Do you eat your greens? My 1970’s childhood memories bring up over-boiled, soggy, grey cabbage, piles of even soggier, dark green, bitter ‘greens’ which I still don’t know what they were….I really hated greens vegetables… Broccoli wasn’t readily available, kale unheard of, and as for bok choy? Eh what??
But now green vegetables have been hitting the headlines with their starring roles in green smoothies, and being hailed as superfood.
How are green vegetables good for you? Are they ‘superfoods’?
As in previous blogs I’ve said that the definition of superfoods doesn’t really exist – it’s a marketing term to encourage you, the consumer to buy into quick fix, wonder foods, usually from exotic far-away places and at a hefty price.
But we do have our own real superfoods here in the UK and yes, green vegetables are one of them.
The Green Vegetables That Are ‘Superfoods’
Green vegetables are indeed true ‘superfoods’.
In particular, cruciferous vegetables (also called Cruciferae). These are vegetables of the family Brassicaceae or mustard family,
Bit confusing but basically the names brassicas and cruciferous are interchangeable
This diverse grouping includes plants whose leaves, flowers, stems, and roots are cooked and eaten.
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts (Yae- Xmas is coming! )
- Collard greens
- Radishes (I know an odd one eh?)
- Horseradish ( sadly not the processed condiment)
- Rutabaga (??! yes me too! I’m looking out for it to try)
- Kohlrabi (Another unknown to me- just recently found this at my farmers market )
If you want to delve deeper into each vegetable type I recommend reading this easy to follow web site
What green vegetable ‘superfoods’ should I eat?
There’s been a great deal of research into the benefits of cruciferous vegetables and they come out top in preventing serious illness including cancer.
By increasing your fruit / veg to 7-9 portions per day, can reduce the onset of chronic illness.
The 5 a day campaign was brought in to encourage the general population to eat more fruit and vegetables. The health authorities are aware that intake should be greater but are realise that trying to get people to eat so many would not be an easy task, so they went in low.
For optimum health, the actual amount of fruit and vegetables best consumed daily is:
- 7 for women
- 9 for men
- 5 for children
The national Cancer institute estimates approx. 1/3 rd. of cancer deaths may be prevented through diets.
What makes cruciferous vegetables so good for you?
Cruciferous veg are jam packed with nutrients such as:
- Vitamins C, K and A
- Are high in fibre and trace minerals such as selenium
Their bitter flavour stimulates your stomach acid and digestive enzymes so aids your digestion. They’re also believed to stimulate the hypothalamus to trigger peristalsis, to get food motility going.
They also contain glucosinolates which are released during chewing or chopping. These metabolise into enormously important anti-oxidants in supporting detoxification. The main ones being:
- isothicynates (such as sulforaphane – high quantities of which are found in broccoli sprouts and cauliflower)
What makes indole-3-carbinol and isothicynates so important?
Well, simply put, isothiocytnates inhibit carcinogen activity so protecting cells from DNA damage and lowering cancer risk.
Sulforaphane also reduces inflammation ( a precursor of chronic illness including cancer) , and as an antioxidant, increases activity of essential detoxification enzymes such as glutathione S-transferase.
Indole -3-carbinol also is a huge player in the detoxification process.It increases the excretion of carcinogenic toxic waste and also reduces oestrogen metabolism, therefore lowering cancer promotion oestrogen metabolites.
Hugely important in supporting the peri and menopause as it gets rid of excess oestrogens which are fluctating at this time.
How to get the best out of cruciferous vegetables:
Those highest in glucosinoltes, and in order of highest content to lowest, are:
- Mustard greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Savoy cabbage
- Red cabbage
- Bok choy
There are high concentrations of Glucosinolates in cruciferous veg.
Consumption of at least 5 portions a week has been linked to significant reduction in cancer risk….. 5 a WEEK! Now that’s not hard is it?
However, glucosinolates levels are destroyed by cooking such as boiling so steaming the veg for a short time may reduce loss.
Absorption of isothicyanates is also reduced from eating cooked rather than raw cruciferous vegetables.
So why not switch to steaming your greens if you don’t already do so? That will avoid the nasty, soggy mess I grew up with 🙂
Or trim off broccoli heads and sprinkle them over your salads or on soups and stews, for an easy fast track to better health.
Add shredded cabbage and rocket to your usual lettuce leaves. Even make your own slaw with red and green cabbage. Here’s an easy no – mayo recipe I love!
Easily increase your antioxidants and health by going green 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this post and it has inspired you. Please do share by clicking on the Facebook button below. Thanks!
Photo Credit: Thanks to Scott Webb