By Chelsea Fisher
Brassicas, aka cruciferous veggies, may sound like a word from the prehistoric era, but it’s actually a huge family of vegetables that includes, among others, cabbage, kale, rutabaga,water cress, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, collards, swiss chard, bok choy, and radishes.
Numerous studies show that all vegetables can help fight cancer, but few studies have been as conclusive as those done on brassicas. A study by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Control found that breast cancer survivors who ate more brassicas had a reduced risk of mortality, breast cancer related mortality, and breast cancer recurrence. High intakes of cruciferous brassicas have also been linked with reduced risk of colorectal cancer and lung cancer.
The problem is, most people don’t think fondly of cauliflower, broccoli, kale, or really any vegetables in this family. 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 brassica 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 brassicas like indoles and sulforaphane only activate when we prepare, chew, and digest them. So give the brassica family a shot, it’s scientifically proven to be worth it.
Ann’s Tips on Brassicas
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 brassica veggies were worth eating. Then in Paris and in Italy I tasted how cabbages could turn into culinary kings. The trick with brassicas 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. Substitute thinly sliced broccoli stems for bamboo shoots in your stir-fries to get the most from your veggies.
When shopping for members of the brassica family, avoid picking up any that show signs of age, like wilting or yellowing. Go for the crispest and greenest specimens you can find.
Recipes with Cruciferous Brassica Vegetables
We love vegetables from the brassica family and love to spread the word about 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, Mashed Rutabaga or our sweet and crunchy Brussels Apple Slaw.
If this hasn’t sated your appetite, try our comprehensive menu for the best of this cancer-fighting family.