What do kale, arugula and Brussels sprouts have in common? They are all pretty popular in restaurants and recipes these days and they are all yummy cruciferous vegetables. They also pack a nutritional and inflammation fighting double punch.
Cruciferous veggies are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes. Fun fact: The name “cruciferous” is an informal classification for members of the mustard family and comes from the Latin cruciferae meaning “cross bearing,” because the four petals resemble a cross.
These veggies share several nutritional benefits and grow in a variety of shapes, sizes and different colors. Most cruciferous veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals and dark green cruciferous veggies also are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They’re also rich in phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Cruciferous vegetables also are rich in fiber and low in calories, which will help you feel full and satisfied without overeating.
Adults need at least 2½ cups of vegetables a day. One cup of raw and cooked veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, is equivalent to a 1-cup vegetable serving. Two cups of raw leafy vegetables, such as kale and bok choy, are the equivalent of a 1-cup vegetable serving.
These tips will make packing in your vitamins and minerals easy and enjoyable.
Cauliflower – this versatile veggie is delicious in many ways beyond steaming. Try roasting florets or “steaks” of cauliflower to release its pleasant flavor. When pureed, it’s a great substitute to cream sauce. You can also mash cauliflower into a pizza crust, grate into a substitute for rice or pickle for a low-calorie salty, crunchy snack.
Brussels Sprouts – brussels sprouts practically beg to be in the oven. For a melt-in-your-mouth side, roast and toss with something sweet, such as dried fruit or maple syrup, as well as something savory — anything from Parmesan cheese to sliced olives.
Kale – kale is a wonderful green for salads. Remove the tough stem, slice into thin ribbons and toss with toppings, dressing and all. Best of all, this hearty green will not wilt for days, making it a great option for packing ahead. To balance the bitter bite, pair it with something sweet such as roasted carrots, diced apple or dried fruit. Kale also is a great addition to smoothies.
Arugula – arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in your garden or in a planter. Enjoy this spicy leaf pureed into a pesto with a kick, tossed onto whole-wheat pizza once it emerges from the oven or used in a variety of tossed salads. For a classic combination try fresh arugula paired with feta cheese, cubed watermelon and a balsamic dressing.
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Reviewed February 2018 Holly Larson, MS, RD, is a nutrition expert, freelance writer and owner of Grass Roots Nutrition based in Oxford, OH.