Bok choy, a cruciferous green vegetable, is a member of the Brassica family. It’s also called pak choi or Chinese cabbage. Unlike most cruciferous vegetables grown in the United States, such as cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, this particular variety of Brassica doesn’t form a “head”. Instead, it’s a non-heading cabbage that has thick crunchy white stems and broad green leaves.
Bok choy is native to China, where it has been eaten for more than 1,500 years. While not as well-known in the United States as other types of cabbages and cruciferous vegetables, it’s also been cultivated in North America for more than 100 years. The vegetable is easy to prepare and is a common ingredient in Asian soups and stir-fries.
Along with being crunchy and delicious, bok choy is full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that make it a beneficial addition to your diet. Like other dark, leafy greens, it’s full of antioxidants and other compounds that help to promote better health.
Health benefits of bok choy include:
Aids in the Prevention of Cancer
Studies show that cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy help to reduce your risk of developing cancer. It’s full of cancer-fighting compounds such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, folate, and selenium. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants that can help to prevent cell damage from free radicals, which may help to lower your cancer risk. Selenium may help to slow the growth rate of tumors. Bok choy is also full of fiber, which keeps your digestive system healthy and may help to prevent colon cancer.
Like other dark, leafy greens, bok choy is an excellent source of the flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which may help to reduce your risk of developing a variety of chronic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease
Bok choy may help to lower your risk of developing heart disease in a few ways. For one, it contains folate and vitamin B6. These nutrients help to remove homocysteine from your blood. Too much homocysteine can damage your blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart problems. Studies show that diets high in leafy green vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables, have an overall lower risk of developing heart disease.
The vegetable is also high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which help to reduce your blood pressure naturally. Some studies show that eating sufficient potassium can help to lower sodium-induced high blood pressure. Lowering high blood pressure can help to lower your risk of heart-related problems.
Promotes Bone Health
Bok choy is high in calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, and vitamin K, all of which are essential for maintaining strong, healthy bones.
Protects Eye Health
When it comes to eye health, the first vegetable many people think of is carrots. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, a nutrient that plays an important role in keeping your eyes healthy as you age and may help to lower your risk of developing age-related eye diseases. Bok choy also contains a decent amount of vitamin A and beta-carotene. A 1-cup serving contains more than half of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A.
Boosts Immune Health
The selenium in bok choy may help to contribute to a healthy immune system, enabling your body to more effectively fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Keeps Skin Healthy
Bok choy contains vitamin C, an antioxidant known for fighting free radicals. It may help to reduce the risk of damage to your skin caused by the sun, smoke, and pollution. Vitamin C also plays a role in your body’s natural collagen production and may help to fight signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Helps Ensure a Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy, folate needs double. Insufficient folate intake can lead to complications such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Incorporating dark leafy greens into your diet, such as bok choy, can help you to ensure that you meet your increased folate requirements to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Bok choy is a nutrient-dense vegetable that contains many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important nutrients. It has:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6
Nutrients Per Serving
A 1-cup serving of raw, shredded bok choy contains:
- Calories: 9
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 1 gram
Things to Watch Out For
Bok choy is rich in vitamin K, containing approximately one-third of the daily recommended intake in a single cup serving. Vitamin K aids in proper blood clotting, which may cause complications for individuals taking blood thinners such as warfarin. If you take such medications, talk with your doctor before adding the cabbage to your diet.
The vegetable also contains salicylates, which are compounds related to aspirin. If you’re sensitive to aspirin, you should talk with your doctor.
How to Prepare Bok Choy
Bok choy is a versatile vegetable that you can incorporate into many dishes. It’s a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, particularly in stir-fries and soups. It takes only a few minutes to cook, allowing for a quick side dish to a meal. Some ways to prepare bok choy include:
- Shredded raw in a salad
- Incorporated into a stir-fry
- Added to soups or stews