Health Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
Here’s an experience most of us have had in life. You sit down at the dinner table as a child and your mom tells you to “eat your broccoli.” Do you wonder why this is? Well, it turns out that cruciferous veggies, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, and Chinese cabbage are some of the healthiest foods on the planet! However, many children (and even some adults!), turn their noses up at these superfoods. This is most likely due to sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates. This compound causes cruciferous veggies to have a strong, distinct smell and spicy, sometimes bitter, taste that many people find unappealing.
It’s very important to eat these veggies though, and they can be extremely delicious when compared correctly! Overall, cruciferous vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories, a great way to feel full without overeating! They are also very rich in many vitamins and minerals such as Folate and Vitamin K. Folate is necessary for the proper growth and function of cells within the body, while Vitamin K is essential for bone health and wound healing. Cruciferous vegetables that are dark in color even pack additional nutrients such as Vitamins A and C, along with special plant-based components known as phytonutrients. These can help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of some cancers!
It is thought that they can help lower inflammation because studies link them to having strong anti-inflammatory benefits. For example, One study of 63 healthy young adults found that a diet high in cruciferous vegetables reduced interleukin-6 (IL-6), a key inflammatory marker. Another study involving 1,005 women showed that eating more cruciferous vegetables resulted in a 25% reduction in the biomarkers of inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of various conditions, from arthritis to atherosclerosis, so it’s very important to keep inflammation as low as possible in the body.
This group of veggies is also great for your brain! According to some research, cruciferous vegetables may prevent oxidative damage that can contribute to cognitive decline. A study out of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University discovered that lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidant-rich carotenoids found in cruciferous vegetables, can cross the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in the brain. Research also suggests that sulforaphane in broccoli may help reduce behavioral symptoms in children with autism.
It’s also important to touch on the relationship between cardiovascular health and cruciferous vegetables. While It’s no secret that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cruciferous vegetables can play a particularly effective role. During the Shanghai Women’s Health Study and the Shanghai Men’s Health Study, which involved a total of 134,796 participants, researchers found that those eating the most cruciferous vegetables had a 22% lower risk of dying from all causes and a 31% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those eating the fewest cruciferous vegetables.
With keeping these facts in mind, why not try and find some new ways to prepare these veggies so that you enjoy them? Studies suggest that adults should aim for 5 servings per week, or roughly a serving a day. This may seem daunting but these veggies are so versatile that you’re bound to find a way you enjoy them! Baked, roasted, sautéed, boiled…… it’s up to you! Just eat your veggies!