Rhubarb plants can grow big and rangey, have leaves way bigger than a dinner plate, and it’s edible stalks are long and usually a shade of pink. However, these long stalks (often up to 2ft long) can be rough stuff – extremely fibrous, unless you pull up some of the very young stalks, which you can happily snack on raw. Due to this fibrousness, and its tart taste, rhubarb is often booked with sugar to make either jams, pickles or as a component of crumble. (Never eat the green leaves though; they contain oxalic acid which, in excess, can be fatal if ingested).
As a raw snack, diabetics can chomp away, but once it’s been jammed or pickled, be aware there will be a high sugar content. However, according to www.organicfacts.net one of the main reasons why people cultivate and eat rhubarb is for its nutritional value. Rhubarb is packed with mineral, vitamins and organic compounds. There is plenty of dietary fibre, vital for a healthy diet, but also has B complex vitamins, vitamins C and K as well as calcium, potassium, manganese and magnesium. It is a rich source of polyphenolic flavonoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Polyphenols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and other biological properties, and may protect from oxidative stress and some diseases. Note, although all flavonoids are polyphenols, polyphenols not necessarily are flavonoids. All polyphenols, including flavonoids, offer numerous health benefits. Besides being potent antioxidants, some polyphenols have other biological activities that can prevent certain diseases. In some studies pomegranate juice has slowed down the growth of prostate and lung cancers and it’s thought to improve overall vascular health. Tart cherry juice (not sweet cherry juice) reduces muscle pain and inflammation in athletes. Green tea and red wine polyphenols can contribute to heart health too.
Rhubarb is one of the lowest calorie vegetables, along with celery, in its raw state. Rhubarb is a vegetable, although many think if it as a fruit as it’s often used in baking and jams. It is sometimes recommended for people who want to lose weight as 100 grams of rhubarb contain only 21 calories. It has zero fat, zero cholesterol and therefore poses no threat to cardiovascular health. It can actually increase the levels of good cholesterol due to the presence of its dietary fibre, which can ‘scrape’ excess cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels and arteries. This fibre can help to keep your digestive system healthy by keeping you regular, easing constipation and other digestive issues.
The nutritional value of rhubarb, per 100g, raw, unsweetened. Zero fat, zero cholesterol, 21 calories, 4.5g carbohydrates, 13% vitamin C, 8% potassium, 8% calcium, 7% dietary fibre, 3% magnesium. *Per cent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Unusually for us, we’re including a cake recipe here. But below it is another, more savoury recipe which is less dramatic for anyone counting carbs.
Rhubarb Cake Recipe
• 2 large eggs
• 200g unrefined caster sugar
• 2 tsp ground ginger
• 130ml mellow yellow rapeseed oil
• 350g rhubarb chopped into approx 2cm pieces
• 175g plain flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 100g ground almonds
• Large handful flaked almonds
Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan) and line a 24cm (approx 9.5 inch) tin. Rinse the rhubarb (only drain briefly as the moisture will bring out the rhubarbs flavour). Add straight to the mixing bowl followed by the eggs, sugar, ginger and oil. Mix thoroughly. Mix the baking powder thoroughly with the flour and ground almonds, then add these dry ingredients to the bowl. Mix thoroughly again and place into the lined tin, gently pushing out to the edges. Finally sprinkle with a generous handful of flaked almonds. Bake for around 50 minutes (may be slightly longer) until the almonds are browning, the cake is springy to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Delicious served with crème fraiche. Recipe from Farrington Oils. 30g of carbs per serving (12 servings).
Baked peppered rhubarb with black pudding
Recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writing in The Guardian, who says, “Tart, juice-soaked, lightly peppery rhubarb is a very pleasing foil to the rich, savoury denseness of black pudding. This is also the way to prepare rhubarb to serve alongside the aforementioned oily fi sh, and it works well, instead of apple sauce, on the side with roast pork or duck.” Serves four as a starter. Approx 15g carbohydrate per serving.
• 300g rhubarb
• 25g golden caster or granulated sugar
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 250g black pudding, cut into thick chunky slices
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Trim the rhubarb and cut into 5cm lengths. Put in an oven dish, scatter over the sugar and a generous grinding of black pepper and toss lightly together. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the rhubarb lightly in its juices, without squashing it too much, and leave to cool. When you’re ready to serve, heat some olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the black pudding for about five minutes, until it starts to get nice and crisp on the outside. At the same time, in a small separate pan, warm through the rhubarb. Serve the chunks of hot black pudding with a spoonful of the juicy rhubarb and some bread for wiping the plates.
This news item first appeared in Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal. We cover diabetes news, diabetes management equipment (diabetes kit) and news about food suitable for a diabetic diet. Go to the top of this page to sign up – we just need your email address.