Radicchio is a bitter, spicy cabbage plant known for its bright wine colored leaves and stark white veins. A quick-growing leafy chicory — a perennial herbaceous plant — radicchio is also referred to as Italian chicory due to its origination in Italy. Radicchio was first cultivated for public consumption in the fifteenth century in the Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Trentino regions of Italy as a green leafy cabbage. Radicchio’s bright purplish-red color came about in 1860 through a process called blanching in which photosynthesis is blocked during the plant’s young growth.
Radicchio is known as a Vitamin K vegetable due to the fact that it is the go-to veggie with the highest amount of vitamin K in one serving. With that said, this leafy chicory offers a broad palate of nutrition.
One cup of shredded radicchio, equal to forty grams, has small amounts of protein and dietary fiber, as well as over 43 grams of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Radicchio is also brimming with vitamins including A (10.8 IU), C (3.2 mg), E (.9 mg), and K (102 mcg), as well as minerals such as folate (24 mcg), choline (4.4 mcg), calcium (7.6 mg), iron (.2 mg), magnesium (5.2 mg), phosphorous (16 mg), potassium (121 mg), and sodium (8.8 mg).
Radicchio is also a great ingredient to help maintain a healthy weight due to its high levels of water (37.3 g), which means more content with less calories!
Radicchio is a main staple of a Mediterranean diet, which is comprised of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and limited unhealthy fats. While radicchio includes essential vitamins and minerals to complete a well-balanced diet, this leafy chicory also has other health benefits that make it a great addition to any diet!
We know that radicchio is rich in vitamin K, but what’s so good about it?
Vitamin K is an essential part of any well-balanced diet, not only for its nutritional value, such as blood clotting and bone metabolism but also for its linkage to fighting bodily diseases. This vitamin is known to “reduce the risk of prostate, colon, stomach, nasal, and oral cancers,” and it has shown possible parasitic fighting properties. As an important component of proper blood clotting, vitamin K can help with excessive menstrual flow and can decrease menstrual pain, can prevent internal bleeding, and has been used to stop hemorrhaging in newborn babies.
Radicchio is packed full of antioxidants — vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals — which reduces the risk of certain cancers, as well as other damage that oxidative stress may cause. In particular, vitamin K has been shown to repair damage to the liver. On top of cancer prevention and liver repair, vitamin K has two specific antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin that are responsible for eye health.
Heart and Bone Health
There are a handful of links between radicchio and heart and bone health. To begin, vitamin K prevents the “calcification of arteries”, lowers blood pressure, and decreases inflammation in cells and the risk of heart attack. Yet, the most compelling evidence for heart health was seen in a study that linked chicory, such as radicchio, with a reduction in heart damage, cholesterol levels, and inflammation.
When it comes to bone health, radicchio is key. Vitamin K helps increase bone mineral density and increases the absorption of calcium, both of which lead to stronger bones and decreased risk of osteoporosis.
How to Cook With Radicchio
Endive Salad With Crispy Chickpeas/ One Green Planet
In Italian culture, radicchio has many culinary uses. It’s finely chopped and mixed into dishes such as pasta, risotto, and strudel or even grilled whole in olive oil. Radicchio is also the main staple ingredient in a popular hors-d’oeuvre, dip, and stuffing called tapenade — a puree of olives, capers, radicchio, and olive oil. The leaves are not the only edible part of the radicchio plant. The roots can also be eaten by first roasting and then grinding them into a coffee substitute or additive.
While radicchio is a powerful ingredient, it’s bold flavors and spicy bite can be diluted with cooking. This technique makes radicchio a diverse food that can either embolden flavorless recipes or texturize flat meals.
Roasted Radicchio and Carrot Salad With Shallot Vinaigrette/One Green Planet
This cabbage-like veggie is an excellent ingredient for salads. When served fresh, radicchio’s leaves are crunchy and texturized which is great to pair with more meaty salads such as this Roasted Radicchio and Carrot Salad With Shallot Vinaigrette or this Warm Lentil and Brussels Sprouts Salad With Roasted Radicchio. Yet, radicchio also offers a bitter bite and a slice of fire that pairs well with sweeter ingredients such as this Endive Salad With Crispy Chickpeas.
Mushroom Stuffed Cabbage and Radicchio With Mustard Sauce/ One Green Planet
One of the less well-known uses of radicchio is in stuffing recipes. When kneaded and cooked, radicchio becomes a diluted yet tangy and texturized ingredient that helps to bulk stuffing without adding unnecessary calories. This technique was perfected in Italy in their many stuffed pasta and pureed dishes. With that said, radicchio-based stuffing has crossed the seas and can be found in western cooking such as this Whole Wheat Radicchio Ravioli or this Mushroom Stuffed Cabbage and Radicchio With Mustard Sauce.
On and Between Bread
Beet and Radicchio Pizza/ One Green Planet
Last, but not least, comes the more modernized versions of radicchio. Due to its versatility in flavor and texture, radicchio is a great ingredient in meatless dishes such as this Mushroom and Zucchini Burger With Radicchio Slaw. Yet, when it comes to breaded meals, try getting creative such as this Black Olive, Caper, and Radicchio Pie or this Beet and Radicchio Pizza.
For more radicchio-based recipes we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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