Vegetables that fall in the family of Brassicaceae like cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and many other green leafy vegetables are called Cruciferous Vegetables. Cruciferous is a Latin word meaning “cross bearing”. The shape of their flowers and 4 petals resembles “cross”. All these vegetables are edible and becoming dominant food crops all over the world because of their low calories and high content of vitamins and minerals.
History of Cruciferous Vegetables
The cultivation of these vegetables have ancient history. In year 1700, Broccoli was first cultivated in Italy and then its popularity was spread across England and America. But researchers have also found the preserved seeds of this family of vegetables in China from the years 4000 and 5000 BC. Ancient Greeks also used these vegetables medically to cure many health problems.
Cruciferous vegetables are a large family which has about 3000 species in 350 different types of genera. Much of the commonly used vegetables like cabbage, bok choy, turnips etc. are from Brassica genus. Another name for this type of vegetables is “Cabbage Family” or “Mustard Family”, because of various compounds present in them. These vegetables can be grown in average temperatures that is 16-18 C, so these are crops of cool seasons. The main areas for its growth are Northern Hemisphere, Southwest and Central Asia, China and Japan, Europe, the Mediterranean region and North America, which are mainly temperate regions.
The production of cruciferous vegetables on large scale was started between 1961 and 2000. Because of their countless benefits, use of these vegetables is increased in recent years.
The allowances for men and women are different that is:
- Adult women should consume 2.5 cups per day
- Adult men should have 3 cups per day.
1 cup of cooked or raw cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or broccoli is equal to 1 cup of vegetables. Likewise, 2 cups leafy vegetables, like kale, is equal to 1 cup of vegetable.
The above mentioned dietary allowances does not mean that all the calories that are needed should be fulfilled by cruciferous vegetables only. These vegetables should be mixed with other vegetables.
As cooked vegetables are easy to digest, these cruciferous vegetables are cooked with many other ingredients which enhances their taste. Mostly children don’t like them in raw form, so it’s best to use them in pastas, pizzas, soups, casseroles, gravies or salads etc.
Nutritional facts and health benefits of some vegetables of this group are as follows:
Benefits Of Cruciferous Vegetables
There are countless benefits of these vegetables. Let’s take a look at some of their benefits:
- Rich in Nutrients: Green leafy vegetables as well as other vegetables of this group are rich in vitamin C, K, iron, potassium and fiber. Dark vegetables have vitamin A. Minerals like folate are present in them which helps to protect DNA. Similarly, vitamin K is good for healthy bones and vitamin C is essential for better functioning of immune system.
- Phytochemicals: These are healthy compounds that are naturally present in vegetables and are beneficial for our body. These compounds help in reducing inflammation. Inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis, asthma and rheumatic arthritis are minimized.
- Cancer Reducing Agent: The compounds like Glucosinolates that are available naturally in these vegetables are the best source of reducing the risk of cancer in humans. Cruciferous vegetables are helpful in curing these types of cancers;
- Lung cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Weight loss: As cruciferous vegetables contain lots of fiber; these are best for people who want to lose weight. Eating this type of vegetables will give feeling of fullness without over eating. Many recipes are available which use cruciferous vegetables that they can help in maintaining ideal weight and fitness of bodies. This weight loss is also very beneficial in maintaining normal blood sugar level.
- Estrogen Level: A compound called Indole-3- carbinol is found in cruciferous vegetables. This compound helps in normal regulation of estrogen activity in our bodies which also regulates body metabolism.
- Risk of Heart Diseases: After conducting a huge research, it is found that the use of these vegetables for about an average of 10 years, can lower the risk of heart diseases. We can say that these cruciferous vegetables are very good for normal heart functioning.
- Hypothyroidism: Though these vegetables are beneficial for humans and their health but if taken in large amounts, they also have negative effects. These vegetables can cause enlargement of thyroid glands which results in Hypothyroidism. When raw vegetables are eaten, Goitrogens are released in intestines which causes an increased need for iodine in our body which adversely affects the thyroid glands. Doctors recommend that if anyone has any kind of thyroid problems, he/she should use cruciferous vegetables in cooked form rather than raw.
- Bloating and Gas: If taken in large amounts, the fiber present in such vegetables, ferment in large intestine causing bloating or gas in stomach. This fermentation can cause flatulence. The best way to have these vegetables is by eating them slowly and by chewing it properly. The high intake of fluids along with them also diminishes the risk of bloating and gas.
- Food Allergies: Some may experience any sort of food allergies after eating these, like swelling or hives. The use of these vegetables should be stopped immediately and a doctor should be consulted.
These vegetables contain high level of vitamins and minerals but have low calories. A good amount of sulfur present in them, have many beneficial effects on health. Despite all these benefits, moderation should be maintained while eating them. High consumption can cause negative effects like bloating, gas, hypothyroidism or any kind of food allergies.