According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Choose My Plate Program, it is crucial to your overall health to include vegetables in your daily diet. Because vegetables play a major role in a healthy diet, the USDA recommends that half of your plate should be vegetables. All vegetables are very important in maintaining optimal health because they provide essential nutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals and are extremely low in calories. However, numerous studies and continuing research have shown that a specific class of vegetables, known as cruciferous vegetables, are even more beneficial than regular vegetables.
What are cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous (or Brassicaceae) vegetables got their name because of their cross-like shape. Some cruciferous vegetables that are essential for a healthy diet include:
- Chinese Cabbage
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard greens
- Garden cress
- Land cress
- White mustard seeds
- Brown mustard seeds
- Black mustard seeds
10 Health benefits of cruciferous vegetables
Research published in an issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that over 70% of studies found cruciferous vegetables to provide protection against cancer. And, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, cruciferous vegetables have anti-cancer properties. These white, dark green and red vegetables supply your body with essential antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, protect you against heart disease, increase your immune system. Here are 10 health benefits of including these potent vegetables in your diet.
- Vitamin A is an antioxidant that is good for your vision and healthy skin.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps with growth and repair of tissues, healthy teeth and gums and aids in the healing of cuts and wounds.
- Beta-carotene is a natural antioxidant that provides protection to your cells from different types of carcinogens to help prevent certain cancers from forming.
Dietary fiber helps reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fiber gives you the feeling of being full and helps to lower constipation, regular bowel movements and other digestive problems. Half of the fiber found in these vegetables extremely healthy soluble fiber.
- Indole-3-carbinol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in cruciferous vegetables and it fights against free radicals and protects your cells against damage.
Isothiocyanates is a sulfur compound that stops the division and growth of cancer cells.
- Phytonutrients that produce enzymes to help your body detoxify.
Cancer-fighting compounds that help reduce the risk of certain cancers such as larynx, pharynx, mouth, esophagus, stomach, breast, cervix, prostate, lung, colon and liver.
- Less calories and low in fat.
Goitrogens which have a disadvantage of interfering with certain medications. They also have a tendency of interfering with normal thyroid function. Consult with your physician for more information regarding possible drug interactions.
How to cook cruciferous vegetables without losing their valuable nutrients
Cruciferous vegetables provide more nutrition and are more powerful when they are eaten raw. Vegetables should be cooked for less than 30 minutes in order to retain their valuable nutrients. (The less time they cook, the more nutrients they keep.) This is especially true when using canned vegetables because they have already been heat-processed so they only need to be warmed up to not lose their anti-cancer properties. Instead of boiling your vegetables, try sauteing, steaming, stir-fry, microwaving or grilling.
Tips on how to serve cruciferous vegetables
You can easily include cruciferous vegetables in your diet by following these simple tips to maximize nutrition and taste:
- Raw with low-fat dip – quick finger food for a healthy snack
- Salads – enjoy a cruciferous vegetable salad or add them to a green or tossed salad
- Soups and stews – add at the last minute when almost done cooking
- Stir-fry with other vegetables
- Lightly sauteed
- Steamed as a side dish
If you do not like the taste of cruciferous vegetables, try adding your favorite spices and herbs or salt and pepper.
It is important to include cruciferous vegetables in your daily diet to help fight against certain diseases and cancers. A healthy diet consists of five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Making half your vegetables from the cruciferous family will give you better health and more cancer-fighting protection. For more information on healthy eating, go to Recipe4Nutrition and Healthy Diet Guidelines.