While it’s important to eat a wide variety of vegetables, make sure you include cruciferous veggies as often as possible in your diet. These are plants belonging to the cabbage family, also known as Brassica. They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi. These superveggies are packed with nutrients and fiber that go a long way to helping you prevent disease and improve your overall health.
Cruciferous vegetables are very high in a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which is released when the plant is cut or chewed. Sulforaphane has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown in many studies to be effective in treating and preventing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, sulforaphane and other glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables help protect cells from DNA damage, help inactivate carcinogens, have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects, help induce the death of cancer cells (known as apoptosis), and inhibit the formation of tumor blood vessels (called angiogenesis) and the migration of tumor cells (which occurs in metastasis).
A recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating cruciferous vegetables every day helped prevent blood vessel disease in older women. Previous studies had already shown that people eating these veggies had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke, but now they know why. The cruciferous vegetables help prevent a build-up of calcium in your blood vessels, which is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamin K, which is believed to help prevent the calcium build-up. Eating as little as 1/4 cup of steamed broccoli or 1/2 cup of raw cabbage a day is enough to result in a 46% reduced risk of calcium build-up. (By the way, Vitamin K also helps with blood clotting and bone health).
Studies have also shown that cruciferous vegetables help reduce LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure, both of which contribute to better heart health.
The abundance of antioxidants in cruciferous vegetables helps reduce oxidative stress in the body which can lead to inflammation and chronic illness such a cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. The anti-inflammatory antioxidants can also bring relief from joint pain, stiffness, and muscle soreness.
Cruciferous vegetables are high in fiber, helping to feed the good bacteria in your gut, which is directly related to your immune system and overall health. The fiber works as roughage for your digestive system, while also helping you control your weight because it keeps you feeling fuller longer so you can eat less.
Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to vitamin K, cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamin C which boosts your immune system and helps you heal. They’re also excellent sources of vitamin A (especially kale), which is important for vision and eye health, as well as your skin, bones, and tissue development. Other nutrients include vitamins B-2 and B-6, Folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and Omega-3’s.
To get the most nutritional value from your cruciferous superveggies, don’t overcook them. Eat them raw when you can, or lightly steam them or saute them. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different spices and seasonings, and remember you can chop them, rice them, slice them, add them to salads and stir-fries.