Bok choy, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. What do all these things have in common? (Besides starting with b’s or a hard c sound.) These superheroes of the plant world are all cruciferous vegetables and we should be eating lots of servings of them each week because of how important they are to our health.
See, the cruciferous vegetables (the cabbage family) are full of fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals. They’re also known for their ability to protect against cardiovascular disease and for being one of our best lines of defense against certain types of cancer.
There’s magic inside cruciferous vegetables that might actually stop cancer cells in the breast, lung, colon, liver, uterine lining and cervix from growing into tumors. Diets high in cruciferous vegetables have also been linked to low rates of prostate cancer.
Scientists have found that the sulforaphane found in cruciferous veggies can actually stimulate enzymes that detoxify carcinogens before healthy cells are damaged.
Another way these superhero veggies can help protect us against cancer is by reducing the amount of oxidative stress in our bodies which is caused by an abundance of bad molecules called oxygen-free radicals. When oxidative stress is reduced in our bodies, it may also reduce our risk of many cancers including breast, lung and colon.
This is worth eating your broccoli and Brussels sprouts for, people. Seriously.
Besides preventing cancers and cardiovascular disease, cruciferous veggies can also reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes.
Per serving, some of these veggies have more minerals and vitamins than others, but they’re good for you across the board. Cauliflower and broccoli will get you the biggest fiber bang for your buck, while kale gives you more than 137% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin A. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are Vitamin C powerhouses and they’re also super high in folic acid.
To get the absolute best benefit out of these veggies, eat them raw or lightly steamed so you don’t cook all the goodness out of them. They also taste better before they get to the “inedible mush stage.”
Get more cruciferous veggies into your daily diet by tossing them into soups, stews, salads and casseroles. If your kids won’t eat them, cook them and blend them into pizza sauce, pasta sauce or anything else they’ll eat for you. They won’t notice they are there and it’s worth it.
And don’t forget, you have to train your child’s palate. It’s the rare child who will first taste broccoli and beg for more! Exposure equals preference, keep offering and keep insisting on just a taste. Eventually, they’ll start to like them, especially if YOU’RE eating them too!
Leanne Ely, your Dinner Diva saving your dinner since 2001
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