Cruciferous vegetables are among the most healthy whole foods one can eat. Numerous research studies have proven that eating cruciferous vegetables can decrease one’s chance of developing a chronic disease. And since chronic diseases become more prevalent with age, the sooner you begin lowering your risk of developing them the better.
Cruciferous vegetables have been shown to reduce oxidative stress, due to their high antioxidant content, which in turn protects heart and arterial health, and lowers the risk of cell mutation. And cruciferous vegetables are loaded with more than your standard vitamin and mineral antioxidants. According to the Journal of Functional Foods, “Besides nutritional components, these vegetables are also rich in health beneficial secondary metabolites, which include sulfur containing glucosinolates and S-methylcysteine sulfoxide, flavonoids, anthocyanins, coumarins, carotenoids, antioxidant enzymes, terpenes and other minor compounds. Based on the worldwide popularity and health benefits of these vegetables, this review provides collective information on nutritional and health benefits.”1 The article goes on to describe how these components give cruciferous vegetables their ability to prevent cell mutation, decrease inflammation in the body, protect the cardiovascular system and arteries, and may prevent other chronic illnesses that have become prevalent in the Western world. “Some of the unique mechanisms of [cell mutation] inhibition such as effect on Nrf2, polymorphism, anti-inflammatory, inhibition of histone deacetylase activity and influence on estrogen metabolism are also included.”1
Dr. Joel Fuhrman has recommended cruciferous vegetables for those who are suffering from, or at risk for, diabetes. “Nutrient-dense green vegetables—leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and other green vegetables—are the most important foods to focus on for diabetes prevention and reversal. Higher green vegetable consumption is associated with lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and among diabetics, higher green vegetable intake is associated with lower HbA1c levels. A recent meta-analysis found that greater leafy green intake was associated with a 14% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes. One study reported that each daily serving of leafy greens produces a 9% decrease in risk.”2
Multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of Nutrition, titled “Vegetable but not fruit consumption reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes in Chinese women,”3 have proven that cruciferous vegetable consumption can indeed lower one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
These are just some of the major reasons why you should add cruciferous vegetables to your diet, but it’s even more important to know how to eat them.
Preparing Cruciferous Vegetables
It’s very important to cook cruciferous vegetables. This may sound counter-intuitive to some, but they contain compounds that can “suppresses your thyroid's hormone production, creating fatigue, coldness in your body and a slowing of your metabolism.”4 BUT you will only be negatively affected by these compounds if you eat the vegetables raw. Heat effectively depletes the thyroid-suppressing properties. Boiling, steaming, sauteing, all of these cooking methods will neutralize the unwanted compound.
What do you do if you’re a 100% raw vegan? Ferment your vegetables. Fermentation neutralizes the thyroid-suppressing effect of cruciferous vegetables while maximizing nutrition. According to Body Ecology, fermentation is a great way for everyone to eat raw vegetables. “[Fermentation provides] an abundance of necessary plant-based enzymes that ease digestion and populate your stomach with good bacteria. The fermentation process supports the growth of these good bacteria – and once in your body, they prevent viral and fungal infections, boost immunity and increase the nutrient value of your food.”4
Which vegetables are cruciferous?Cruciferous vegetables are cool weather produce with tell tale four petal flowers/leaves that resemble a cross. In most cases, the leaves or flower buds are eaten, but there are a few with edible roots or seeds as well.
Most Popular Cruciferous Vegetables:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Collard greens
- Daikon radish
- Land cress
- Mustard greens (seeds and leaves)
- Turnips (roots and greens)
- Shepherd’s purse
This is not a complete list, but all of these cruciferous vegetables can be purchased and/or cultivated in most parts the United States. And, considering their many health benefits, whether you buy them at a grocery store or grow them in your own garden, they are well worth your investment of time, effort and money.
A blog post by guest writer Andrea Lewis.
1 S. Manchali, KNC Murthy and BS Patil. “Crucial facts about health benefits of popular cruciferous vegetables”. Journal of Functional Foods, January 2012. Web. May 2016
2 Fuhrman, Joel, MD. “5 Best Foods for Preventing or Reversing Diabetes”. Dr. Fuhrman, n.d. Web. May 2016
3 “Vegetable but not fruit consumption reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes in Chinese women.” Journal of Nutrition, March 2008. Web. May 2016
4 “Why You Need to Cook These Vegetables for Maximum Nutrition”. Body Ecology, n.d. Web. May 2016
“Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous Definition and the List of Cruciferous Vegetables”. Gardening Know How, n.d. Web. May 2016
“Eating Healthy with Cruciferous Vegetables”. The World’s Healthiest Foods, n.d. Web. May 2016
Magee, Elaine, MPH, RD. “The Super-Veggies: Cruciferous Vegetables”. WebMD, April 19, 2007. Web. May 2016