Eat Your Cruciferous Vegetables

As a group, the cruciferous vegetables are simply superstars packed with vitamins and nutrients. Two especially common scientific groupings of cruciferous vegetables are the Brassica oleracea (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi) and the Brassica rapa (Chinese cabbage and turnips). Brassica campestris is another name for the genus-species grouping called Brassica rapa.  The vitamin K content of cruciferous vegetables — especially kale and collards — is an amazing. Vitamin K is a conventional nutrient that clearly helps regulate our inflammatory response. In terms of conventional nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, and fats), we cannot find another vegetable group that is as high in vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber as the cruciferous vegetables.

Research about food preparation, chewing, and digestion, the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables are broken down to form biologically active compounds such as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates. Indole-3-carbinol (an indole) and sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate) have been most frequently examined for their anticancer effects.  Adults need at least 2½ cups of vegetables a day. One cup of raw and cooked veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, is equivalent to a 1-cup vegetable serving. Two cups of raw leafy vegetables, such as kale, cabbage and bok choy, are the equivalent of a 1-cup vegetable serving.

Cauliflower

This versatile veggie is delicious in many ways beyond steaming. Try roasting florets or “steaks” of cauliflower to release its pleasant flavor. When pureed, it’s a great substitute to cream sauce. Other creative cauliflower options? Mash into a pizza crust, grate into a substitute for rice or pickle for a low-calorie salty, crunchy snack.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts practically beg to be in the oven. For a melt-in-your-mouth side, roast and toss with something sweet, such as dried fruit or maple syrup, as well as something savory — anything from parmesan cheese to diced anchovies.

Kale

The almighty kale is a wonderful green for salads. Remove the tough stem, slice into thin ribbons and toss with toppings, dressing and all. Best of all, this hearty green will not wilt for days, making it a great option for packing ahead. To balance the bitter bite, pair it with something sweet such as roasted carrots, diced apple or dried fruit. Kale is also a great addition to smoothies and can even be baked into crisp chips.

Arugula

Arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in your garden or in a planter. Enjoy this spicy leaf pureed into a pesto with a kick, tossed onto whole-wheat pizza once it emerges from the oven or used in a variety of tossed salads. For a classic combination try fresh arugula paired with feta cheese, cubed watermelon and a balsamic dressing.