The red radicchio is a vegetable that boasts the IGP designation and whose cultivation is protected. It is therefore a precious food with numerous nutritional properties. Let’s find out in detail.
The red radicchio belongs to the Asteraceae family and to the genus Cichorium, the same to which chicory belongs. In reality there is a large group to which various types of radicchio belong, even different from each other in terms of appearance and flavor.
It is a vegetable with fairly crunchy leaves ranging from intense red to various purple shades with a more or less bitter taste.It is possible to find radicchio in the fruit and vegetable markets more less all year round even if the election period is fully winter, i.e. from about October until March-April.
Red chicory: types and characteristics
Veneto is one of the largest producers of radicchio, with 5 varieties of IGP radicchio. Below we see a brief overview of the main types of red radicchio.
- Treviso red radicchio: has elongated red leaves and has a bitter taste;
- Variegated Radicchio di Castelfranco: it has wider leaves with a variegated color from white to yellow to red;
- Radicchio di Chioggia: has more rounded red leaves and white streaks;
- Radicchio di Verona: comes in oval-shaped tufts with white veins and has a slightly sweeter flavor;
- There are also varieties of white radicchio, such as Sugar Loaf, with a decidedly sweet flavor.
Each of them, based on its peculiar characteristics, lends itself to different uses and culinary preparations. The more bitter varieties with harder leaves are better suited for cooked dishes, while the sweeter and more tender ones for raw preparations such as salads.
Furthermore, depending on the harvesting period, it is possible to distinguish the early and late radicchio: the early one is harvested around October-November and the late one from December to March.
Red chicory: calories and nutritional properties
Red radicchio is a vegetable with remarkable nutritional properties but with an extremely low calorie content, providing about 18 kcal per 100 grams. Not surprisingly, it contains 94% water, which also makes it a diuretic food, and fibers are very represented, in a measure of 3%, most of which are soluble.
The amount of carbohydrates is 1.6 g per 100 grams, almost equal to proteins, while fats are almost zero. It is also particularly rich in minerals, in particular potassium, phosphorus and calcium, and vitamins, especially of group B.
Radicchio is also rich in antioxidant compounds, which are not only effective as anti-inflammatories, but also promote digestive functions and contribute to the well-being of the whole organism. Let’s see in detail the nutritional values of red radicchio.
Nutritional values per 100g of red radicchio:
- Kcal: 18
- Carbohydrates: 1.6 g
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Proteins: 1.4 g
- Fibers: 3.0 g
- Waterfall: 94.0 g
- Iron: 0.3 mg
- Soccer: 36 mg
- Sodium: 7 mg
- Potassium: 180 mg
- Phosphorus: 30 mg
- Zinc: 0.2 mg
- Vitamin B1: 0.07 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.05 mg
- C vitamin: 10 mg
- Vitamin B3: 0.30 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.07 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.57 mg
Red chicory: the health benefits
The origin of this vegetable is not clear, but it has been known for centuries that it has numerous properties and that it brings numerous benefits to our health. In addition to the macronutrients it contains, in fact, the minerals, vitamins and antioxidant compounds of which it is rich, give the radicchio important health properties. So let’s see what are the benefits of red radicchio and why red radicchio is good for you.
✓ Fights diabetes
Radicchio contains inulin, which is a soluble fiber with many properties, it is in fact used as a prebiotic. Some studies show that inulin also has beneficial effects on the management of glucose and fat metabolism in subjects with diabetes mellitus, therefore its consumption is recommended for those suffering from diabetes.
✓ Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Radicchio, thanks to its content of chicoric acid, exerts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity on various organs and tissues. In addition to the chicoric acid, the vitamin C contained in the radicchio also exerts an antioxidant activity, to whose action is added that of the numerous phenolic compounds.
✓ Great for the immune system
As just mentioned, radicchio has a good content of vitamin C, a soluble vitamin with strong antioxidant properties, which helps to keep our immune system healthy and fully efficient. Not surprisingly, radicchio is fully in season in winter, when the immune system often requires extra help.
✓ Counteracts hypertension
Thanks to the presence of potassium and water, radicchio has antihypertensive properties , regulating the levels of sodium and potassium, two essential minerals for the balance of blood pressure.
