a strong color and flavor profile. This purple colored veggie is a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine, where it is often grilled or added to dishes like risotto. The spicy and bitter taste of radicchio reduces when grilled or roasted. If you are looking for a healthy food item with very little calories, then radicchio should definitely be one of your choices. Radicchio can be added to salads, or sautéed, roasted, grilled, added to risotto, soups, and pasta dishes. It can also be added to juice and smoothie recipes.
Nutritional value of Radicchio
Radicchio is a great source of dietary fiber and other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. It is low in calories and has zero amounts of fats and cholesterol. Radicchio also has high levels of plant phytonutrients and antioxidants. In addition to providing important vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and B vitamins, radicchio is also a good source of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.
Radicchio health benefits
Radicchio can be called a super food because it is packed with health benefiting nutrients. These nutrients supplement your body and improve your health in many ways. The following are the various health benefits associated with this wonderful leafy vegetable:
Radicchio is loaded with antioxidants
Radicchio is an excellent source of antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals and prevent the cells and tissues in your body from oxidative stress. It contains phenolic flavonoids such as zea-xanthin, and lutein that offer many health benefits. Zea-xanthin and lutein are flavonoid carotenoids that protect your eyes from cataract and age-related macular disease (ARMD).
Radicchio supports weight loss
Radicchio has fiber content that is helpful in managing your weight. Foods rich in fiber make you feeling full and satiate your hunger. As a result, you don’t feel the urge to eat frequently, which is very important if you are trying to lose weight.
[Read about health benefits of chicory]
Radicchio prevents malaria
Lactucopicrin or intybin is a sesquiterpene lactone found in radicchio that gives it the bitter taste. This compound has anti-malarial properties and hence is a good remedy for preventing malaria. It also has a sedative and pain relieving properties.
Radicchio offers riboflavin benefits
Radicchio provides over 22% of your daily recommended riboflavin or Vitamin B2, an essential vitamin that plays a key role in energy metabolism and various cellular processes. This vitamin is also needed for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Riboflavin also helps in maintaining beautiful skin, nails and hair.
Radicchio is rich in vitamin K
Radicchio is an excellent source of vitamin K that is essential for maintaining proper bone health by triggering the formation and strengthening of bones (osteotrophic activity). Vitamin K is also required for healthy brain and preventing damage of the nerve cells. Because of its role in promoting brain health, vitamin K has been used in treating individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
[Read about amazing benefits of spinach]
Radicchio regulates blood sugar levels
Radicchio contains a substance known as inulin that helps in the regulation of blood sugar. Incorporating foods high in fiber content such as radicchio in your regular diet is less likely to cause a spike in high blood sugar and hence is a healthy way to control blood glucose levels.
Radicchio improves digestion
The non-digestible carbohydrate inulin found in radicchio acts as a pre-biotic and stimulates the growth of good and beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Radicchio also increases the production of bile salts, which helps in improving digestion. The fiber in this vegetable adds bulk to the stool and aids in its easy removal from the system. By improving digestion and regularizing bowel movements, radicchio helps in preventing bowel disorders like constipation, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.
[Read about benefits of arugula]
Radicchio offers cardiovascular protection
The nutrients in radicchio such as lycopene, ellagic acid and quercitin help in regulating the blood pressure levels. By stimulating the production of bile, radicchio helps in lowering the bad cholesterol or Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Thus radicchio offers protection to your heart by keeping the blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
Radicchio provides neurological benefits
Studies reveal that the various nutrients in radicchio, such as folate, potassium, and antioxidants provide neurological benefits. Potassium is a vasodilator that helps to increase blood circulation to the brain and improve concentration, cognitive functions and neural activity. Folate has been associated with lowering the risks of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Radicchio for healthy skin
Radicchio is rich in B vitamins that rejuvenate and replenish the skin cells. The high amount of vitamin C increases the production of collagen that provides structure and elasticity to the skin. As a result, the skin becomes smooth and supple. Moreover, the antioxidants in radicchio fights off free radical damage and prevent the occurrence of aging signs like wrinkles and fine lines.
[Read about benefits of Zucchini]
Radicchio boosts your immunity
Radicchio has high vitamin C content that helps in improving the immune system and help in preventing the common cold and flu.
Radicchio is well liked for its spicy and bitter taste. This vegetable comes in different varieties such as elongated rossa di Treviso, round magenta-colored rossa di Verona, and red-, green-, and yellow-spotted Castelfranco. Whatever the variety may be, radicchio taste delicious whether consumed raw or cooked. Here are some of the radicchio salad recipes, grilled radicchio recipes:
Radicchio Salad Recipe
Ingredients: Finely sliced radicchio, Rocket leaves – a handful, Grated parmesan cheese – a handful, Balsamic vinegar – 1 tbsp, Extra virgin olive oil, Salt to taste, Freshly ground black pepper
Method: Take a large bowl and mix together a handful of rocket leaves, a handful of grated Parmesan cheese and a quarter of finely sliced radicchio. Also make a dressing by combining balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour this dressing over the leafy greens and mix well. Lastly grate some Parmesan and some toasted pine nuts or crispy bacon over the radicchio salad.
Grilled radicchio – Cut the radicchio into quarters and add some olive oil. Grill it for about 15 minutes or until it becomes tender and slightly charred. Keep turning it every few minutes. Once it is done, toss with salt, pepper and vinaigrette.
Radicchio risotto –
Ingredients: Radicchio, halved and thinly sliced – 1 large, Vegetable broth – 3 1/2 cups, Olive oil – 1 tbsp, Medium-grain white rice – 1 cup, Chopped shallots – 1/3 cup, Red wine – 1/2 cup, Butter – 2 tbsp, Grated Parmesan cheese – 1/3 cup
Method: Take a medium saucepan and bring the vegetable broth to simmer. Heat oil in a large saucepan and then add shallots. Sauté the onion till they become golden. Then add radicchio and sauté for about 2 minutes or until they wilt. Add rice, wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Next add a cup of the vegetable broth and reduce the heat to medium. Keep cooking until all of the liquid is absorbed. Make sure to stir often. Keep adding the broth little by little until the rice is tender and you get a creamy consistency. Remove from heat and then add cheese and butter to the risotto. Season with salt and pepper. Delicious radicchio risotto is ready to be served.
Radicchio – apple- mango smoothie
Ingredients: Radicchio – 1 handful, Seeded Apple – 1, Frozen mango – 2 cups, Peeled lime – 1, Ice or water. Method: Take all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Radicchio has myriad health properties that can give your body a healthy boost, by providing high levels of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. It is a highly nutritious food that is versatile to use. When purchasing radicchio, look for the ones with bright colored heads and prominent ribs. The smaller and younger heads are found to have less bitter taste. Soaking the leaves in cold water for half an hour reduces bitterness. Make sure the leaves are free of bruises and withered leaves. After buying radicchio, store them in the refrigerator.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Michel Chauvet