For our team at Glow Comprehensive Dentistry, trying to name the healthiest vegetable is like trying to pick the best flavor of ice cream. They are all pretty fantastic. However, research has shown that cruciferous vegetables do provide some healthy compounds not commonly found in other types of produce. Cruciferous vegetables are from the family Brassicaceae and include a variety of genera and species. Some of the most commonly eaten types of cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, arugula, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
What makes cruciferous vegetables such a wonderfully health choice is they are rich in both vitamins and minerals, but also contain unique disease-fighting compounds. Adding more vegetables to your diet already offers a number of benefits to your oral health. In addition to reducing the amount of sugar you consume, many types of crunchy vegetables carry the nickname “Mother Nature’s toothbrush”. That’s because crunchy vegetables contain high levels of water and work to actively scrub the surface of your teeth while you eat them.
What’s So Special About Cruciferous Vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables rank as the most common dietary sources for glucosinolates, natural chemicals that provide vegetables with the strong flavor and break down into compounds that protect the body from cancer.
Just one serving of cruciferous vegetables per week over a two-year period lowered the risk of oral, colon, and breast cancer by 17 percent; esophageal cancer by 28 percent; and kidney cancer by 32 percent, according to a study published in the Annals of Oncology. Each type of vegetable in the cruciferous family offers different anticancer compounds, so eating a variety works best for lowering your risk.
The cruciferous vegetable family also stands out for its amble supply of vision-protecting carotenoids such as potassium, folate, fiber, and vitamins C, E, and K.
While some of these nutrients may contribute to these vegetables’ ability to help fight cancer, they may also provide cruciferous vegetables with their ability to control inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease. In a study of over 134,000 people, researchers in China found that individuals who ate roughly 6 ounces per day lowered their risk of heart disease by nearly 20 percent when compared to those who ate less than an ounce a day.
Serving & Cooking Tips
Stir-fry or steam. Either of these methods preserve the most glucosinolates in the vegetables you eat. Try to target an al dente texture – slightly cooked but still firm. Overcooking these types of vegetables not only make them a mushy mess, it also reduces the nutrient content.
Make Brussel sprout chips. A recipe that can appeal to the picky eaters in the home, remove the leaves from the base of your sprouts. Toss lightly in olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crispy. Make sure to turn the leaves every 5 minutes to keep them from burning.
Fashion a flavorful slaw. Season thinly sliced raw cabbage with olive oil and rice-wine vinegar. This makes a wonderful garnish for fish recipes or a tasty topping for tacos. Studies even suggest that cabbage’s sulfur compounds make the selenium found in fish more potent in its ability to fight cancer.
No stem left behind. Peel broccoli stalks and slice them into wheels to use in pasta dishes or as a healthier dipper instead of chips. To add a little more flavor, sauté your broccoli stems in a little garlic and olive oil. Not only does this taste great, it will also keep you from wasting any broccoli, providing you with more glucosinolates for your buck.
No matter how you want to cook these delicious and healthy vegetables, just consider adding more to your diet. The benefits they offer your long-term oral and overall health makes it worth expanding your recipe list of what’s for dinner.