Focus Foods: Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous: it almost sounds like something out of Jurassic Park. But really, it’s what we call one of the healthiest groups of vegetables.

This group includes broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, rocket, and bok choy—all easy to find at most grocery stores. Here’s what these veggies might offer up for our well-being:

  • Cholesterol lowering: Kale and cabbage showed promise in lowering total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevention of LDL oxidation—which is  known to lead to atherosclerosis and up the risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Protective effect against fibroids: A study on women in China showed a diet filled with broccoli, cabbage and Chinese cabbage was protective against uterine fibroids, benign but often painful tumours that cause complications for women’s health.

  • Autism: Several exciting studies have been conducted on the effects of sulforaphane—a compound found in cruciferous vegetables—on autism. Significant improvements in both behaviour and social responsiveness were documented with the intake of dietary sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts.

  • Anti-cancer properties: A comparative study on the cancer-preventing capacity of 34 vegetables found that cruciferous vegetables (and the onion/garlic family) were most effective by far on eight different types of cancers.

  • Air pollution: Spending a lot of time walking through the city? Make sure to eat some broccoli! Sulforaphane has also been shown to increase the detox enzymes needed to fight inflammation caused by air pollution particles. 

Tips to maximise the benefits:

  • Stick to whole foods. Tests on commercial sulforaphane tablets and powders showed little or none of the healthful compound! Pills also mean you miss out on other important nutrients, water, and fibre.

  • Boiling any veggie leeches nutrients into the water, so save this cooking method for when you’re making soup!

  • Try to get at least one serve of a cruciferous veggie a day—about 1 cup chopped.

  • A handful of kale into your smoothie will give you one easy serve.

  • Thinly sliced red cabbage easily adds crunch and flavour to salads and buddha bowls. 

These veggies are easily roasted and thrown into stir-fries and salads—anywhere you’d see other veg, really. Take this yummy salad for example, that gives you two cruciferous veg in one go:

Roasted Cauliflower and Almond Salad (from JSHealth, serves 2) 

Pair with a warm lentil curry for a match made in heaven!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower chopped

  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves minced

  • Olive oil

  • Salt

  • 2 handfuls of rocket

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp unhulled tahini

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • ¼ cup warm water

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp parsley chopped

Method:

  1. Place the cauliflower, garlic and almonds on a large baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 180C for 25-30 minutes.

  2. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well with a fork.

  3. Place the rocket into a bowl, top with the roasted veg and nuts and drizzle the dressing on top.

And don’t forget about that Simple, Comforting Broccoli Soup we shared in our autumn dishes!

As always, happy and healthy eating!