You probably love kale, watercress, cabbage, and lettuce, but have you heard about endives? You have likely seen it in the grocery store but have never tried it or used it to prepare any of your meals. In the United States endive is called Chicory and in French, it is clear chicorée frisée. Endive is a leafy vegetable that belongs to the genus Cichorium. There are 3 main species: Cichorium endivia, Cichorium intybus (common endive), and Cichorium pumilum (wild endive). Common types of Cichorium intybus (leaf chicory)are the species we eat including Belgian endive, catalogna, and puntarelle. We are going to explore everything about this vegetable from endive benefits to side effects, how to prepare it, and healthy recipes you can try out.
Endive Health Benefits
Endive is a low calorie and low carbohydrate veg with a high water content, making it a perfect addition to your weight loss diet. It is also nutrient-dense and contains many important micronutrients such as calcium, potassium, folate, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and several B vitamins.
This vegetable has a low glycemic index of about 15 (11). Glycemic index refers to a value from 0 to 100 assigned to food which represents the relative rise in blood glucose levels about 2 hours after consuming that food. It shows how quickly and how high a food causes an increase in blood sugar levels. So, when a food has a low glycemic index such as endive, this means it doesn’t cause spikes in your blood sugar after consumption.
Endive also has a high fiber content. Similar to other vegetables, leaf chicory is rich in plant phytonutrients, some of which have antioxidant properties thus preventing cells from damage as a result of oxidative stress.
100 grams of chopped raw endive contains the following (8):
- Calories: 17
- Water: 93.8 grams
- Carbs: 3.35 grams
- Fiber: 3.1 grams
- Protein: 1.25 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Sugars: 0.25 grams
- Sodium: 22m grams
- Phosphorus: 28 milligrams
- Calcium: 52 milligrams
- Potassium: 314 milligrams
- Vitamin C: 6.5 milligrams
- Folate: 142 micrograms
- Vitamin K: 231 micrograms
Because of its rich nutritional profile, eating endives has many health-promoting qualities. The following are the endive nutritional benefits:
Endive is a low energy-density vegetable. The calories in endive 100 grams are only 17. You can therefore enjoy endive without having to worry about consuming too many calories. So, add endive to your salads or roast with a little olive oil.
And while the calories endive leaves are low, the vegetable is rich in fiber and has high water content. This allows you to eat a large amount of vegetables without consuming excess calories. Fiber also increases satiety thus removing the need to frequently eat something because of persistent hunger (5). So, add more fiber-rich foods to your diet.
In 2020, cancer accounted for about 10 million deaths worldwide (3). Cancer is primarily characterized by tumors that grow uncontrollably. Endive contains a powerful compound known as kaempferol. Kaempferol displays anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-microbial properties.
Research in test tubes indicates that kaempferol inhibits the growth of common types of cancer such as breast, cervical, bone, lung, pancreas, liver, and prostate (14). Kaempferol induces cell death in tumors and reduces inflammation without affecting the healthy cells. More research needs to be done, however, before specific recommendations about kaempferol or kaempferol-rich foods can be made.
Supports Eye Health
Endive contains some amount of vitamin A as beta carotene which is a precursor of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps support vision and protect against age-related macular degeneration. It is also an essential constituent of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in retinal receptors. Vitamin A also supports the proper functioning of the cornea and conjunctival membranes (17).
Supports Heart Health
Heart disease is currently the number one cause of death worldwide. Endive contains folate, potassium, and fiber which promote heart health. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure by countering the effect of high sodium levels. It also helps release tension within the vessels (7).
Fiber on the other hand helps to lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) (4). This in turn reduces your risk of heart disease. Lastly, folate protects arteries by breaking down homocysteine (10). Homocysteine is an amino acid that may cause damage to the inner walls of arteries. Such damage can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Knowing this, include endives in your diet as you aim to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Promotes Digestive Health
As earlier mentioned, endive is a great source of fiber. Fiber helps promote digestive health by feeding the friendly gut bacteria in the colon (12). When there is an imbalance of friendly and harmful gut bacteria (dysbiosis), you are more prone to gut-related diseases (13).
