You’ve probably heard it called Oriental radish, but daikon (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus) 2 is a vegetable that actually goes by many names, including mooli, Chinese radish, Satsuma radish and, most notably, Japanese radish. In fact, daikon is a Japanese word that means “big root.”3
Daikon is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean, but has now spread to Southeast and East Asia countries 4 like Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines, where it became highly valued for its root. Today, daikon radish is also grown in North America to prevent soil compaction, which then allows soil to absorb more rainfall. 5
A member of the radish family, daikon can be easily distinguished from other radishes by its appearance: it has large, rapidly growing leaves and a long white root, 6 resembling a pale carrot. Daikon can grow up to 20 inches long, with a diameter of 4 inches.
When it comes to flavor, though, it’s considered milder and less peppery than other radishes. Served raw, it’s mild and tangy, with a crisp and juicy texture. When cooked, it tastes similar to cooked turnips. 7
Although the root is the most widely utilized part of this crop, daikon is a cruciferous vegetable, technically speaking. 8 In Asian countries, daikon root is commonly pickled and eaten as a side dish or added to main dishes, grated, cubed or in thin slices. Nevertheless, the leaves should not be set aside, as they offer their own plethora of health benefits as well. 9
You can also enjoy daikon sprouts (called “kaiware” by the Japanese), which have a pungent and peppery flavor that adds a kick to sandwiches and salads. No need to cook them, though – daikon sprouts are best used raw since they’re very delicate and may be damaged by heating. 10
Daikon Radish Health Benefits
You can’t go wrong with adding daikon to your favorite meals, as it offers a multitude of nutrients that can surely uplift your health.
One benefit that you can get from daikon is its ability to improve digestion, thanks to an enzyme called diastase, which helps relieve indigestion, heartburn and may even curb hangovers. 11 Meanwhile, isothiocyanates, which give daikon its peppery and pungent qualities, may help improve blood circulation and prevent clots.
The juice extracted from raw daikon has been traditionally used to alleviate headaches, fever, swollen gums and hot flashes, as it has anti-inflammatory and cooling effects. 12 Daikon radish also contains high amounts of potassium, vitamin C and phosphorus – nutrients that are essential for good health.
While you may think that the benefits are only attributed to the root, you’ll be surprised to know that daikon leaves have an impressive nutritional value, too. They’re actually loaded with vitamin A, essential for eye health, and vitamin C – more than the root, actually. They also provide beta-carotene, sodium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. 13
Organic Facts provides a good summary of the health-promoting properties of this food:
- Alleviates respiratory issues. It can help clear out excess phlegm and eliminate bacteria and other pathogens from your respiratory tract.
- Promotes digestive health. Daikon helps facilitate better digestion of proteins, complex carbs and fats, which in turn prevents constipation and increases nutrient uptake in the gut.
- Assists in detoxification. It stimulates urination, which is necessary for keeping the kidneys clean.
- Has potential cancer-preventive ability. This vegetable possesses antioxidant phenolic compounds that may help reduce certain types of cancer.
- Bolsters your immunity. The vitamin C in daikon stimulates white blood cell production, which may speed up repair and healing in your body.
- Alleviates inflammation. Daikon juice’s anti-inflammatory properties can help decrease inflammation throughout your system, which may lead to a healthier heart, lower gout and arthritis risk and reduced pain from injuries and muscle cramping.
- Promotes bone and skin health. Its high calcium content may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis. It also has antioxidant benefits, which may help prevent wrinkles, increase circulation and even reduce the appearance of blemishes and age spots, giving your skin a natural glow.
- Helps with weight management. Daikon is a low-calorie and low-cholesterol vegetable, but it’s high in fiber and many other nutrients – qualities that are ideal for people who want to maintain a healthy weight.
So remember, if you want to reap all of daikon’s health benefits, it’s best to use the entire vegetable.