The Cabbage Family: Your New Favorite Dinner Guests
By Chelsea Fisher
Cruciferous may sound like a word from the prehistoric era, but it’s actually a huge family of vegetables that includes, among others, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, collards, bok choy, and radishes. According to recent studies, these veggie powerhouses should be making way more appearances on our plates.
Numerous studies show that all vegetables can all help fight cancer, but few studies have been as conclusive as those done on cruciferous vegetables. In fact, a recent study by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Control found that breast cancer survivors who ate more cruciferous vegetables had a reduced risk of mortality, breast cancer related mortality, and breast cancer recurrence. Quite an important finding in humans after similar results were found in numerous lab studies using rats exposed to cancer causing chemicals.
The problem is, most people don’t think fondly of cauliflower, broccoli, kale, or really any cruciferous vegetables. But these veggies can actually be delicious if they are prepared correctly (an easy task that seems to have eluded grandmothers and their over-boiling techniques for centuries). You can even add them to pasta or pizza. And, for those of you who really hate cruciferous vegetables, osmosis won’t work in the case of broccoli, it turns out we actually have to eat the veggies to reap their benefits. According to the National Institutes of Health, the cancer-fighting compounds in cruciferous vegetables like indoles and sulforaphane only activate when we prepare, chew, and digest them. So give the cruciferous family a shot, it’s scientifically proven to be worth it.
Luckily for me, I’ve never met a member of the cabbage family I couldn’t love. But it took time. I’m from England, perhaps one of the globe’s more notorious vegetable slaying nations, and I couldn’t be convinced cruciferous veg were worth eating. Then in Paris and in Italy I tasted how cabbages could turn into culinary kings. The trick with cruciferous veggies is not to overcook them, especially not to over-boil them. Think steamed, slightly crisp and bright green instead of boiled, brown and soggy. And stir-fried too. Take a leaf, no pun intended, from Chinese cooking and shred and stir-fry these nutritious veggies to your heart’s content.
When shopping for members of the cruciferous family, avoid picking up any that show signs of age, like wilting or yellowing. Go for the crispest and greenest specimens you can find.
We love cruciferous vegetables and try to include them in all of our classes to show just how enjoyable they can be. For the skeptic, a good start is our Kale Chips. You really won’t believe how easy it is to transform the kale leaf into a savory, crunchy chip! For some of our favorite comfort foods try our Chicken Sausage and Kale Pizza, our Spicy Pasta with Kale and Almonds, or our Brussels Sprout Pasta. And for easy healthy sides, try our Roasted Broccoli, or our sweet and crunchy Brussels Apple Slaw.