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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cruciferous Vegetables: How Food Affects Health

Cruciferous Vegetables:

What do broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy have in common?   They are all cruciferous vegetables.   Cruciferous vegetables are members of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae).  The four petal flower from these vegetables resembles a cross or 'crucifer', hence the name. 

Cruciferous vegetables are non-starchy vegetables that contain dietary fiber, folate, carotenoids (including beta carotene), and Vitamin C.  Here are some of the most common cruciferous vegetables found in your supermarket or produce store:  horseradish, kale, collard greens, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, rapini (broccoli rabi), Chinese cabbage, turnip roots, rutabagas, arugula, watercress, radish, daikon, and wasabi.

A review of research found that 70% of the studies found a link between cruciferous vegetables and  protection against cancer.  Cruciferous vegetables all contain phytochemicals (naturally occurring compounds that have biological significance), vitamins and minerals, and fiber that are important to your health.  Phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables can stimulate enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells.  Cruciferous vegetables also reduce oxidative stress, the overload of harmful molecules called oxygen-free radicals.  Reducing free radicals  may reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers.

Health agencies recommend we eat several servings per week of cruciferous vegetables.  It is best to eat these veggies raw or only lightly steamed to retain their phytochemicals.  So,  make sure you're eating those cruciferous vegetables!  It's good for you!