Radicchio:Nutritional Properties, Role in the Diet and How to Cook

The term “radicchio” usually refers to a red, green or variegated leafy vegetable or vegetable, with a head shape – open or closed, tapered or ball shaped – and a typically bitter taste.There are many species of radicchio, all belonging to the botanical genus Cichorium.

Radicchio is a food of vegetable origin belonging to both the VI and VII fundamental group of foods , since – with the due differences related to the variety – it contains abundant quantities of vitamin C – ascorbic acid – but also of equivalent retinol – pro vit. A , type carotenoids . Radicchio also contains a lot of water , dietary fiber and minerals – especially potassium .

Radicchio can be eaten raw and cooked. The culinary destination depends above all on the variety in question. They can be eaten alone, as a side dish, or used as an ingredient for elaborate recipes such as sauces for first courses, risotto, side dishes au gratin with cheese etc.

Nutritional properties

Nutritional properties of radicchio

  • Radicchio is a vegetable which, depending on the species and variety, belongs to the VI and / or VII fundamental group of foods – vegetables rich in vitamin C, vitamin A or RAE, dietary fiber, water and potassium.
  • The energy intake is negligible, since all three energy macronutrients are present in modest quantities. The carbohydrates are tendentially soluble, simple – consisting of fructose . Fatty acids should be largely unsaturated and low biological value proteins .
  • Radicchio contains dietary fiber, most of which are soluble. There are plant steroid molecules, called phytosterols , with metabolic action opposite to cholesterol . These plant sterols belong to the largest set of polyphenols , others of which are also well present in radicchio – the red one is rich in anthocyanins . Lactose , gluten and histamine are absent . Purine intake is considered minimal .

Radicchio has an excellent concentration of vitamin C or ascorbic acid and equivalent retinol (RAE), in particular beta carotene . The average intake of potassium and magnesium is remarkable . Green radicchio also contains good quantities of calcium and iron , however they are poorly bioavailable both for the chemical form – non bioavailable iron – and for the presence of fibers and antinutrients – phytic and oxalic acid , which hinder the absorption of calcium .

Nutritional values Red radish Green chicory
Edible part 72% 95.0%
water 94.0 g 88.1 g
Protein 1.4 g 1.9 g
Lipids 0.1 g 0.5 g
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Cholesterol 0.0 g 0.0 g
TOT carbohydrates 1.6 g 0.5 g
Starch / Glycogen 0.0 g 0.0 g
Soluble sugars 1.6 g 0.5 g
Dietary fiber 3.0 g tr
Soluble 0.59 g – g
Insoluble 2.37 g – g
Power 13.0 kcal 14.0 kcal
Sodium 10.0 mg – mg
Potassium 240.0 mg – mg
Iron 0.3 mg 7.8 mg
Football 36.0 mg 115.0 mg
Phosphorus 30.0 mg 45.0 mg
Thiamine or Vitamin B1 0.07 mg 0.06 mg
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 0.30 mg 0.53 mg
Niacin or PP vitamin 0.30 mg 0.30 mg
Vitamin A or RAE tr 542.0 mcg
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid 10.0 mg 46.0 mg
Vitamin E or Alpha Tocopherol – mg – mg
Diet

Radicchio in the diet

Radicchio is a food that lends itself to any type of nutritional regime. The richness in fiber and water, but also the low energy and lipid density, make it suitable for the weight loss diet which, in addition to being low-calorie, must be normolipidic to be balanced .

Like all vegetables , it cannot be considered a good source of high biological value protein . The quantity of essential amino acids and their proportion is in fact very different compared to the human protein model. Fatty acids, although mainly unsaturated, being present in small quantities do not have a significant impact on the metabolism .

The abundance of fibers can have multiple effects on the body. First of all, in the presence of water, they improve the sense of satiety by increasing the volume of the meal in the stomach – as we have already said, this vegetable is suitable for the weight loss diet . Above all soluble ones, they create a gel that modulates nutritional absorption in two ways: they decrease the speed of absorption of carbohydrates, reducing the insulin glycemic index of the meal, hindering the absorption and reabsorption of fats, including above all cholesterol and bile juices – rich in endogenous cholesterol . 

Radicchio is therefore recommended in food therapy against hypercholesterolemia– to which polyphenols contribute – type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertriglyceridemia . Fibers improve intestinal transit, preventing / treating constipation – and related disorders such as hemorrhoids , anal fissures , tendency to anal prolapse etc. – and acting in the long term as a protective factor against some forms of colon cancer . They also nourish the intestinal bacterial flora , acting as prebiotics , which contributes to the maintenance of intestinal health.

