Stewing These Stalks Delivers More Nutrition

Why cooking rhubarb the right way can pack a healthier punch.

Fresh rhubarb sits on a cutting board, being prepared for a stewed rhubarb recipe.

Medically reviewed in August 2021

It's an herb, a perennial and a popular pie filling—and it's better for you when you bake or stew it. We're talking about rhubarb. 

Turns out those colorful red stalks are rich in 40 different kinds of disease-fighting antioxidants. And their antioxidant capacity actually increases if you bake or stew this seasonal plant. 

How heat helps 
In a study, baking fresh rhubarb for 20 minutes (at 356 degrees Fahrenheit) or slowly stewing the stuff for 30 minutes on low heat (176 degrees Fahrenheit) did more to increase its antioxidant capacity than blanching or quickly stewing did. That's good news for rhubarb lovers, because baking and stewing are common methods for preparing rhubarb. Even better, the polyphenol antioxidants in rhubarb are thought to inhibit a host of diseases, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease. 

Damage undone 
It's not entirely clear why cooking rhubarb using these methods makes it even more nutritious. But the researchers note that although nutrients are both released and broken down during cooking, the nutrient breakdown likely happens less with slow cooking methods such as baking. And rhubarb's not the only treat that benefits from special prep.

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