6 Health Benefits Of Rhubarb That Might Surprise You

Health benefits of rhubarb.
Fresh rhubarb on wooden table

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“3. May Protect Vision Rhubarb packs in antioxidants with one study suggesting that its polyphenol content might be more than that of kale.”

Known for its sour stalks, rhubarb is a unique vegetable. Its flavor profile often lends itself to most desserts and smoothies. This could be why in Europe and North America, rhubarb is often grouped among fruits. Bake it into a crumble with apples, add it to fruity jams, blend it into a chutney with dates, or churn it into an ice-cream, including rhubarb into your diet will give you nutrition along with a burst of flavor. Here’s a reckoner of the health benefits it provides.

1. Lowers Cholesterol Levels

If you’re trying to keep your cholesterol levels in check, load up on some rhubarb. One cup (122 grams) provides 2.2 grams of the macronutrient which, researchers have found, can reduce cholesterol levels.[ref]Basic Report: 09307, Rhubarb, raw. United States Department Of Agriculture.[/ref] [ref]Brown, Lisa, Bernard Rosner, Walter W. Willett, and Frank M. Sacks. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 69, no. 1 (1999): 30-42.[/ref] In fact, consuming 27 grams of rhubarb stalk every day for a month reduced circulating cholesterol in men by 8% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9%. [ref]Goel, Vinti, Bunchu Ooraikul, and Tapan K. Basu. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of rhubarb stalk fiber in hypercholesterolemic men.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 16, no. 6 (1997): 600-604.[/ref] In addition to this, rhubarb is rich in tannins, a type of antioxidant that’s been shown to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol.[ref]Chung, King-Thom, Tit Yee Wong, Cheng-I. Wei, Yao-Wen Huang, and Yuan Lin. “Tannins and human health: a review.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 38, no. 6 (1998): 421-464.[/ref]

id="2">2. May Maintain Heart Health

Since rhubarb might lower blood cholesterol levels, a key indicator of heart disorders, it might also aid in the management of heart health. Besides this, one cup of rhubarb stalks provides 35.7 mcg of vitamin K1 which makes up for 45% of the recommended daily intake.[ref]Basic Report: 09307, Rhubarb, raw. United States Department Of Agriculture.[/ref] Vitamin K is believed to activate proteins that prevent calcium from depositing in your arteries and these calcium deposits may then contribute to the development of plaque that blocks arteries. That said, further research is required to fully validate this benefit.[ref]Shea, M. Kyla, Christopher J. O’Donnell, Udo Hoffmann, Gerard E. Dallal, Bess Dawson-Hughes, José M. Ordovas, Paul A. Price, Matthew K. Williamson, and Sarah L. Booth. “Vitamin K supplementation and progression of coronary artery calcium in older men and women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 89, no. 6 (2009): 1799-1807.[/ref] [ref]Detrano, Robert, Alan D. Guerci, J. Jeffrey Carr, Diane E. Bild, Gregory Burke, Aaron R. Folsom, Kiang Liu et al. “Coronary calcium as a predictor of coronary events in four racial or ethnic groups.” New England Journal of Medicine 358, no. 13 (2008): 1336-1345.[/ref] [ref]

id="3">3. May Protect Vision

Rhubarb packs in antioxidants with one study suggesting that its polyphenol content might be more than that of kale.[ref]Takeoka, Gary R., Lan Dao, Leslie Harden, Alberto Pantoja, and Joseph C. Kuhl. “Antioxidant activity, phenolic and anthocyanin contents of various rhubarb (Rheum spp.) varieties.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology 48, no. 1 (2013): 172-178.[/ref] In particular, anthocyanins, which are responsible for rhubarb’s red color, have been found to prevent age-related vision loss and damage due to exposure to UV rays.[ref]Wallace, Taylor C., and M. Monica Giusti. “Anthocyanins.” Advances in Nutrition 6, no. 5 (2015): 620-622.[/ref] They’re also considered to be vital for maintaining good vision.[ref]Khoo, Hock Eng, Azrina Azlan, Sou Teng Tang, and See Meng Lim. “Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: Colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits.” Food & nutrition research 61, no. 1 (2017): 1361779.[/ref]

