Lung health? Add the king of oriental vegetables to your diet!

As far as cruciferous vegetables go, this Asian winter staple should be in your soups once a week during the winter season. Its many health benefits include lung health. Who doesn’t need that right now?

With winter coming in the Northern hemisphere, as well as rising numbers of those infected with COVID-19, our attention is turning to lung health more than ever during these testing times. What before 2020 would have been waved off as a simple sneeze, a slight cough, or a runny nose due to the changing season is now cause for alarm. Something that might be a straightforward as a common cold leads us all to wonder “What if….?”. Needless to say, we can’t run for a PCR test every 5 minutes, nor can we keep isolating at home all the time just to be safe and keep everyone around us safe. We all have lives that must resume to some degree of normality. So, what to do?

I have talked about the causes of the common cold and flu and natural remedies (see here), how to prepare your body for the winter months ahead (see here) as well as how to boost immunity in general (see here). This time I am going to focus on one ingredient that you should seriously consider bringing to your plate. The short story? It helps to keep your lungs healthy. Do you need any other reason to continue reading?

Introducing White Radish

White radish, latin name Raphanus Sativus var. longipinnatus, otherwise known as Chinese or Oriental Radish, or Daikon radish -which means great root in Japanese- is commonly used in Asian cooking but is a relatively unknown type of radish in Western cuisine. 

White radish originated in China, and was later introduced to other parts of Asia such as Japan where it has been a staple for over 1000 years. It comes in two shapes. One is thinn(er) and elongated and could easily be mistaken for a long white carrot (as in the image accompanying this article) and the other variety is shorter and wider, more similar to a sweet potato in shape. Both have white flesh with white skins, unlike their smaller cousins with red skin and white flesh more commonly seen on Western plates. White radishes are also a slightly more spicy than their small red skinned cousins, but still mild in taste.

White radish is harvested from winter to early spring. To be able to preserve the flesh for longer a process for sundrying them was developed.  The result is thin strips of light cream to a dark tan colour, although many manufacturers use chemicals to bleach the dried radishes to achieve white strips (so if you want chemical free dried daikon go for the darker coloured one!).

Technically speaking white radish is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Think broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, among many others. Is it a wonder it is full of health benefits?

The health benefits of White Radish

According to Traditional Chinese (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine principles white radish helps to expel heat congesting the lungs, the visible symptoms of which are sputum, fever, dry cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.  This is particularly true when it is cooked in a soup, although in Asia it is also often consumed in pickled form.

Other health benefits of the so called king of oriental vegetables include its ability to:

·       Detoxify and cool the liver – this will help with overall health and immunity since the liver acts as the filter for the entire body. For carnivores who live on a diet characterised by large quantities of (red) meat, this root is especially useful in that it aids in the elimination of toxicity build up as a result of overconsumption of meat.

·       Cleanse the kidneys – white radishes are diuretic and thus prevent accumulation of toxins in the kidneys where stones could otherwise form.

·       Strengthen the nervous system – thanks to the folate and B vitamins it contains.

·       Improve hair, skin and teeth health– thanks to the rich calcium and mineral content.

·       Reduce gastroenteritis, bone or joint infections, meningitis and pneumonia.

·       Promote the breakdown of starch – thanks to enzymes such as amylase and protease which help digestion and inhibit constipation, all of which in turn are powerful weightloss/ weight management allies.

It is also noted for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.

The nutritional value of white radish

Let’s look at some facts: 100 grams of white radish equal approximately 20 kcals (great for that diet!). White radishes are rich in fibre, in vitamins and minerals including iodine, phosphorous, calcium, iron, sulphur and copper. They are low in sodium (20mg) and are an excellent source of folate (excellent for those expecting mums).



Water [g]


Energy [kcal]


Protein [g]


Total lipid (fat) [g]


Carbohydrate [g]


Fibre (total) [g]


Sugars (total)[g]


Calcium, Ca [mg]


Iron, Fe [mg]


Magnesium, Mg [mg]


Phosphorus, P [mg]


Potassium, K [mg]


Sodium, Na [mg]


Zinc, Zn [mg]


Copper, Cu [mg]


Manganese, Mn [mg]


Selenium, Se [µg]


Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]


Thiamin [mg]


Riboflavin [mg]


Niacin [mg]


Pantothenic acid [mg]


Vitamin B-6 [mg]


Folate, total [µg]


Choline, total [mg]


Betaine [mg]


Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]


Omega 3 fatty acids [mg]


Omega 6 fatty acids[mg]


Source: USDA


White radish in the kitchen

If you can find fresh white radish in your local green grocer’s then you can use it as you might use a potato. Cut it into small cubes and add it to soups and casseroles.  The greens of white radish are also edible and can be chopped up and cooked alongside other vegetables or in soups.

If you cannot get a hold of fresh radish you may be able to find a dry version of Daikon radish in the Asian foods section of supermarkets or in specialised shops. Sundried daikon radish strips are called sengiri or kiriboshi daikon in Japan. Treat that like you would dry mushrooms, soak in warm water for approximately 10 minutes to allow the strips to rehydrate and then drain and toss into your vegetable soup, minestrone, stew or in lieu of mushrooms in your risotto.

Pickled radish is also available in some specialised shops and can be consumed as part of your Asian meals. The web is full of recipes you can take inspiration from.

Other ways to use cook white radish are to make soup stock, noodle broth (daishi), vegetable side dishes, in stir fries, or cooked with seaweed such as kombu, arame and hijiki. You can also combine it with ginger and simmer it to make a tea or a dry cough “syrup” by blending it with ginger and water.

Side effects and more

Such a plain vegetable and so many benefits! However, before you start eating radish breakfast, lunch and dinner a word of caution.

Consuming white radish can exacerbate gastritis, ulcers and other gastrointestinal diseases. If you suffer from any of these conditions it is best to talk to your doctor first. Also, like many cruciferous vegetables, it is goitrogenic. This means that it can interfere with your body’s production of thyroid hormones. Although studies show that you would need to consume very large quantities of white radish for your thyroid function to be affected, it is important to know if you already suffer from thyroid issues. Consuming small quantities as well as cooking it thoroughly (e.g. in soups) does eliminate the risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Whether or not you are a healthy individual even TCM recommends you do not eat it more than once or twice per week.

Remember, it’s never too late to start taking care of your health. Nature provides us with a rich bounty of foods to keep us healthy and strong, catering to the needs of every season, why not take advantage?

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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