Fiber also helps in the management of constipation as it adds bulk to stool and increases stool frequency (6). So if you are having a difficult time passing stool, consider increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods.
Supports A Healthy Pregnancy
Endives contain several micronutrients that support a healthy pregnancy. This vegetable contains folate that is important for the development of the baby’s spine and brain during pregnancy. Adequate intake of folate lowers the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, congenital heart abnormalities, and preterm delivery (10).
Other important minerals for pregnancy such as choline, iron, calcium, and vitamin A are also found in endives. Consuming endives doesn’t mean that you don’t take your prenatal vitamins. Endive can be a supplement but still take your vitamins as required.
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Side Effects Of Endive
Endives are generally safe for consumption. They are a rich source of nutrients and are thus great for your health. Some people however are sensitive and may have allergic reactions. Below are the possible side effects to of endive:
Allergies to leafy greens are rare. Sometimes people report Allergies after consuming sycamore pollen, ragweed, carrots, lettuce, peaches, or mugwort (15). If you experience any symptoms such as swelling, hives, weak pulse, or chest tightness, reach out to your physician.
Interaction With Blood Thinners
Just like other leafy greens, endives have a high vitamin K content. Half a cup of endive provides about 50% of the daily requirement for men and women. Vitamin K plays a role in the synthesis of proteins needed for blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding after an injury. Prothrombin, an essential component of the blood clotting mechanism, is vitamin K dependent (18).
If you take blood thinners such as warfarin, it is advised to watch your intake of vitamin K and keep it consistent. This is because vitamin k may interfere with the anticoagulant effects of the medication you are on (19). So, moderate your intake of vitamin K-rich foods such as endive.
It is best to consult with your doctor or nutritionist to see how best you can consume such leafy greens. Your doctor may also adjust the dosage of your medication depending on your intake of leafy greens.
How To Eat Endive
Endive is a versatile vegetable and can be prepared in different ways and incorporated into many meals. Here are a few ways to eat this vegetable:
You can simply boil endive. Just peel the outer damaged leaves and rinse properly under running water then boil in salted water. Drain and sprinkle with pepper or parsley and enjoy with egg or fish dishes.
Sautéing is a method of cooking food in a small amount of oil over high heat. It allows the food to cook until it becomes tender and turns brown on the outside. You can sautée endives in extra-virgin olive oil and add some salt and pepper to taste.
When raw, these leafy greens are crisp and bitter. However, when roasted the flavor is soft and mellow. You can choose to pan roast or oven roast the endives. After you roast the endives, you can also use them as boats to hold other ingredients such as avocado, cheese, meats, or seafood.
You can add endive to any salad. Combine it with a bunch of other vegetables and some chicken or salmon. You can also substitute other vegetable salads with endive and see how they turn out.
With Dips Or Hummus
If you are a fan of vegetables and dips as snacks then you should try endive instead of the celery stalks and carrot sticks that you are used to. Try dipping endive in your favorite dips, hummus, salsa, or guacamole.
You can always experiment in the kitchen to see what you come up with. Try combining endive with other ingredients and you might just like what you create. Below are simple endive recipes you can try out:
Belgian Endive Au Gratin (1)
This recipe is full of flavor and you are bound to fall in love with it. It is perfect for a family dinner.
- 8 heads Belgian endive, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided
- 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, or amount to taste
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 8 slices deli-style ham
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Lightly grease a baking sheet
- Fill a large cooking pot with water and bring it to a boil over medium to high heat.
- Place the endives in the water, cover, and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until tender.
- Place butter in a cooking pan and melt it over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until the mixture gets a paste-like consistency.
- Then gradually whisk in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is thick and smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until well blended. Cook gently over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Preheat your oven broiler to low.
