Cabbage of all types, including cauliflower, broccoli, red cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, romanesco cabbage, and even radishes, all belong to the large cruciferous family of vegetables. These common vegetables, which are easy to prepare and available year-round, have outstanding nutritional qualities.
Cruciferous vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals. The amount of vitamin C in raw or al dente cabbage boosts your immune system while its antioxidant effects stop the chain reaction of free radical formation in the body, thus improving and protecting cellular health and function. The flavonoid and carotenoid acids as well as the sulfur derivatives (isothiocyanates) found in these delicious vegetables all fight the body's aging process by activating cell renewal (1). For example, broccoli contains 430 μg of beta carotene, kale contains zeaxanthin, and Brussels sprouts contain lutein (2). All three molecules are known to prevent the mutation of cancer cells (3) (4) while limiting the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and age-related macular degeneration (5).
Cruciferous vegetables are also very effective in supplementing small calcium deficiencies, particularly in the case of lactose intolerance (6). They are very rich in bio-available calcium, which is easily absorbed by the body. There are approximately 93 mg in a 100 g portion of broccoli, nearly all of the recommended daily allowance. This mineral helps build and maintain healthy bone (7) and reduces the risk of hypertension (8). The vitamin K also contained in these vegetables optimizes this effect by playing a role in the bone mineralization process (9). The vitamin B (especially B8 and B9) in broccoli and in large leaf cabbage regulates blood cholesterol levels and is highly effective in controlling anemia (10).
Cruciferous vegetables are particularly high in soluble fibre, which is well tolerated. It protects your intestinal flora and even reduces the risk of colon cancer. It should also be noted that women who regularly consume fibre-rich foods reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by nearly half during their lifetime (11) (12). Regular consumption of such vegetables relieves symptoms of hyperthyroidism (13), slightly inhibiting thyroid hormone production or "goitrogens". However, if you suffer from the reverse condition (hypothyroidism), you must monitor your intake without eliminating these vegetables from your diet altogether (14).
There are hundreds of original ways to prepare cruciferous vegetables. To better digest sauerkraut, cabbage soup, and other cruciferous based recipes, it is highly recommended that you consume your vegetables soon after purchase and that you select young cabbages. As they are consumed in their entirety, it is also preferable that you choose organic vegetables, therefore limiting the adverse effects of certain pesticides on your health.
Boiling vegetables can cause them to lose their crispiness and nutrients - try stir-frying instead. Cauliflower can also be served as an appetizer, with a light dipping sauce, and its delicate flavour goes well with fragrant spices such as cinnamon and cumin. We all know that the most common way to prepare cruciferous vegetables is to "steam" them, which makes for a light meal, but they are also delicious in rich and creamy gratins. For a more original dish, try a purée of broccoli, which will delight even the pickiest of eaters, or a shredded kale and carrot slaw salad. If you would like to experiment with new flavours, you can add kale to your own concoction of juices and smoothies and be part of a growing community of people who recognize the many antioxidant benefits of this member of the cabbage family.
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