Most of us don’t eat enough veggies, let alone those of the cruciferous variety. You’ve seen cruciferous vegetables before—think broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage. Everyone knows they need to eat their greens, yet few understand just how important they are to your overall health. A few cups per day can protect you from chronic diseases, inflammation and even cancer.
Here’s a quick rundown of why cruciferous vegetables deserve a spot in your diet.
What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous comes from the Latin word cruciferae, which literally translates to “cross bearing.” Vegetables in the cruciferous family have four leaves that make a cross shape. Most cruciferous vegetables grow on stalks with a leafy top. They’re usually various shades of green, but some cruciferous vegetables are purple or white.
Some common examples of vegetables that fall into this group include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy, arugula, radishes and turnips. Here’s why you need more of them:
1. Rich in vitamins and minerals
Everyone should incorporate cruciferous vegetables into their diets because they’re packed with essential nutrients. They’re a great source of folate along with vitamins A, C and K. Individuals need adequate levels of vitamin A to strengthen their vision, immune system and reproductive health. The vitamin also supports vital organs like the kidneys, lungs and heart.
Vitamin C offers many health benefits, but lower blood pressure and reduced risk of chronic disease top the list. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it blocks free radicals to prevent cell damage. Vitamin K plays an instrumental role in blood clotting at the site of open wounds. Similar to calcium, it can also develop strong bone tissue.
2. Fight off chronic inflammation
Cruciferous vegetables contain phytonutrients, a type of compound derived only from plants. Phytonutrients can lower inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation is often a precursor to diseases like diabetes, arthritis, cancer and heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties in cruciferous vegetables can significantly lower your risk of chronic diseases and raise your life expectancy.
3. Reduce the risk of developing cancer
Cruciferous vegetables are a prominent source of glucosinolates. Your digestive system breaks down glucosinolates into two compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates. These compounds stop free radicals from damaging DNA strands. They also prevent cells from mutating into cancerous tumors. Glucosinolates have the ability to neutralize carcinogens such as chemicals, tobacco smoke and pollution.
As mentioned earlier, the phytonutrients in cruciferous vegetables possess anti-inflammatory properties. That same plant-based compound plays a crucial role in reducing a person’s risk of certain cancers. They inhibit tumor growth and stop normal bodily cells from becoming cancerous. As a result, adequate levels of phytonutrients may help patients battle cancer.
4. Help you feel fuller, for longer
Cruciferous vegetable aren’t just packed with vitamins and minerals. They’re also high in fiber that can fill you up, staunch cravings and help you lose weight. A plate full of veggies will satisfy your appetite while consuming very little calories. The fiber will hold you over until the next meal, which helps you cut back on fatty, sugary snacks.
Everyone needs fiber to stay regular, but it’s absolutely essential for those who are looking to shed a couple extra pounds. Other whole foods packed with fiber also contain high concentrations of carbs and calories. Cruciferous vegetables provide all the fiber you need to stay full, so you don’t need to fill up on fatty junk food. You get flavorful veggies with none of the calories!
How many servings should you eat daily?
Daily vegetable servings depend on a couple factors. Women should eat 2.5 cups of veggies per day, and men need three cups every day. It doesn’t matter if the vegetables are cooked or raw. However, two cups of leafy greens contribute to one cup of your daily servings.
There’s no recommended amount of cruciferous vegetables for a balanced diet. But you should eat them anyway! Adding cruciferous vegetables to your daily servings will ensure your body gets a diverse range of vitamins and minerals. Besides, these aromatic green veggies are a key source of essential nutrients like folate and vitamin K.
Eating veggies is all well and good, but eating the right kinds of veggies will help people get the most out of their diets. While cruciferous might sound like a big fancy word, there’s a good chance these vegetables are already in your fridge. If not, you can find cruciferous vegetables in any produce section. Pick a tasty recipe and get cooking!