✓ Draining effect
The large content of water and minerals ensure that the radicchio has draining properties, helping the body to maintain the hydro-saline balance and to eliminate any excess liquids, together with the waste that accumulates there.
Among the most famous properties of red radicchio there is probably the digestive one. In addition to stimulating the production of bile and therefore promoting the digestion of fats and other nutrients, radicchio protects and stimulates the functions of the stomach thanks to its water and fiber content, as well as antioxidant compounds.
✓ Beneficial for the colon
The water and soluble fibers contained in the radicchio favor the absorption of the other macro and micronutrients taken from the diet and optimize their management. Furthermore, inulin is an excellent prebiotic, that is, a substrate for the growth of the intestinal bacterial flora, which is essential not only for the balance of the colon, but also for the immune system that resides there.
Radicchio has a very low calorie content, which means that it can be freely included in slimming diets. Not only that, its abundant water and fiber content gives those who eat it a sense of satiety that promotes weight loss.
✓ Remineralizing for the bones
The calcium and iron contained in radicchio are a source from which our bones can draw to recover these important minerals.
✓ Analgesic effects
It seems that red chicory also has an analgesic action, especially against the digestive tract, thanks to the lactucopicrin compound. This action has a positive effect on the management of insomnia.
How much radicchio to eat
A portion of radicchio, as well as other large leafy vegetables, is equivalent to about 80-100 grams, equal to half a plate. You can also eat it every day, as long as you alternate it or combine it with other seasonal vegetables to vary your diet and consume different foods, in order to ensure all the essential nutrients for our health.
Red chicory: how to cook and some practical advice
As always when it comes to vegetables, the best way to consume radicchio is raw, in order to preserve its nutritional characteristics to the maximum, and in particular some micronutrients that deteriorate during cooking and therefore lose their properties.
Due to the particularly bitter taste, however, some types of radicchio are preferably used cooked. In particular, the radicchio di Chioggia and the variegated one are the most used in salads, while for that of Treviso and Verona, cooked recipes are generally preferred.
Naturally, during the purchase phase, the radicchio should be carefully chosen, avoiding the tufts with withered or bruised leaves and should be carefully washed before being brought to the table.
After that it is possible to use it in the most imaginative preparations. The most “famous” and appreciated from the culinary point of view see the radicchio protagonist of side dishes and first courses. For example, radicchio is perfect in the preparation of risotto and pasta dishes and other cereals, but also as a side dish for meat dishes, even simply sautéed with oil and garlic.
The radicchio di Verona, with its elongated leaves, on the other hand, lends itself well to being prepared on the grill and then seasoned as desired, even with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Given its strong flavor, it is also often used to enrich bechamel-based sauces or pesto sauce with which to season lasagna and pies.
If you do not particularly appreciate its bitter taste, it is possible to mitigate it by soaking it in fresh water for two or three hours before consuming it, but in this way many of the beneficial compounds are lost. If we don’t consume it all, after washing and drying it, we can store it in the refrigerator wrapped in a cloth.
Red radicchio and green radicchio: the nutritional differences
In addition to the different flavor and appearance, red and green radicchio also have nutritional properties that differ slightly. The calories of red and green radicchio are quite equivalent. Green radicchio has a lower water content, which amounts to 88%, but a higher content of proteins and above all minerals such as iron and potassium.
Vitamin C is also more present in green radicchio than in red, but the fiber content is lower, which is equal to 1%, compared to that of red radicchio which is equal to 3%. The red radicchio, then, contains more anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds which are the molecules responsible for its purple color.
Apart from these small differences, both types of radicchio have all the nutritional properties just described. In the kitchen we can therefore use both of them according to the preparations we want to make.
Contraindications of red radicchio
Let’s now see the possible contraindications of red radicchio. In general, the use of red radicchio does not present major contraindications. However, abundant use is not recommended for those suffering from gastrointestinal problems, such as gastritis, duodenal ulcer and colitis. Red chicory contains nickel, which should be taken into consideration if you are allergic to nickel.
It is also advisable not to overuse it during pregnancy as it could stimulate uterine contractions. These recommendations always apply in cases of excessive use, since moderate use as part of a varied diet should not cause problems.