Vegetables are an essential component of any healthy, balanced diet, but some of them can present hidden health risks when eaten the wrong way.
The rhubarb plant is known to provide many health benefits, and the key is to eat only the stems. The leaves of the plant contain a chemical called oxalic acid, which can be toxic.
The US National Library of Medicine warns that “rhubarb leaf poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of the rhubarb leaf.” The leaves also contain anthraquinone glycosides, which are suspected to be toxic.
Oxalic acid can also be found in spinach, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli, but in lower concentrations.
According to Ohio State University, oxalic acid is found in rhubarb leaves with a high content of about 0.5 grams per 100 grams of leaves.
Although the Health Authority notes that “the suggested lethal dose of oxalic acid is between 15 and 30 grams, which means that a few kilograms of leaves must be eaten to reach this dose, but low doses still cause vomiting and nausea.”
Symptoms (oxalic poisoning):
• Burning sensation in the mouth.
• Death from cardiovascular collapse.
• Breathing difficulty.
• Burning sensation in the throat/mouth.
• stomach ache.
• kidney stones.
• Red urine.
• Pain in the eye.
Symptoms of anthraquinone poisoning include skin irritation, eye irritation and discoloration of urine.
And while staying away from the leaves is crucial, the stalks can provide a host of health benefits, as rhubarb is packed with healthy nutrients, minerals, and vitamins.
Although studies on the health benefits of rhubarb are limited, there are some promising results.
For example, rhubarb contains high levels of fiber, which has been linked to lowering cholesterol levels in the body.
A recent study found that men who consumed 27 grams of rhubarb fiber every day for a month experienced an eight percent reduction in their cholesterol levels as well as a nine percent reduction in LDL cholesterol.