Exploring the Variety and Versatility of Cruciferous Vegetables
What do Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower have in common? Aside from being some of the trendiest vegetables of the moment, they are all members of the same botanical family, Cruciferae or Brassicaceae. Other vegetables in this family include, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, kohlrabi, watercress, wasabi (yes, wasabi) and more. This diverse group of vegetables all derive from the wild mustard plant. Cruciferous vegetables range in texture, flavor, and pungency. Some are more bitter and some have more peppery notes.
We’ve all heard how important it is to eat vegetables, especially green vegetables, but why is this?
Cruciferous vegetables, like all vegetables are
- Low in calories
- High in fiber
- These two qualities help us to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Green cruciferous vegetables are also high in several vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Additional Health Benefits
The component that sets cruciferous vegetables apart from other vegetables are a phytochemical unique to this group called, isothiocyanates. These plants produce this phytochemical as a way to defend themselves. Think of the biting sensation of mustard and wasabi. In humans, this phytochemical has been found to have potent health promoting properties. Human clinical studies have shown isothiocyanates to have powerful antioxidant properties, as well as, the ability to clear pollutants and carcinogens from the body.
These antioxidant and detoxifying properties translate to
- Cancer prevention
- Improved heart health
- Enhanced immunity
Ways to Enjoy Cruciferous Vegetables
Now let’s get to the important part, eating. Just like how sugar or cream is combined with coffee, the bitterness of these vegetables can be tamed by combining them with fruit or a slightly sweet sauce/vinaigrette. Cooking can also caramelize their natural sugars. Just like how Bubba from Forrest Gump listed the different ways shrimp can be prepared, so too can the countless number of cruciferous vegetables. Seek them out in your grocery store and experiment with different culinary techniques and preparations.
Eat them in/on: