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The Super-Veggies: Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables have it all: vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Here's how to get more of them.

Cardiovascular Disease

Diets rich in fish and vegetables (including cruciferous and dark-yellow veggies) may also help to protect against cardiovascular disease. A recent study found that such a diet was linked to lower levels of markers of inflammation in the body. These markers may signal an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In another recent study, diets low in cruciferous and yellow vegetables, wine, and coffee but high in sugar-sweetened soft drinks, refined grains, and processed meat were identified as possibly increasing chronic inflammation and raising the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Comparison of Cruciferous Vegetables

Which cruciferous vegetables have the most vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid? The answers are:

  1. Kale (vitamin A)
  2. Broccoli (vitamin C)
  3. Brussels sprouts and broccoli (tied for folic acid)

Brussels sprouts have the most vitamin E (about 9% of the Daily Value) and vitamin B-1 (15% Daily Value). And it’s broccoli and Brussels sprouts again that have the most healthy plant omega-3s: A cup of broccoli contributes about 200 milligrams, and a cup of Brussels sprouts about 260 milligrams.

Here's a comparison table of cruciferous vegetables, including the nutrients for which they contribute at least 10% of the Daily Value. Keep in mind that about half of the fiber in cruciferous vegetables is super-healthy soluble fiber.

Per 1 cup:
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Cabbage
B. Sprouts
Bok Choy
Kale
(steamed) (frozen, cooked) (raw) (cooked) (cooked) (cooked)
Calories 44 34 22 60 20 36
Fiber 5g 5 2 4 3 3
Vitamin A 33% DV 1% 2% 16% 62% 137%
Vitamin B-2 16% 9% 3% 11% 10% 8%
Vitamin B-6 17% 12% 7% 21% 22% 14%
Vitamin C 165% 75% 38% 129% 59% 71%
Folic Acid 23% 18% 10% 23% 17% 4%
Magnesium 12% 5% 4% 10% 6% 7%
Potassium 14% 7% 6% 14% 18% 8%
Omega-3s 200 mg 140 mg 60 mg 260 mg 100 mg 100 mg

Tips for Enjoying Cruciferous Vegetables

To maximize taste and nutrition, here are some tips for buying and cooking cruciferous vegetables:

  • Don’t overcook cruciferous vegetables. They can produce a strong sulfur odor and become unappealing.
  • You can buy several types of cruciferous vegetables ready-to-go in the frozen or fresh packaged sections of your supermarket, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
  • No raw veggie platter is complete without dark green broccoli or snowy white cauliflower florets.
  • Add raw broccoli or cauliflower florets to your green salad to give the nutrients a big boost.
  • Add chopped cruciferous veggies to soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • When buying fresh broccoli, look for firm florets with a purple, dark green, or bluish hue on the top. They're likely to contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with lighter green tops. If it has yellow in it or is limp and bendable, the broccoli is old -- don’t buy it.

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