Like parsley, radishes are often dismissed as a nutrition zero, relegated to little more than a garnish. But new research suggests the modest root bulb could play a heroic role in protecting male reproductive function. A recently published Tunisian study found that radish extract canceled out the damaging effects of a naturally occurring fungal toxin, known to undermine male fertility. 

Mice given radish extract appeared immune to the ravages of the environmental toxin, which shrank reproductive organs and drastically reduced sperm count among the non-radish-consuming mice.

Radishes protect with double barrels: While the vitamin C in radish greens may go directly to work on toxins, the radish bulbs contain compounds that activate the body’s own detoxification enzymes (working similarly to other cruciferous veggies like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli). Benefits go beyond preserving male virility: Radishes provide up to 30% of your daily vitamin C, plus their antibacterial properties can counteract some foodborne viruses like salmonella. The radish research is just the latest discovery into how nutrition can help support reproductive health.

Preliminary studies show that sperm concentration may be improved by lycopene — found in tomatoes, guava and watermelon (which also happen to contain compounds in the rind that support sexual function). Other research found that women who eat the most veggies are less likely to have persistent HPV infections. Cruciferous veggies in particular contain compounds found that may inhibit herpes breakouts.

Published April 1, 2010