The Power of the Brassicas: Why You Need to Eat More of Them

By Sarah Heckler, MS, RDN/LDN, CISSN

What Are Brassicas?

The brassica vegetable group includes the cruciferous vegetables, which can be broken down into four different categories; Asian, roots, heads and leafy.
  • Bok Choy
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Mizuna
  • Tatsoi
  • Kohlrabi
  • Horseradish
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnip
  • Arugula
  • Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens
  • Cress
  • Kale
  • Watercress
  • Broccoli and Broccolini
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts

Brassicas and Your Health

Brassicas are known for their powerful anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties as well as immune support. The sulfur containing compounds known as glucosinolates are responsible for the anticarcinogenic properties. The anticarcinogenic properties are most notable with cancers of the digestive tract such as lung, colon and rectal cancer and least notable with prostate, endometirial and ovarian cancer. Brassicas get their antioxidant properties from the vitamins C, E and carotene contained in the vegetables. Brassica vegetables also contain fiber, are low in salt as well as low in calories. Fiber is beneficial for digestive health, regulating blood sugar and satiety.

How Should You Prepare Brassicas?

When preparing them stick to roasting, stir fry and steaming to preserve the nutrients and health benefits. Stay away from boiling as the beneficial nutrients are lost in the cooking water, which is then dumped down the kitchen sink.  Additionally, over cooking them will cause some of the nutrients to be lost in the process.
Pro Tip: Stick to cooking them for a moderate amount of time with cooking methods that do not utilize a lot of water as the cooking medium.

Are Brassicas Best Raw or Cooked?

Some research suggests that eating brassicas raw better preserves the nutrients, while other research suggests cooking makes the nutrients more bioavailable and thus better utilized by the body. However, it all boils down to preparing them the way you are more likely going to eat them. For example if you like cooked broccoli but cannot stand raw, you should cook your broccoli because you are more likely to consume it.

A Brassica A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

While the Dietary Guidelines don’t have a set amount specifically for brassica consumption, the more you eat, the more beneficial the health effects. So try to aim for at least one serving per day.

Below is a list of ideas on how to incorporate brassicas into everyday recipes.
Stay tuned next week, for the recipe for Sesame Noodles with Bok Choy and Edamame!
Have a favorite brassica recipe or method of preparation? Share with us below or on social media (be sure to tag us and add #FindYourEdge and #FuelingEdge to your posts)!
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