5 Reasons to Eat Rhubarb This Spring
April 16, 2013
With rhubarb coming into season, Dietetic Intern Rebekah Facteau explains the nutritional benefits of this vegetable-turned-fruit.
If you haven’t come across it already, rhubarb -- along with many other spring fruits and vegetables -- will be showing up at your local farmers’ market soon, remaining in season through July. Originating in China where it was traditionally used to improve digestive health, rhubarb was first introduced to the US in the late 1700s by Benjamin Franklin. While it’s botanically a vegetable and part of the buckwheat family, it was declared a fruit in 1947 by a New York State court. Caught in a similar argument as the tomato, rhubarb was declared to be federally regulated as a fruit since it’s more often used as an ingredient in sweets, such as pies and jams.
When choosing your rhubarb, look for brightly colored stalks that are crisp and firm with minimal bruising. Rhubarb leaves should be removed once you bring them home, as they contain high amounts of oxalic acid making them unsafe to eat.
Rhubarb is one of those foods that people tend to shy away from at markets -- possibly because they don’t know what to do with it. Rhubarb, however, is rich in key nutrients and is delicious when utilized properly. Here are a few (nutritional) reasons why you shouldn’t pass it by this spring:
- Vitamin K, which is essential to clot blood, is also very important in the formation and integrity of bone. A ½ cup serving of rhubarb contains about 22% of all the vitamin K you need in a day.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect against free radical damage from the environment. Vitamin C also plays an important role in the formation of collagen, which is responsible for your skin’s elasticity.
- Calcium, which we all know is needed for strong bones, is also important for the movement of muscles and nerve signaling.
- Potassium -- along with calcium and a few other minerals -- keeps your heart beating regularly, influencing the electro-conductivity of the muscle. Working in opposition of sodium, potassium is also important to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
- Manganese, an essential trace element, is needed for the structure of bones and connective tissues, as well as being used in forming blood clots and nerve signals.
If you’re excited about adding rhubarb to your diet, try Senior Culinary Nutritionist Natalia Hancock's 200-calorie recipe for rhubarb custard!
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