Health Benefits of Rhubarb

Rhubarb has become more and more popular over the past few years, and you can eat this healthy veggie in so much more than pies. Learn about the delicious health benefits of rhubarb!

One thing to know about rhubarb before we dive into the health benefits is that eating a slice of rhubarb pie isn’t going to help you reap a ton of health benefits, because of the sugar it contains. I’ll touch on some healthy ways to eat rhubarb below, but first, let’s look at its nutritional information and health benefits plus dig into whether it’s really the miracle weight loss food some people claim it is.

Rhubarb Nutrition

One raw rhubarb stalk contains:

  • 10 calories
  • 4% of your daily fiber needs
  • negligible amounts of sodium and fat
  • 19% of your vitamin K for the day
  • 44 mg (4% RDA) of calcium, but Heathline points out that it’s in a form that your body isn’t great at absorbing
  • 7% of your vitamin C

Not too shabby for such a small amount of fruit!

rhubarb smoothie in a glass with ingredients on rustic white wooden background

Health Benefits of Rhubarb

Rhubarb is small, but it delivers a couple of mighty health benefits. Let’s get into it!

May Lower Cholesterol

Eating rhubarb may help lower your cholesterol. A 1997 study looked at how rhubarb stalk fiber impacted men’s cholesterol. The study was very small—just 10 participants—but their cholesterol went down considerably. They saw an average eight percent reduction in total cholesterol and a nine percent reduction in LDL levels in just four weeks.

Antioxidant Rich

Another study looked at the antioxidants in rhubarb and found that it actually contains more phenolic compounds than kale! Phenolic compounds are antioxidants that protect us against cancer and other chronic diseases.

The compounds that give rhubarb stems its lovely reddish-purple color, called anthocyanins, are also powerful antioxidants. These compounds, “possess anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation properties,” according to a 2010 review.

Does Rhubarb Help with Weight Loss?

Rhubarb was the center of a fad diet for a while promising weight loss if you ate rhubarb boiled with milk twice a day (in place of two meals). Rhubarb does have a mild laxative effect which can aid in weight loss, but like any crash diet, any weight loss you experience is likely to be temporary.

Its low calories and fiber content definitely make it a healthy addition to your diet, but no one food is going to make unwanted pounds melt away. Healthy, sustained weight loss requires keeping track of what you eat and making healthy food choices. It’s also important to remember that weight isn’t always an indicator of health.

gardener holding rhubarb in her garden

Who Shouldn’t Eat Rhubarb?

Calcium oxalate—the form of calcium in rhubarb— is fine for most people to eat in small amounts, but Healthline warns that too much can be hazardous. Too much dietary calcium oxalate can crystalize in your organs or cause kidney stones.

The amount of calcium oxalate in one stalk of rhubarb isn’t going to harm most people, but if you’re prone to kidney stones, you might want to find a different sour fruit to enjoy instead. Cooking rhubarb destroys the bulk of the oxalates it contains, so you can also stick to cooked rhubarb, if you’re concerned.

How to Eat Rhubarb

I’m working on a more robust collection of healthy rhubarb recipes, but reaping rhubarb’s health benefits is all about preparation. It didn’t feel right to skip this topic altogether here.

The first thing to know about preparing rhubarb is that only the stems are edible. Rhubarb leaves contain toxic levels of oxalic acid and oxalate salt. If you do find rhubarb with the leaves intact, discard them. Depending on your age, weight and how healthy you are, eating rhubarb leaves can cause symptoms from nausea and vomiting to death. Don’t do it.

You’re probably most familiar with rhubarb in desserts, like strawberry rhubarb pie. If you’re going for health benefits, though, sugary desserts aren’t the answer.

According to Megan Gambino at Smithsonian Magazine, there are lots of unsweet ways to enjoy rhubarb! She recommends dicing it up raw to use as a yogurt of cereal topping, to get a feel for the stalk’s puckery tartness. You ca toss it into smoothies, too, and let the sweetness from the other fruits offset its acidity.

Gambino also suggests trying it roasted, though her prep there does include sprinkling with sugar or maple syrup. The rhubarb salsa she mentions, though, gets its sweetness from whole strawberries and sounds like a delight at your next vegan taco party!

Photos via Getty Images

56 comments

Richard E Cooley

Thank you.

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heather g
heather g4 days ago

I love Rhubarb but if I don't add a teeny bit of sugar - ice cream will need to be added. I won't complain.

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Judith Hannah
Judith H6 days ago

Thankyou x

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Lisa M
Lisa M8 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M8 days ago

Thanks.

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Christine V
Christine V11 days ago

Yummy and healthy

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Mike R
Mike R17 days ago

Thanks

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD25 days ago

tyfs

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Teresa W
Teresa W29 days ago

thank you

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Hannah A
Hannah A29 days ago

Thank you

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