One family of vegetables that have been proven to be very healthy and nutritious is cruciferous vegetables.
Science and health experts are turning attention to the food people eat, making connections between good health and food, primarily vegetables.
What are Cruciferous Vegetables?
Cruciferous veggies belong to the Brassicaceae family of plants, otherwise known as Cruciferae . Their flowers have four petals that resemble a cross, and in most cases, both the leaves and flowers are edible.
People also define them using terms such as broccoli family, the family of cabbage, or mustard family plants. For high-yield results, these vegetables grow best in cool weather.
Brassicas are native to Western Europe and temperate Asia. As mentioned, they are cool weather plants, and many can even survive in heavy-winter conditions, including snow. However, the best time to plant most of them is in the fall.
Farmers in warm climates are advised to exercise caution and grow these plants in partial shade so as not to put them under stress. When under stress, cruciferous plants bolt as a means of survival to escape hot weather.
Bolting in agriculture is when plants begin to flower right before harvest to produce seeds. When flowering stems start “going to seed”, the plant becomes bitter-tasting, tasteless, and woody, making it typically inedible.
Health Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
Below is a list of the benefits of eating crucifers.
- Reduces the risk of colon cancer in women due to the glucosinolates they contain .
- May lower inflammation. Certain key compounds in them produce anti-inflammatory effects.
- Regulates blood sugar. Overall, non-starchy leafy green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower help stabilize blood sugar.
- Weight loss reduction is also seen by the amount of fiber and high water content they contain.
- Enhances heart health. Studies confirm that higher consumption of these vegetables promotes cardiovascular health .
- Promotes estrogen balance because of the indole-3-carbinol they contain. They particularly regulate the balance of estrogen.
More research is being done to find other health benefits from eating crucifers, as well as to solidify the current ones.
With cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and others being leading health issues facing us today, having natural ways to prevent or reduce the effects of these conditions is a good thing.
Cruciferous vegetables aren’t the cure for anything, but they are a start to a healthy lifestyle.
List of Crucifers
- Mustard Greens
- Choy Sum aka Chinese Flowering Cabbage
- Collard Greens
- Garden Cress
- Bok Choy aka Pak Choi
- Brussels Sprouts
- Land Cress
- Rapini aka Broccoli Rabe
- Komatsuna aka Japanese Mustard Spinach
- Rutabaga aka Swedes
- Shepherd’s Purse aka Capsella Bursa-Pastoris
- Swiss Chard
- Tatsoi aka Tat Choy
- Mizuna aka Japanese Mustard Greens
- Wasabi aka Japanese Horseradish
On a side note, many people have been asking: “is spinach a cruciferous vegetable?” The answer is no. However, it still has a lot of nutrients that the body craves.
How to Eat Cruciferous Foods (Raw or Cooked)
The best way to eat any vegetable is raw as it retains all of its nutrients. Unfortunately, a lot of veggies can’t be eaten raw because they’re too tough. Others are very bitter.
Steaming is one of the best methods for cooking vegetables. They are softened by the heat, becoming easier to eat. More importantly, they retain the majority of their nutrients.
You can also broil and roast some. These methods are great ways to soften and flavor foods, and like steaming, the nutrients aren’t cooked out.
Boiling will cause them to be softer and less bitter; however, many of their nutrients can leach out in the process. Therefore, only those that grow underground (turnips, rutabaga, daikon, radish, etc.) must be boiled.
Blanching is best if you are going to freeze them.
How to Grow
They grow from seeds and all require full sun to thrive well.
Also, they are heavy feeders. Therefore, use lots of compost and aged manure in the soil. Besides, they prefer slightly alkaline soil, so keep that in check.
Watch out for pests such as cutworms, aphids, armyworms, harlequin bugs, and cabbage worms. Additionally, look out for black rot disease.
Practice crop rotation and companion planting. Also, plant larger crops with ample space between them.
Cruciferous plants are amongst the most nutritious foods people can eat. There are so many different kinds of these veggies, at least one is sure to be your favorite.
Raw or steamed is the best way to eat them. Even in small amounts, you can reap large amounts of vitamins and minerals from crucifers. Moreover, they are low-calorie, meaning, they can help achieve weight loss.