Broccoli and Cauliflower and Kale, Oh My!

Face it, your mom was onto something when she said to eat your Brussels sprouts. Sure they didn’t taste so great back then. But hey, why not give them another try.

What are cruciferous vegetables?

Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family and fall into the Brassica genus of plants. The four-petal flowers from these vegetables resemble a cross or “crucifer,” hence its name. Some common cruciferous vegetables include:

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Watercress 

What nutrients are in cruciferous vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamin C, E, K, folate, and other minerals. Other compounds include carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), which are later converted into vitamin A in the body and serve as antioxidants. Carotenoids are also protective against eye diseases and have been shown to reduce the risk for certain cancers. The pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables can be attributed to sulfur-containing chemical substances called glucosinolates. During cooking, chewing, and digestion, these substances are broken down into biologically active compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates, which have been frequently studied for their anticancer properties against prostate, colorectal, breast, and lung cancer.

Did I mention cruciferous vegetables are a good source of fiber? Fiber is a substance only found in plant sources and mainly come from fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Aside from normalizing bowel movements and maintaining good bowel health, dietary fiber lowers cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels, and aids in achieving healthy weight. In a cup of chopped vegetables you get about 3 grams of fiber.

Daily recommendations for adults:

  Age 50 or younger Age 51 or older
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

Source: Institute of Medicine

 

So what is the best way to eat them?

Getting rid of the bitter flavor in cruciferous vegetables is the key to having the best tasting veggies. This can be achieved in a number of different ways. Steaming is arguably the best method to use in order to attain the maximum amount of nutrients. Unlike boiling, which flushes nutrients out with the water, steaming retains nutrients throughout the cooking process. More bitter veggies such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage should be steamed in a little water uncovered in order to let acids escape. Broccoli and cauliflower should be steamed for a short amount of time covered.

Roasting is also a great option to get a great flavor out of cruciferous vegetables. Roasted Brussel sprouts are my personal favorite. Just toss them in a little olive oil, salt, and minced garlic and roast them on a baking sheet at 400° F for 30-45 minutes. They’ll blow your mind.

And lastly don’t forget these vegetables can always be eaten raw. Farmers often refer to this vegetable group as “cole crops” because of their common use in coleslaw. Thinly shredded cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale make for a great salad base. You can also easily get away with adding kale to fruit smoothies to boost up your intake of nutrients. All hail to king kale.

 

References:

Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention. (2012, June 7). Retrieved February 18, 2016, from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet

Eating Healthy With Cruciferous Vegetables. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=btnews&dbid=126

Nutrition and healthy eating. (2015, September 22). Retrieved February 18, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983?pg=2

 

Ashley Kim
Ashley Kim

"Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners." – William Shakespeare

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