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The Power of Cruciferous Vegetables

Kale - what do you think of when you hear this word? Maybe a trendy food only health nuts eat? Or maybe you think of that one time you tried it and absolutely despised it. Whether you love it or hate it, store those thoughts in the back of your memory because any negative things you once said about this leafy vegetable is about to go away.

Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. This family of vegetables is known for being low in calories, higher fiber, and nutrient packed. They are all rich in so many vitamins and minerals that can absolutely change your health for the better. We’re talking anticancer effects, anti-inflammatory benefits, and bone building nutrients.

So yes, maybe these vegetables are trendy, but they are that way for a reason. The power of cruciferous vegetables is vast and can make a major impact on your health.

What are Crucifers?

Cruciferous vegetables have a theme among them which happens to be their signature dark green color. This family of vegetables includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, kale, collard greens, and bok choy. However, the title cruciferous also belongs to other vegetables including cauliflower, radishes, turnips, watercress, wasabi, horseradish, and rutabaga.

These vegetables come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Each vegetable is unique in its taste, but they all provide the same nutritional punch into every bite.

Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables contain a powerhouse of nutrients. They are extremely low in calories but very high in fiber. This is a very important combination because higher fiber foods help you feel fuller and more satisfied long-term.

These vegetables provide important nutrients such as folate, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Phytonutrients (aka antioxidants) are also found in these vegetables and these are compounds found in plants that can help both lower inflammation as well as your risk of developing cancer.

Another amazing benefit from these vegetables is the fact that they can help with better glycemic control. Glycemic control simply means keeping your blood sugars (aka glucose) steady without major spikes or lows throughout the day. Certain carbohydrate foods like potatoes or white bread can cause sugars to spike. Due to the high fiber content of cruciferous vegetables, they induce a much slower release of glucose into the bloodstream and can help to reduce blood sugar spikes. These vegetables are also good for weight loss as mentioned above due to their low calorie content and feeling of long-term satiety.

Adults should eat 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of these cruciferous vegetables each week to reap the most nutritional benefits. It should be noted that while these vegetables provide adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, these vegetables are researched widely for their role in cancer prevention.

Need some ideas of how to incorporate these into your diet? I’ve got you covered. First off, my book “Anti-inflammatory Meal Prep” is literally packed with cruciferous recipes. Second, there are so many recipes up on the blog. Check out my recipes on Roasted Broccoli with Rosemary, Easy Vegetarian Cauliflower Fried Rice, and Garlic Chili Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

Cancer Prevention

Now for the part everyone was waiting for. How can vegetables actually reduce the risk of cancer? Well, cruciferous vegetables contain compounds known as glucosinolates. This is what gives cruciferous vegetables their signature flavor profile and aroma (for better or for worse). Glucosinolates when broken down during cooking or by the body produce essential compounds known as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates that have been researched for their role in cancer prevention. The National Cancer Institute investigated cancer development in mice and found that some of these compounds inhibited the development of certain cancers. While the studies in humans have resulted in mixed responses, these compounds are still important in the possibility of cancer prevention.

A study conducted by Terry P et. al discovered that greater intake of cruciferous vegetables in women resulted in a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Additionally, another study conducted by Feskanich D et. al found women who were consuming at least 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables each week were able to lower their risk of developing lung cancer. These are great findings!

Are you hooked on trying out these nutritionally powerful vegetables yet? Cruciferous vegetables not only provide important compounds, but they are also a fantastic source of antioxidants. The antioxidants provided from these vegetables help to decrease inflammation in the body which is a characteristic of so many different disease states. With less inflammation in the body, it means less damage to cells and less free radical damage that can initiate cancer progression in the body.

While the connection between cancer development and cruciferous vegetables remain unclear among humans, researchers are finding positive associations. Which means that cruciferous vegetables should be included in the diet as frequently as possible. Yes, even Brussels sprouts can be included in a delicious yet simple way to elevate their flavor profile.

Power of Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are an important part of any diet with many great benefits to our health. These vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrients that when added into the diet can have truly impactful health outcomes including the potential for anticancer effects, a great source of antioxidants, and an excellent serving of vitamins and minerals.

The power of cruciferous vegetables is just beginning to become known. We are only just starting to scratch the surface of all of the potential health benefits these vegetables can provide us. So next time you see kale or spinach or some other trendy health food, consider adding it to your diet. Cruciferous vegetables can be roasted, sautéed, steamed, grilled, boiled or even added to a smoothie if you’re feeling creative. The possibilities are endless - happy cooking!

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