I bet you thought this blog would be about chocolate considering Valentines is right around the corner. Instead I want to highlight an overlooked group of veggies that are not only good for your heart but can enhance every aspect of your health.
Cruciferous vegetables are also known as the Brassica family. They get the name cruciferae, which means cross bearing, from the shape of their flower, which most of us never see. The flower blooms with the 4 petals arrayed in the shape of a cross, hence cruciferae. As interesting as that all is the real value of this vegetable group lies in the abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants and sulfur that make this group one of the best health choices around.
Cruciferous vegetables, including bok choy, cabbages from purple to white, radishes, kale, cauliflower and broccoli and my favorite brussel sprouts, among many others, have been shown in over 70 studies ( per the American Dietetic Association) that there is a link between cruciferous vegetables and a reduction in cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Institute substances in these vegetables have been shown to reduce tumor growth in several cancers, including breast, prostrate, liver and lung.
Cruciferous vegetables are rich sources of the phytochemical, sulforaphane, which is quite important to the natural process of detox that our body does everyday. One study found that sulforaphane was able to engage certain enzymes that then “disarmed” carcinogens before they could do any harm at the cellular level.
All these studies add up to the conclusion that a twice weekly intake of cruciferous vegetables will reduce the oxidative stress on your body that you get from living a fast paced Shanghai lifestyle, which includes pm2.5 readings over 150! Oxidative stress is the build up of waste products we accumulate and this build up is thought to cause general inflammation which may be the root of many chronic disease states from cardiovascular to diabetes, to obesity.
Oh but the smell! You know what it smells like when you over cook the broccoli? But it doesn’t have to be that way; in fact you will get more of the nutrient treasure offered in these veggies if you eat them raw, lightly steam them or roast them in the oven. Go ahead and drizzle them with some olive oil and sprinkle on some parmesan cheese for a delightful, healthy side dish tonight.
If the strong flavors are a roadblock for you or your kids, start with the sweeter cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Daikon radish, rutabaga and turnips. Once these are favorites you can try the stronger flavor relatives.
So this Valentines, treat someone you love to some roasted veggie love followed by a chocolate kiss for dessert!
Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!