FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Cruciferous Cousins

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Two broccoli heads.

Image via Wikipedia

Some people just cannot  like broccoli, despite its healthy benefits.  Broccoli is the most famous member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, so named for their cross-shaped flowers.

They belong to the botanical genus, Brassica that include not ony broccoli, but caulifower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.  This family of vegetables contains compounds that often give these vegetables their sometimes-bitter taste.  In the plant, they act as natural pesticides to discourage herbivores.  In the human gut, they break down into beneficial compounds like indole-3-carbinol that is being studied for possible effects against cancer, infections, inflammation, and arterial plaques.

In 2005, a study found that people who ate cruciferous vegetables at least weekly were 72% less at risk for lung cancer than those who seldom ate them.  Another study in 2007 found that nonsmokers who ate three or four monthly servings of raw cruciferous vegetables had a 73% reduced risk of bladder cancer than those eating the least.

Your brain may thank you for eating cruciferous vegetables.  In 2006, a study found that eating at least 3 servings of vegetables daily slowed the rate of cognitive decline in older people by about 40% compared to those who averaged less than one serving a day.  Fruit consumption did not show a similar effect.  The association was higher in vegetables containing vitamin E.  Besides broccoli, healthy benefits are obtained from eating kale, collard greens, or kohlrabi (unusually high in vitamin E).

If you still can’t stomach broccoli, try broccoflower (a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower and looks like green cauliflower).  Another choice may be broccolini, which looks like stretched-out broccoli. This is a hybrid with Chinese kale and is sweeter and tenderer than broccoli.  It can be prepared much like asparagus, trimming the bottom inch of the stem.  You also can roast broccoli with a little olive oil – it turns out more crisp and takes on a whole new flavor.

So if you still cannot do any of the broccoli cousins, try sneaking it into your diet (see my post on Simply Food Facts). Bon appétit!!!

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One thought on “Cruciferous Cousins

  1. Pingback: Are You Eating Enough Fruit & Vegetables a Day? « The Epigenetics Project Blog

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