5 Reasons Daikon May Be Better Than Ginseng in Winter

Sliced daikon radish in a glass bowl on a wooden surface next to whole daikon radishes.

There is an old Chinese saying: 'Eat daikon in winter and ginseng in summer and there's no need to take medicine.' (Image: Milovan Radmanovac via Dreamstime)

There is an old Chinese saying: “Eat daikon in winter and ginseng in summer and there’s no need to take medicine.” There is something very special about this root vegetable, especially if it is eaten in winter.

There are many ways to eat daikon. It can be enjoyed raw, pickled, in cold dishes, and in soups. But one of the most significant properties will be shared along with the nutritional characteristics of daikon in this article.

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Nutritional characteristics of daikon

1. High water content and low calories — hydrating

Daikon is made up of more than 90 percent water and only has about 20 calories per 4 ounce (100 gm) serving. Due to the dry character of winter, eating water-rich foods is a great way to replenish water that the body needs.

2. High content of dietary fiber — filling

Daikon contains a lot of dietary fiber. This means eating it leaves you feeling full without a lot of calories. In addition, it contains mustard oil, which can promote peristalsis, the muscle contraction that moves the contents of the bowels down the digestive system.

Pickled Japanese radish with Yuzu in white porcelain bowl and with a piece of daikon being picked up with black chopsticks.
Eating daikon leaves you feeling full without a lot of calories. (Image: Contrail1 via Dreamstime)

3. Vitamins and trace elements — immune boosting

Daikon is a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, and E. Eating more of it is also a good way to obtain vitamin C. But it also contains a variety of trace elements like iron accompanied by copper (a combo that improves the proper absorption of iron by the body), zinc, fluorine, and trace amounts of iodine and selenium. 

4. Essential mineral potassium — blood pressure regulation

Aside from being an important electrolyte, potassium also plays an essential role in regulating blood pressure. The potassium contained in this root vegetable helps the body maintain its sodium-potassium balance. 

5. Phosphorus and zinc — skincare

A little-known fact about daikon is that it is also good for the skin — it’s a beauty product that works from within, so to speak. The combination of phosphorus and zinc can help the body combat dryness, acne, and rashes. These are quite common things during the dry times of winter. 

Phosphorus, also known as phosphate when found in supplements, partners up with other minerals to help the body.

  • Calcium needs phosphorus to make teeth and bones strong.
  • Muscles and nerves need it to function properly.
  • It’s also essential to your metabolism, where it supports transforming fats, carbs, and proteins into energy. 

Why is eating daikon better than ginseng in winter? 

The notion of eating this root vegetable in Chinese tradition comes from ancient times when it was an essential food. As a very cold-resistant vegetable, it is also one of the few vegetables that people can eat in winter. 

In ancient times, fresh daikon was available throughout the long winter, which was a very helpful thing for people. It provided them with a nutritional supplement that was commonly served in soups and side dishes. 

Korean soup with beef, rice noodles, leeks and daikon.
In ancient China, daikon was commonly served in soups. (Image: Sergii Koval via Dreamstime)

Does daikon have anti-cancer properties?

Scientists have discovered a compound in this root vegetable that may possibly have anti-cancer properties. In recent years, many media have mentioned an anti-cancer factor — sulforaphane.

The sulforaphane present in daikon extract can be a potential anti-cancer agent with higher efficacy against cancer cells and comparatively less toxicity to normal cells. Some studies have found that the substance has anti-oxidant and anti-cancer effects, but so far, most experiments have been done on isolated cells or in animals, so there is not enough evidence to confirm the effects for humans yet. Thus, it is too early to say daikon has an anti-cancer effect.

Translated by Patty Zhang

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