What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables under the family of Brassicaceae. This includes Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Radish, and Bok Choy to name a few. They’re super high in many different vitamins which is a great reason to get munching more of them but we’ll get into that in more detail later.
Where did these vegetables come from and what do they have in common?
Well, they were all cultivated over many years from one single plant. This plant is the Brassica Oleracea and its more commonly known today as the wild mustard plant. Wild mustard can be found all over Europe, North America Asia and even parts of Africa and it has been harvested for food for over 2500 years. Before long farmers were specifically growing these crops to sustain villages and they would plant the seeds of the crops with the characteristics they desired the most to evolve the plant into something altogether different. For example, some farmers would strive for plants that created large tightly balled leaves. These plants would later be known as cabbage. Elsewhere, farmers would produce mustard plants that created lots of miniature heads of leaves, this would come to be Brussel sprouts. This is some of the earliest examples of selective breeding in plants and without it the broccoli and cauliflower we have on our plates today might never have existed!
These six plants, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kholrabi, Kale and radish all descended from the mustard plant. Since then more variations have been created from these descendants such as Broccolini, Red Cabbage and Romanesco.
Why should I eat more cruciferous vegetables?
As I mentioned earlier, cruciferous vegetables are super high in many different nutrients but especially vitamin K and vitamin C. Vitamin K helps us to form blood clots when needed as well as support the proteins that our bones need to stay healthy. So long term deficiencies in Vitamin K could lead to osteoporosis and severe blood loss in the event of an injury. Topping the charts for Vitamin K is Kale with 623Ug per 100g of raw kale. This is in fact almost 6 times the recommended dietary allowance however there has been no recorded upper limit for this vitamin so you can consume as much of it as you would like. Spring Greens came in a close second place with 437Ug. Spring Greens did however bag first place in the Vitamin C category so if your looking for a big leafy hit of Vitamin C then look no further! Vitamin protects our cells and helps our immune system to grow. Without vitamin C we would contract scurvy which was common among sailors many years ago, it would start with bleeding gums and infected wounds which would eventually lead to heart failure and death. Thankfully scurvy is very rare in modern times although it is still sometimes seen in poverty stricken areas with bad healthcare.
Besides being a great source of vitamins, cruciferous vegetables are also full of fibre which promotes a healthy gut and regular bowel movements. Possibly most important of all, eating cruciferous vegetables could even help prevent cancers within the body. Research is currently being done into the chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic effects of isothiocyanates found within the cruciferous vegetables. I guess the guy that came up with the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” should given cabbages a little more credit.
Cruciferous vegetables are really low calorie so if your trying to stay in a deficit then you definitely should include more cruciferous vegetables in your diet. Broccoli contains just 34kcal per 100g whereas cauliflower has 30kcal per 100g. Here’s some super yummy recipes to help you get more cruciferous vegetables in your diet: