Cruciferous Vegetables

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Kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have been in the spotlight lately as “super foods.” These foods are categorized as cruciferous vegetables which also include cabbage, broccoli, arugula, bok choy, kohlrabi, and collard greens. They are well known for their distinct aromas and often a bitter flavor.

Cruciferous vegetables are high in nutrients such as carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate and fiber. Recent research has focused specifically on Glucosinolates, a sulfur containing chemical found in these foods. Research in ongoing on possible ways this chemical is metabolized in our bodies and its relation to possibly preventing cancer. The National Cancer Institute has found that the results of this research in human studies is mixed and that genetics may also play a role.

The American Institute for Cancer Research categorizes cruciferous vegetables as “foods that fight cancer.” This is because of their high fiber content as well as being non-starchy vegetables and a good source of carotenoids. These characteristics may reduce the risk of certain cancers but apply to foods outside of cruciferous vegetables as well.

Many people, especially children, may be hesitant to eat cruciferous vegetables due to their bitterness. But the way that you cook and prepare these vegetables can help in decreasing that bitter flavor. Lemon juice is great in doing this and can be added to cooked veggies or used as part of a dressing in a slaw. Other seasonings such as garlic, red pepper, or thyme can enhance their taste.

Over cooking can also bring out that bitter flavor and strong smell. These vegetables taste great raw in a salad or lightly steamed. Or try adding a small amount of olive oil and roasting these vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness. They taste best when the outside is tender and the inside is slightly crisp. Another tip is to avoid cooking them in aluminum pans as this will increase that strong smell that many dislike; using stainless steel pans is recommended.

Cruciferous vegetables play an important role in a well-balanced diet. If you are taking blood thinners, talk with your healthcare provider first before increasing your intake of dark green vegetables because they are high in vitamin K may interact with your medication. Share with us how you prepare your cruciferous vegetables by using #NCFoodLee or follow us on Instagram @LeeCoFCS or on Facebook @NCFoodLee.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN, at 919-775-5624.