Scientists at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK say that eating rhubarb crumble could protect you against cancer. The medical profession always teach the public that a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and grains is one of the best ways to stay healthy.
Cake, chocolate and puddings don’t automatically come to mind when thinking of health enhancing foods. In fact, we are told to avoid these. Now it seems the humble rhubarb crumble could actually prevent us from getting cancer.
Rhubarb contains substances called polyphenols which are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants protect against tissue damage by free radicals which contribute to numerous illnesses and to the aging process. Polyphenols, however, go a step further and actually block the action of enzymes that encourage the growth of cancer.
The scientists were looking at methods of cooking the rhubarb to see which method would release the most polyphenols. Most people assume that cooking food decreases the amount of goodness available in it and this is true, but for some compounds like polyphenols, cooking causes the food to release them. They compared methods of cooking, such as fast stewing, slow stewing, blanching and baking and found that baking the rhubarb offered the most antioxidants and polyphenols.
Polyphenolic components, such as anthraquinones and stilbenes, from species of the genus Rheum have been shown to have a range of bioactivities relevant to human health. Most cooking regimes (fast stewing, slow stewing and baking) except blanching increased total polyphenol content and overall antioxidant capacity, compared to the raw material. The patterns of anthocyanin content and total polyphenol content between the different cooking regimes suggested a balance between two processes; cooking facilitated the release of polyphenol compounds from the rhubarb.
Baking and slow stewing offered the best maintenance of colour through preservation of anthocyanin and the highest antioxidant capacity.