Ingredients and Uses
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8 Amazing Benefits Of Radicchio – The New Italian Superfood

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8 Amazing Benefits Of Radicchio – The New Italian Superfood July 26, 2018

When you talk about healthy food, what flashes through your mind? Let me guess – salad! Ideally, salads have a lot of fresh greens. But, how many of us diligently consume these superfoods regularly? Very few.

So, to all of you who dislike greens in your salad, let me introduce the new guy in town. Meet Radicchio – straight from the fields of Veneto, Italy.

This bright, colorful, cabbage look-alike is a natural reservoir of vitamins K and C. It adds a crunchy and bitter touch to your boring and bland green salad. Not just the color, radicchio has tons of other benefits, which will make you hunt for it. Want to know them? Happy reading, then!

Table Of Contents

What Is Radicchio?

Radicchio is native to Italy and is a fairly woody perennial member of the Asteraceae family and the Cichorium genus. Well-grown radicchio has compact wine-red leaves with prominent white veins, about the size of romaine lettuce.

Different cultivars of radicchio are generally grown by the name of Veneto provincial cities.

  • Chioggia has small, beet-red, bitter leaves.
  • Treviso features long, conical, compactly arranged, less pungent leaves.
  • Radicchio variegate di Castelfranco is a hybrid between radicchio and endive (Cichorium endiva). Castelfranco has loose, mild-flavored leaves.
  • Verona is another non-heading type and has red, open leaves with prominent white veins as in cabbage.

However, radicchio rose to fame because of its biochemical composition and, of course, the color. The pigments that give radicchio its color are also responsible for its antioxidative capacity.

So, what does radicchio do to your body? And how did it climb up the ladder to become the new superfood among health lovers across the globe?

Scroll down to find out!

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What Are The Benefits Of Eating Radicchio?

1. Has Analgesic Activity

Has Analgesic Activity Pinit

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Radicchio has compounds like lactucopicrin, lactucin, and dihydrolactucin that give it analgesic and antinociceptive or pain killing properties. In fact, 30 mg/kg of this vegetable’s pain killing effect is equivalent to 60 mg/kg of Ibuprofen!

Radicchio reduces the pain and locomotor activity in the affected areas and has a sedative effect. Consuming it can help you manage pain and strain effectively (1).

2. Controls Diabetes

The presence of inulin in radicchio naturally controls diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels.

It increases insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes. It also reduces blood sugar and glycosylated hemoglobin levels.

Radicchio leaf powder has inulin, caffeic acid derivatives, and chicoric acid, which exhibit potent antidiabetic properties by increasing glucose uptake by muscle cells. This stimulates the pancreatic cells to secrete more insulin (1).

3. Boosts Digestion And Aids Weight Loss

Boosts Digestion And Aids Weight Loss Pinit

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Following a ketogenic Mediterranean diet helps you lose weight without damaging your GI tract and liver. A high-fat, high-protein, and low-carbohydrate diet that includes vegetables like radicchio can aid weight loss and prevent obesity.

It is ironic, but such diets conserve the muscle mass, prevent weakness and malnutrition, and yet cause weight loss. This is probably because of the unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA and MUFA) and higher good cholesterol (HDL) content (2).

Radicchio-like vegetables also show gastroprotective effects by curing ulcers and indigestion. The fiber and antioxidants improve bowel movement and prevent bloating, constipation, and chronic inflammatory disorders.

4. Has A Hepatoprotective Effect

Hyperlipidemia (increased blood triglycerides and cholesterol) is frequently associated with liver and metabolic diseases. Excessive lipid accumulation in the liver triggers metabolic dysfunction and hepatic cell degeneration – causing jaundice, cirrhosis, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Including fruits and vegetables rich in dietary fiber, anthocyanins, and flavones – like radicchio – can increase the lipolysis and percentage of HDL (good cholesterol) while regulating the genes that trigger LDL production (3).

5. Protects Your Heart

The amount of cholesterol and lipids in your blood directly affects your heart and is an indicator of many cardiovascular diseases.

Radicchio is rich in antioxidants that fight hypercholesterolemia and hyperglycemia. With less cholesterol, lipid, and glucose in your body and the bloodstream, the heart stays healthier.

Adding radicchio to your salad keeps hypertension, atherosclerosis, and many life-threatening heart diseases at bay.

6. Fights Cancer

Considering the rich antioxidant content in radicchio, especially, hydroxybenzoic acid and hydroxycinnamic acid, it is not surprising that the leaves help fight free radical damage.

They check cancer cell growth and metastasis and prevent the onset or relapse of several cancers (4).

7. Makes Your Skin Glow

Makes Your Skin Glow Pinit

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Radicchio offers an entire spectrum of B-complex vitamins that replenish your skin, eyes, and nails. The vitamins are essential for many vital cellular processes, such as energy conversion.

The high concentration of antioxidants and vitamin K present in radicchio help you in achieving young looking and glowing skin that is free of wrinkles, pimples, fine lines, blemishes, and dullness.

8. Offers Better Immunity

The extracts of the leaf and root increase the production of various components of the immune system. They enhance phagocytic activity, antibody production, and hypersensitivity, which are markers of immunity (1).

This is also possible because of the vitamin C in radicchio, which is an antioxidant that promotes wound healing and detoxification.

Along with vitamins C and K, radicchio has plenty of other nutrients and micronutrients. It is because of its nutritional profile and phytochemical composition that radicchio has emerged as a superfood.

So, let’s take a look at the numbers!

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Nutritional Profile Of Radicchio

Nutrition Facts Serving Size 40 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 9Calories from Fat 1
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g0%
Saturated Fat 0 g0%
Trans Fat
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 9mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 2g1%
Dietary Fiber 0g1%
Sugars 0g
Protien 1g
Vitamin A0%
Vitamin C5%
Calcium1%
Iron1%
Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories9.2(38.5 kJ)0%
From Carbohydrate7.0(29.3 kJ)
From Fat0.8(3.3 kJ)
From Protein1.4(5.9 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Carbohydrates
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Carbohydrate1.8 g1%
Dietary Fiber0.4 g1%
Starch~
Sugars0.2 g
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Fat0.1 g0%
Saturated Fat0.0 g0%
Monounsaturated Fat0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.0 g
Total trans fatty acids~
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids~
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids~
Total Omega-3 fatty acids6.4 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids37.2 mg
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein0.6 g1%
Vitamins
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A10.8 IU0%
Vitamin C3.2 mg5%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)0.9 mg5%
Vitamin K102 mcg128%
Thiamin0.0 mg0%
Riboflavin0.0 mg1%
Niacin0.1 mg1%
Vitamin B60.0 mg1%
Folate24.0 mcg6%
Vitamin B120.0 mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid0.1 mg0 %
Choline4.4 mg
Betaine~
Minerals
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium7.6 mg1%
Iron0.2 mg1%
Magnesium5.2 mg1%
Phosphorus16.0 mg2%
Potassium121 mg3%
Sodium8.8 mg0%
Zinc0.2 mg2%
Copper0.1 mg7%
Manganese0.1 mg3%
Selenium0.4 mcg1%
Fluoride~

Coming to the phytochemical composition, radicchio contains anthocyanins, which are pigments that give it its rich wine-red color.

These pigments are also responsible for its antioxidant activity. Compounds like chicoric acid, lactucin, lactucopicrin, β-sitosterol, campesterol, chlorogenic acid, malic acid, caffeoylquinic acid, oxalic acid, quercetin, tetradecanol, and hydroxybenzoic acid are present in fair amounts.

Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

Imagine what a burst of nutrients you’d get if you add radicchio to your salad DAILY! But is salad the only way to eat it?

Certainly not! I’ve collected some healthy and delicious recipes that use radicchio. Go ahead and try them out.

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How To Cook Radicchio – Simple And Quick Recipes

1. Balsamic-drizzled Roasted Radicchio

What You Need
  • 2 large heads of radicchio: (about 1 pound total), cut into 6 wedges with some core still attached
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)
  • Microwave oven
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to season
Let’s Make It!
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Rinse the radicchio wedges in cold water. Shake the excess water off gently (do not dry completely).
  3. Place the wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
  4. Arrange the radicchio wedges with the cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Roast until they wilt (for 12 minutes). Turn over and roast until they are tender (for 8 minutes).
  6. Arrange them on a platter, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and serve fresh.

Note: Radicchio also tastes good when grilled on a barbecue or a stovetop grill pan. Oil the grill or grill pan and cook until the radicchio is wilted and slightly charred, occasionally turning for about 5 minutes.

2. Sautéed Radicchio Wedges

What You Need
  • Radicchio head: 1-2, medium size
  • Vinegar
  • Garlic cloves: 4, finely chopped
  • Olive oil: 5 tablespoons
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to season
  • Oregano to season
  • Large skillet
Let’s Make It!
  1. Cut the head of a radicchio into four wedges (leave the cores intact – they’ll help hold the wedges together).
  2. Wash them thoroughly and set them aside to dry.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and three tablespoons of oil. Set it aside.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the radicchio in a single layer and cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Turn the radicchio, add the vinaigrette mix and oregano, and cook for 3 minutes until it is tender and slightly browned.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature along with some gooey mashed potatoes and a portion of undressed crunchy salad.

Nothing can beat those subtle flavors and bold textures!

I was so lost in the bitter-sweet, crunchy, spicy, and undefined flavors that burst in my mouth when I ate the radicchio cooked this way.

If you are like me – a plain green salad hater – these recipes are your savior! You will get all the goodness of radicchio, along with great taste.

And if you still can’t bring yourself to eat radicchio, you can try substituting it with red cabbage for the colorful element and texture. You can also use endives, arugula, or watercress greens for a similar taste. You’ll miss out on the beautiful color, though!

Finally...

The point I’m trying to drive home is if you are looking for a vitamin, antioxidant, and color booster in your meal, radicchio is your go-to guy.

Apart from nutrition, radicchio has potent anthelmintic and antiparasitic activity. So, if you are planning to grow a little kitchen garden, you should try planting radicchio to get rid of helminths. Consuming it will inhibit the growth of various parasites in your gut and blood.

This time, while shopping for your groceries, get home some fresh, bright, wine-colored radicchio heads with visible midribs. Toss them into a salad or make a dish from the recipes I shared here.

We’d love to hear how you liked radicchio and the recipes. Please write to us your comments, feedback, and suggestions in the box below.

And to all the greens haters, good luck!

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References

1. “Cichorium intybus: Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology…” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
2. “Spanish ketogenic Mediterranean diet…” Nutrition Journal, US National Library of Medicine
3. “Effects on Liver Lipid Metabolism…” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
4. “Red Chicory (Cichorium intybus L. cultivar)…” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, US National Library of Medicine

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