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Veg of Heaven

With poor eating habits invading most of our lives, maybe it’s time to add in some cruciferous veggies to lighten things up a bit and pave the way toward better health.

Tiffany Duncan
July 28, 2019

It’s no secret that the average American diet could stand to be cleaned up a little bit. We are so busy and on the go that convenience food is simply a part of most of our daily lives. We get a drive-thru cheeseburger here, some chicken nuggets there, and before we know it, fast food has become a cemented habit wreaking havoc on our health, both mentally and physically.

Many studies find that consuming an excess of processed foods is more dangerous than even tobacco consumption, which should give us all some serious pause. Most of us could stand to increase our intake of leafy green vegetables — particularly those of the “cruciferous” family.

Cruciferous veggies get their name from the Latin term “Cruciferae,” which means “cross-bearing,” due to the cross-like shape of their leaves. They are a diverse group of veggies rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are plant-based compounds that help to fight inflammation and considerably reduce the risk of cancer. These veggies are so powerful in fighting cancer that many say these cruciferous veggies “crucify” disease.

Because August in Oklahoma means it is still reasonably hot outside, and a heavy meal can make us feel sluggish and weighed down, there’s no better time to start learning to add in some cruciferous veggies to lighten things up a bit and pave the way toward better health. Here is a list of some cruciferous veggies to add to your next grocery list:

Kale is the holy grail of cruciferous vegetables; there are few things you can do for your health that are better than increasing your consumption of kale, as it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Kale has incredibly low-calorie content while also being a good source of Omega-3 fatty acid. It is also high in manganese (a mineral that the body needs to function correctly), high in antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein, vitamins A, C, and K, and of course, fiber.

The most common type of kale is curly kale, which is sweet and mild. Though kale is good sautéed or baked into kale chips, the most effective way to receive its nutrients is by eating it raw. To soften it up and minimize any bitterness, massage a bowlful of fresh kale with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. You can also throw it into any smoothie for an extra punch of nutrients.

Coming in second on the list of most effective cruciferous veggie, broccoli is high in many essential nutrients that the body needs to thrive. Its high vitamin C content makes it a powerful antioxidant that helps to ward off the negative impacts of stress, and it also helps to build collagen and promote healing of cuts or wounds. Broccoli is also one of the veggies highest in folic acid, which is essential for promoting healthy cell growth. Like other cruciferous green veggies, broccoli is an excellent source of fiber, which can help battle colon cancer and reduce cholesterol.

There’s a reason cauliflower is now being used as a stand-in for all kinds of foods like rice, pizza crust, and even Buffalo wings. Cauliflower is super versatile, and its hearty texture is dense and satisfying, as well as being ultra low in carbs and calories, making it a dieter’s best friend. Cauliflower is also an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that is involved in everything from brain development to maintaining a healthy nervous system, supporting metabolism, and preventing cholesterol from building up in the liver. Most people are deficient in choline, and cauliflower is one of the few foods that contains this vital nutrient.  

Brussels sprouts
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts contain a load of fiber and other vitamins that we need for optimal health. They are exceptionally high in vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone health. Brussels sprouts can also help to keep blood sugar levels in check, leading to a decreased risk of developing diabetes. These guys are uncomplicatedly delicious when tossed with some olive oil and roasted in the oven.

Arugula is the leafy green that is responsible for adding that delicious, peppery bite to your salad. But more than just a tasty salad addition, arugula is rich in chlorophyll, which prevents liver and DNA damage. This leafy green is also 90 percent water, making it a great hydrating option for summer. Summer is such a beautiful season to enjoy the fresh taste of arugula, anyway, whether it’s used as a pizza topping, thrown into a food processor to make fresh pesto, or tossed with watermelon, feta, and balsamic for a simple yet delicious salad.  

Mustard greens
Mustard greens may not be as common on the dinner plate as its other cruciferous cousins like broccoli or cauliflower, but it definitely should be. As the name implies, mustard greens are the leaves of the mustard plant, so they have a pleasantly sharp bite akin to the taste of mustard. Mustard greens contain glucosinolate, a cancer-battling plant chemical. They also help to lower cholesterol, boost immunity, and promote healthy skin and hair. Mustard greens can be eaten raw if you like their horseradish-esque kick, but if that’s not quite your thing you may also sauté them, which will mellow out the taste a bit.

Bok choy
Another underappreciated cruciferous veggie is bok choy, a Chinese variety of cabbage. Bok choy is particularly potent in battling cancer cells, as it is high in selenium. Selenium can help to detoxify cancer-causing compounds, as well as slow tumor growth rate. Eating lots of bok choy is also good for heart health and to fight inflammation. As far as ways to eat this Chinese green, you may opt to eat the stalks raw by dipping them into a sauce, chop up the stalks and leaves for a salad, or toss in as a tasty addition to a stir-fry.