Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, are among the most nutritious foods in the world. Here’s how to stack them on your plate every day, lose weight, and even fight cancer.
It’s no secret that eating broccoli can help fight disease and lower your blood sugar, but did you know that eating too many cruciferous vegetables can have serious side effects?
Before we get into the benefits and side effects of these so-called “superfoods”, let’s answer a question: What exactly are cruciferous vegetables?
What Are Cruciferous Vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are part of the Brassicaceae family of plants, more commonly known as the cabbage family. Apart from cabbage, the most common types are:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
While everyone’s diet varies, rest assured that most of these vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, K, and fiber. However, one compound in particular steals the show when it comes to these particular vegetables: sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane is a phytochemical found in abundance in cruciferous vegetables and can help neutralize free radicals that cause inflammation in the body.
Here are six more reasons why you should eat cruciferous vegetables every day.
6 Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
1. Fights Cancer
Cruciferous vegetables are packed with antioxidants. These are essential for fighting free radicals, which can have harmful effects, such as cancer.
Several studies show that consuming cruciferous vegetables can help prevent cancer. A closer look shows that higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables, especially cabbage and cauliflower, is associated with fewer cases of cancer.
2. Calms Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is the leading cause of most illness. Fortunately, eating cruciferous vegetables can help fight this dangerous inflammation.
A study of 1,000 participants found that a diet high in cruciferous vegetables reduced markers of inflammation by as much as 25%.
3. Improves Heart Health
Heart disease is one of the top health problems in the country today. Fortunately, eating your vegetables (cruciferous) can help.
Studies show that consuming more fruits and vegetables, especially the cruciferous variety, lowers blood pressure, and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar
Cruciferous vegetables are full of fiber. In fact, just one serving of most of these vegetables can meet all of your fiber needs for the day.
What does this have to do with blood sugar? Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar in the body, which improves blood sugar.
5. Promotes Healthy Weight Loss
Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and, as mentioned above, are high in fiber. This means that you will feel full for longer after eating it.
You will also likely see the weight on the scale decrease the more cruciferous vegetables you eat, as you will be less likely to snack in between.
6. Regulates Hormones
One of the most important compounds in cruciferous vegetables, indole-3-carbinol helps regulate estrogen activity.
Estrogen is a hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system. However, too much estrogen can upset the natural balance of hormones and lead to bloating, headaches, and an irregular menstrual cycle. Eating more cruciferous vegetables can lower your estrogen, which keeps your hormone levels in balance.
Side Effects of Cruciferous Vegetables
While you might be tempted to call cruciferous vegetables a panacea, don’t stray too far.
First, be careful with the vegetable dish at parties – you don’t want to eat your raw broccoli or cauliflower! When raw cruciferous vegetables release goitrogens or potentially dangerous compounds that manipulate the thyroid gland. Goitrogens prevent your thyroid from making the hormones your body needs to function properly.
This is especially important for people with thyroid disease. If you already have an under-or over-functioning thyroid gland, adding too many cruciferous vegetables to your diet, whether raw or not, can increase the severity of the problems you are currently experiencing.
You may also feel bloated and gassy after eating cruciferous vegetables. This is because eating large amounts of these vegetables can lead to fermentation in the colon. To reduce this risk, drink more water when you eat them and do not eat them too quickly to ease digestion.
How To Prepare Cruciferous Vegetables
While we don’t recommend eating raw cruciferous vegetables, there are plenty of ways to cook them. Some of our favorite shapes are:
- teaming: This is arguably the best way to prep your veggies! Cut them into bite-sized pieces, place in a steamer basket over an inch of boiling water, cover, and steam for five to 10 minutes, or until tender.
- Sautéing: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, season to taste, and stir. Cook for about eight to 10 minutes.
- Boiling: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully add trimmed veggies to the water. Let the water come to a boil again, then reduce the heat. Boil five to 10 minutes or until tender, then drain, season and serve.
- Roasting: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss chopped vegetables in olive oil spread them evenly on a baking sheet and sprinkle with seasoning. Roast for about 35-45 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to brown.