Cruciferous Vegetables share similar nutrients, most notably the glucosinolate sulforaphane. Glucosinolates are sulfur-based organic compounds (forms of Isothiocyanates) that plants use to deter pests, and sulforaphane is one of the most common. It is present in all crucifers and responsible for their pungent flavor. Naturally, more pungent foods like mustard and arugula tend to be higher in this natural chemical. It is also responsible for the spicy flavor of horseradish. Sulforaphane is one of the most powerful antioxidants known.
The amount of research that has been done on the healthfulness of these vegetables over the last decade is impressive. Not only are they proven cancer fighters, but sulphoraphane’s pest-deterring qualities seem to have an effect on bacteria that are harmful to humans.
A landmark study published in 2002 demonstrated the link between consumption of sulphoraphane-rich foods and a reduction of the stomach pathogen Helicobacter pylori.
This bacteria is responsible for ulcers and most stomach cancer, especially in tropical regions.
I will list a few of the most notable and accessible species, but there are literally hundreds. All are superb.
Arugula is loved by those who gravitate toward vital foods. Its pungent flavor is stimulating for both the senses and the digestive system, and eating the greens provides a sense of well-being.
A popular Chinese vegetable, bok choy is light and not as strongly flavored as most of its cousins.
Broccoli, of course, is king of the cruciferous vegetables. One should eat nothing but organic food, but this is especially important in the case of broccoli. Broccoli (and its cousin, cauliflower) is a sponge for pesticides. Organic broccoli is also far more nutritious.
Cabbage is an incredible food. Although it seems denser than a potato, cabbage is nutrient-packed from its leaves to its core.
Not as nutritious as broccoli, but excellent nonetheless. Don’t discard the green leaves on the sides of a cauliflower head – they are as delicious as cabbage!
Collards are not as strongly flavored as kale, but their flavor is similar. As well as sulforaphane, they are also a rich source of zeaxanthin, a yellow carotenoid linked to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
Kale is deep green (some species are nearly blue) and closer to its wild ancestors than most of its cousins. Kale should be eaten regularly.
Mustard greens taste like… well, mustard. Their seeds are used to flavor the ubiquitous mustard condiment, and the greens have a similar flavor.
With a flavor not completely unlike that of mustard and arugula, watercress tends to be milder than both. It is one of the oldest cultivated greens.
Article by Brian Clement, PhD, LN