- Drain the endives then wrap each endive in a slice of ham and place it into the prepared baking sheet.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the endive wrapped ham. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and Gruyere cheese and parsley.
- Cook the endives in the broiler until the cheese turns golden brown and the sauce bubbles for about ten minutes. Serve.
Nutritional info: 207 calories, 20.4g carbs, 12.8g protein, 16g fiber, 10.1g fat, 210.4mg sodium
Brown Rice Belgian Endive Salad (2)
If you are looking for a filling snack or light lunch this is it. You can substitute the red onions for green onions and add pieces of finely chopped fresh fruit such as apples or oranges.
- 1 cup water
- 1 head Belgian endive, chopped
- ⅛ red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Bring the rice and water to a boil in a cooking pot.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the cooking pot and simmer until the brown rice is tender and all the water has been absorbed. Set the rice aside and let it cool.
- Place the rice, endive, and red onion in a bowl. Drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top and season with salt and pepper then combine properly.
- Serve and garnish as desired.
Nutritional info: 250 calories, 39.4g carbs, 6.1g protein, 8.3g fat, 10.2g fiber, 65.3mg sodium
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Endive, Walnut And Grape Salad (9)
This simple and tasty salad recipe is perfect as an accompaniment or midday snack.
- 6 medium heads Belgian endive (1 lb. total), trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges each
- 1 cup halved green grapes
- ¾ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Arrange the endive wedges on a serving. Scatter the grapes and walnuts over them.
- In a bowl, combine the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and honey. Then slowly whisk in the grapeseed oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
- Generously drizzle the dressing over the salad then serve.
Nutritional info: 140 calories, 10g carbs, 2g protein, 11g fat, 3g fiber, 210mg sodium
Sautéed Endive With Balsamic Butter (16)
Once you have this sautéed endive with balsamic butter, you will constantly be craving for more.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium-small heads Belgian endive, trimmed, halved vertically
- Fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, in small pieces
- Pinch of sugar
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
- Heat the extra-virgin oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the endive halves, cut side down, and sear for several minutes per side. Turn once and sear until golden brown but still firm at the center.
- Add salt to taste then transfer to a serving bowl and wrap it in foil paper to keep it warm.
- In a different saucepan, simmer the balsamic vinegar for a minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the unsalted butter bit by bit. Whisk in some sugar. You can also add salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle some balsamic butter on the endives, stew with marjoram, and dust with pepper.
- Serve and enjoy.
Nutritional info: 124 calories, 4g carbs, 1g protein, 12g fat, 2g fiber, 147mg sodium
The Bottom Line
Endive just like many other vegetables contains several minerals and vitamins that promote health. Even though they are not as common as kales and lettuce, they offer similar benefits and are delicious. Endives can be used in a variety of ways and are best enjoyed roasted.
If you are taking any blood thinners, ensure you consult your doctor before adding endives to your diet. Always wash your vegetables properly before cooking. If you still haven’t tried endives, you should give them a try as they are simply packed with goodness.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Belgian Endive au Gratin Recipe | Allrecipes (n.d., allrecipes.com)
- Brown Rice Belgian Endive Salad Recipe | Allrecipes (n.d., allrecipes.com)
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- Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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- Endive, Walnut & Grape Salad – Recipe – FineCooking (n.d., finecooking.com)
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- Glycemic Index (GI): (n.d., caasn.com)
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- Introduction to the human gut microbiota (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Kaempferol: A Key Emphasis to Its Anticancer Potential (2019, mdpi.com)
- Lettuce anaphylaxis (2020, aaaai.org)
- Sautéed Endive With Balsamic Butter Recipe – NYT Cooking (n.d., cooking.nytimes.com)
- Vitamin A – Health Professional Fact Sheet (2021, ods.od.nih.gov)
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- Vitamin K – Health Professional Fact Sheet (2021, ods.od.nih.gov)