The scent of healthy cooking almost drove my husband from our house this past Sunday. I was preparing a super-potent cruciferous trifecta of cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale. Their aroma fills the room as their healing nutrients cruise through the body.
Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolate, a unique phytonutrient, made up of amino acids, glucose, nitrogen and sulfur. Add water while cooking cruciferous vegetables, and strong-smelling sulfur is released. We need it. Our bodies contain about 140 grams of sulfur. Two of sulfur’s primary functions are protecting against bacteria and toxins, and building connective tissue.
Cruciferous vegetables are a rich sources of vitamins A, K, C and B as well as fiber and numerous minerals. But it is the phytonutrients that make them a standout. When the odor-producing glucosinolates break down, cancer-fighting nutrients sulforaphane, di-indolymethane and indole-3-carbinol are released. Another plus is that the crucifers promote detoxification in the liver.
It has been suggested that these phytonutrients work synergistically. This means taking a pill with these substances will not be as effective as eating the vegetable that contains all three as well as vitamins and minerals.
A surprise fact: 100 calories of cruciferous vegetables provides 330-500 mg of omega 3 fatty acids.
To maximize nutrition and minimize aroma, cook in as little water as possible. Dry cooking such as roasting, baking or steaming is perfect.
There is a cruciferous vegetable for every taste. Other members of this healthy group include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, collard and mustard greens, wasabi and watercress.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.