The Importance Of Including Cruciferous Vegetables In Your Diet
The status of food consumption has gone downhill for many people as the rise of heavily processed foods and busy lifestyles has taken hold. People often find themselves reaching for unhealthy foods because they are ready-made with little to no preparation needed. The problem with this is that such convenience foods do not typically include enough (if any) vegetables.
Vegetables are an important part of nutrition for many reasons. They are full of vitamins and nutrients the body needs to be healthy; they help to maintain healthy body weight because they are low in both calories and fat; and they can even help to protect against diseases such as cancer, because they contain specific substances such as phytochemicals.
Not all vegetables are alike, though, and each group offers their own special benefits. One such group that most people do not get enough of is cruciferous vegetables. Here’s everything you need to know about including cruciferous vegetables in your diet.
What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are a class of foods that belong to the mustard family of plants. They get their name from the Latin word crucifera, which translates to crucifix, or cross-bearing. The reason for their name is because of a distinct feature the plants share: petals that form or look like a cross. Because of their need for temperatures lower than 70 degrees, they are considered fall or winter vegetables.
What are some examples of cruciferous vegetables?
There are many examples of cruciferous vegetables, some of which you may have at the ready right now. Some of the most commonly known cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Broccoli rabe
- Chinese broccoli
- Collard greens
Other less commonly used cruciferous vegetables include:
- Broccoli Romanesco
- Garden cress
- Land cress
What makes a vegetable cruciferous?
Cruciferous vegetables are grouped together by the family of plant species they belong to known as Brassicaceae. They all share similar characteristics in the way they grow as well as the way they look. The vegetables also contain a lot of similar nutrients such as folate; vitamins C, E, and K; and fiber.
Are cruciferous vegetables good for you?
Cruciferous vegetables are a great addition to a nutrition plan because of all the good stuff they contain. Aside from the previously mentioned vitamins, cruciferous vegetables have loads of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are found in plant foods and can act as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in the body. This has been thought to help reduce the risk of developing cancer over time.
These types of vegetables also have high amounts of glucosinolates, which are organic compounds with both sulfur and nitrogen that come from glucose and amino acids. Glucosinolates are what give cruciferous vegetables their flavor and smell. The health benefits of these compounds has been researched, and studies have shown that they possess anti-cancer effects, can help to protect cells in the body from DNA damage, and can fight off viral and bacterial infections.
Eating cruciferous vegetables on a regular basis can also help to prevent oxidative stress from occurring in the body. Oxidative stress is caused by a build-up of free radicals – highly reactive molecules that can cause widespread inflammation if they are overabundant in the body. Antioxidants, such as they ones found in all cruciferous vegetables, can stabilize free radicals and “turn off” their reactivity, which helps to lower oxidative stress and the inflammation that goes along with it.
Cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to protect the body from developing cardiovascular disease because of their ability to lower inflammation throughout the body. Studies have shown that not eating enough of these vegetables may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
How often should you eat cruciferous vegetables?
Moderation is the key for everything, even with foods that are good for you. Eating cruciferous vegetables doesn’t have to be an all-day affair, and you don’t have to include them in every meal. The typical amount of vegetables of any type that people should be consuming is 2.5 cups per day for women and 3 cups per day for men.
This is based on the recommendations of the United States Department of Agriculture. Not all these vegetables need to be cruciferous; however, cruciferous vegetables should be incorporated often for a person to reap the health benefits they can provide. At least one serving per day is recommended, or at least five servings per week.
How can I get more cruciferous vegetables into my diet?
For many, getting enough of any type of vegetable can be difficult. With busy schedules and lives, it can be hard to find the time to get fresh vegetables and prepare them every day. But the truth is, it’s not as hard as many people think to get these good foods into their diet.
Since cruciferous vegetables can be eaten raw, or as the base of a salad in the case of specific varieties such as kale and arugula, it can be easy to get one serving per day. They can also be cooked in a variety of different ways. There are no limits when it comes to cruciferous vegetables, and since only one cup is needed per day to meet recommended intake, it can be a simple and well worthy addition to anyone’s diet.