id="4">4. May Maintain Bone Health

Including rhubarb in your diet can keep your bones strong. One cup provides 35.7 mcg of vitamin K1 which makes up for 45% of the recommended daily intake.[ref]Basic Report: 09307, Rhubarb, raw. United States Department Of Agriculture.[/ref] And researchers found that vitamin K activates proteins that are required for bone growth and development. Besides this, studies have also found that low levels of vitamin K1 leads to a higher risk of bone fractures. Although most studies regarding this have been inconsistent, evidence has been convincing enough for the European Food Safety Authority to conclude that vitamin K is directly involved in the maintenance of normal bone health. Keeping up with its intake can ensure that your bones stay strong and healthy.[ref]Weber, Peter. “Vitamin K and bone health.” Nutrition 17, no. 10 (2001): 880-887.[/ref] [ref]EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). “Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to vitamin K and maintenance of bone (ID 123, 127, 128, and 2879), blood coagulation (ID 124 and 126), and function of the heart and blood vessels (ID 124, 125 and 2880) pursuant to Article 13 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.” EFSA Journal 7, no. 10 (2009): 1228.[/ref]

May Manage Blood Sugar Levels

If you’ve been trying to keep your blood sugar levels in check, consuming rhubarb might help. One cup of the vegetable packs in 0.239 mg of manganese, which makes up for 13.28% of your recommended daily intake.[ref]Basic Report: 09307, Rhubarb, raw. United States Department Of Agriculture.[/ref] Studies have found that manganese deficiency can lead to glucose intolerance similar to that of diabetes. In addition to this, multiple studies have found that people with diabetes have lower manganese blood levels.[ref]Kazi, Tasneem Gul, Hassan Imran Afridi, Naveed Kazi, Mohammad Khan Jamali, Mohammad Bilal Arain, Nussarat Jalbani, and Ghulam Abbas Kandhro. “Copper, chromium, manganese, iron, nickel, and zinc levels in biological samples of diabetes mellitus patients.” Biological Trace Element Research 122, no. 1 (2008): 1-18.[/ref] [ref]Koh, Eun Sil, Sung Jun Kim, Hye Eun Yoon, Jong Hee Chung, Sungjin Chung, Cheol Whee Park, Yoon Sik Chang, and Seok Joon Shin. “Association of blood manganese level with diabetes and renal dysfunction: a cross-sectional study of the Korean general population.” BMC endocrine disorders 14, no. 1 (2014): 24.[/ref]


Besides this, manganese is heavily concentrated in the pancreas and is involved in the production of insulin, which is responsible for removing sugar from the blood. Manganese might, hence, contribute to the proper secretion of insulin and help stabilize blood sugar levels.[ref]Korc, Murray, and Patsy M. Brannon. “Regulation of pancreatic exocrine function by manganese.” In Trace Elements in Man and Animals 6, pp. 43-47. Springer, Boston, MA, 1988.[/ref] [ref]Lee, Soh-Hyun, Hani A. Jouihan, Robert C. Cooksey, Deborah Jones, Hyung J. Kim, Dennis R. Winge, and Donald A. McClain. “Manganese supplementation protects against diet-induced diabetes in wild type mice by enhancing insulin secretion.” Endocrinology 154, no. 3 (2013): 1029-1038.[/ref] [ref]Nath, N., S. N. Chari, and A. B. Rathi. “Superoxide dismutase in diabetic polymorphonuclear leukocytes.” Diabetes 33, no. 6 (1984): 586-589.[/ref]

May Lower Incidence Of Epileptic Seizures

Manganese in rhubarb may prevent epileptic seizures. Stroke, which is the leading cause of epilepsy in adults over 35, is caused by a decreased blood flow to the brain. And manganese has been found to enlarge veins to efficiently carry blood to tissues like the brain. Adequate levels in your body may help increase blood flow and decrease the risk of a stroke. Besides this, since manganese content is found in the brain, studies have found that manganese levels may be lower in individuals with seizure disorders. That said, it’s unclear whether seizures reduce levels of manganese in the body or if low levels of the nutrient cause individuals to be susceptible to convulsions.[ref]Liu, Shasha, Weihua Yu, and Yang Lü. “The causes of new-onset epilepsy and seizures in the elderly.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment 12 (2016): 1425.[/ref] [ref]Carl, George F., L. K. Blackwell, F. C. Barnett, L. A. Thompson, C. J. Kissinger, K. L. Olin, J. W. Critchfield, C. L. Keen, and B. B. Gallagher. “Manganese and epilepsy: brain glutamine synthetase and liver arginase activities in genetically epilepsy-prone and chronically seizured rats.” Epilepsia 34, no. 3 (1993): 441-446.[/ref] [ref]Gonzalez-Reyes, Rodrigo E., Angela M. Gutierrez-Alvarez, and Carlos B. Moreno. “Manganese and epilepsy: a systematic review of the literature.” Brain research reviews 53, no. 2 (2007): 332-336.[/ref]