Crunch into Cruciferous Veggies

By Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN
Clinical Nutritionist, The Pancreas Center

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, collard greens, radishes, mustard greens, chard, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, arugula, and horseradish. These vegetables contain phytochemicals called isothiocyanates which act as anti-oxidants, are anti-inflammatory, and help stop cancer from growing. Meta-analyses have shown that eating cruciferous vegetables is associated with a lower risk for certain cancers including breast, kidney, bladder, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Other studies have also shown a protection against cancers of the endometrium, esophagus, lung, colon, liver, and cervix.

These vegetables are rich in micronutrients, high in fiber, and low in calories, making them a nutritional slam-dunk! Your diet should include at least ½ cup of these vegetables each day (but you may want more after checking out some of the recipes below). If you are trying to lose weight or have type 2 diabetes, cruciferous vegetables are a smart choice for you.

Everybody knows that eating cruciferous vegetables are part of a healthy diet. But it seems not everybody knows how to prepare these vegetables so they enjoy eating them (this is the most important part)! There is nothing wrong with steaming vegetables, other than it can get boring. Boiling on the other hand significantly reduces the nutrient content. I prefer to sauté or roast my vegetables using olive oil. The fat makes the vegetables more appealing and also helps your body more efficiently absorb fat soluble vitamins (cruciferous vegetables are a good source of vitamins E and K).  If you are taking Coumadin or Warfarin, you should maintain a consistent amount of vitamin K in your diet week to week.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat cruciferous vegetables:

Cauliflower Rice

This dish resembles couscous in appearance, and can be made many different ways. You could use a bit of soy sauce to compliment an Asian style dish. I like to make this with Teriyaki salmon.

Cook time:

15 minutes

Prep time:

5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Place cauliflower florets into food processor until about the size of rice. Do this in small batches. Scrape out and put into bowl, and repeat until all cauliflower processed. Do not over-process, or the cauliflower will become too mushy. (Note: you will have large pieces that remain after each batch you process, just process them with the next batch).
  2. Heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat then add onions and garlic. Cook until slightly browned.
  3. Add turmeric and toss to incorporate.
  4. Add processed cauliflower. Toss and cook for 5-10 minutes until al-dente (firm, but cooked).
  5. Add salt to taste. Serve warm in place of rice!

Simple Roasted Veggies

Roasting is my favorite (and easiest!) way to cook vegetables. My favorites are broccoli and brussels sprouts, (asparagus and string beans work too). I like to cook them just until slightly browned. Keep ready to cook frozen vegetables stocked in your freezer in case fresh isn’t available (and save time on washing, and chopping!)

Cook time:

20 minutes

Prep time:

5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Fresh (or frozen) washed and trimmed brussels sprouts, broccoli florets, asparagus, or string beans
  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt, or to taste
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil or your favorite herb (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400◦F and line baking tray with parchment paper for easier clean-up.
  2. Rinse vegetables well then chop into 1” bite size pieces. 
  3. Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper (with or without basil or other herb).
  4. Wait until oven is fully pre-heated and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to brown. Otherwise vegetables will become overcooked before they are able to get slightly browned and crispy.
  5. Top with grated parmesan and serve warm. 

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Cook time:

30 minutes

Prep time:

10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, washed and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (If you don’t have this, just use water)
  • 1 cup milk canned coconut milk (can also use whole milk or ½ cup cream)

Directions:

  1. Sautee onion in olive oil until translucent. Add Curry powder and cook 1 more minute.
  2. Add apple, cauliflower, broth, and salt, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until cauliflower softened enough to easily pierce with a fork. Turn off heat
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until creamy and no lumps remain.
  5. Add coconut milk and blend to incorporate.

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