Radicchio lends itself to the diet of lactose intolerant , celiac and histamine intolerant. The low presence of purines makes it suitable for the nutritional regimen against hyperuricemia and gout .

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and collagen precursor, an essential element of the immune system etc. Carotenoids are also antioxidants ; in the body they can be recombined to form vitamin A, necessary for visual function, for cell differentiation, to maintain reproductive function etc. Polyphenols are the third antioxidant agent of radicchio. The high concentration of molecules equipped with this function makes this vegetable suitable for fighting the oxidative stress of the organism, acting preventively against tumors and hindering the onset of metabolic pathologies.

The richness of water and potassium is considered a preventive aspect. Primary arterial hypertension , especially sodium- sensitive – potassium acts metabolically as opposed to sodium and water increases diuresis , favoring the elimination of the unwanted ion. In addition, these are two nutritional factors largely eliminated with sweating , greater in hot climates and in sports. Potassium and magnesium are alkalizing minerals which, when deficient in the body, can give rise to muscle cramps . The nutritional action of the iron and calcium contained in the radicchio is marginal.

Remember that, in the diet of the pregnant woman, raw radicchio must be washed thoroughly and possibly in solution with disinfectants , to reduce the risk of infection or infestation with bacteria or parasites dangerous for the successful outcome of pregnancy.

Kitchen

Cooking the radicchio – radicchio in the kitchen

Radicchio, both red and green, can be eaten raw or cooked. In the first case – especially for the Variegated Radicchio di Castelfranco and the Radicchio Tondo di Chioggia – the precautions for the raw preparation are the same as those for the other leafy vegetables – such as lettuce . However, it should be remembered that few people appreciate salads made entirely from radicchio, which is one of the various ingredients for “mixed” dishes. As for cooked radicchio, you could write a chapter in its own right. 

In particular the Treviso Radicchio and the Verona Radicchiothey are typically the subject of many local recipes. Radicchio di Verona, for its elongated but compact shape, is the ideal product to prepare on the grill , while Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso is a fundamental ingredient for the first courses of the area. There is no lack of composite dishes, such as rolls, escalopes and roasts with radicchio; in addition, there is a wide variety of sauces that contain it – for example flavored béchamel . I note the stir-fried radicchio with oil, salt , lemon / wine / balsamic vinegar and garlic ; many enrich it with bacon or speck ordiced lard or strips of lard .

Botany

Botanical notes on radicchio

From a botanical point of view, that of radicchio is a set of vegetables belonging to the Asteraceae family, subfamily Cichorioideae and genus Cichorium ; all species of radicchio are ultimately different types of chicory .

It is also appropriate to distinguish the pure intybus species from the crosses with the endivia species – for example the variegated radicchio – respectively two strands with different varieties and botanical characteristics.

Types

Types of radicchio

“Radicchio” is therefore a simplification and vulgar term to refer to various types of “bitter salad” and that has nothing to do with the scientific division of the plants in question (since, respecting the latter criterion, they should be called “chicory” ).

So let’s try to list the best known vegetables that can acquire the name “radicchio”:

  • Red radicchio: red radicchio means a pigmented vegetable of ruby ​​or violet color, belonging to many varieties, also quite different in shape and origin but all belonging to the genus Cichorium, Species intybus. Among the best known red radicchio we mention:
    • Treviso red chicory, early and late (elongated shape, with narrow leaves and semi-closed head)
    • Radicchio Rosso di Chioggia (spherical shape and closed head)
    • Red Radicchio di Verona (elongated shape, with large leaves and closed head).
  • Variegated radicchio: variegated radicchio means a greenish-yellowish vegetable dotted in purplish red with the head open; the best known and recognized one is from Castelfranco. The variegated radicchio from Castelfranco is obtained from the intersection of the red of Treviso and the ‘ endive endive (also part of the chicory).
  • Green radicchio: “green radicchio” is an even more generic term than the red one. It can be used for practically all AMARA green chicory varieties (with the exception of Catalonian chicory and Brussels endive, instead distinguished by their peculiar morphological characteristics); the best known are:
    • Green Sugar Loaf Radicchio (elongated shape, with large leaves and closed head)
    • Wild or Field Green Radicchio (there are different varieties, some with jagged leaves, others with regular leaves; they do not form a thick head and remain smaller in size).

Many varieties of radicchio are further classified into early and late, a variable that diversifies their taste and aroma. That of Treviso, for example, is also different in the shape of the leaves, which depends on the cultivation technique.

Many red and non-red radicchio varieties have acquired the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certification.

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