Beautiful Brassicas

Ruth Goldstein, MS, RD - Nutrition Counselor, Sojourns Community Health Clinic

What are Brassicas?

Brassicas are plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Informally known as cruciferous vegetables, this family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard, bok choi, tatsoi, and collards. These vegetables are delicious, versatile, and nutritional powerhouses.

Health Benefits

Brassicas are rich in vitamins K, A, C, B, antioxidants and fiber. Fundamentally, these vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds fuel your metabolism and protect your bodies from damage on the cellular level.

The research-based Worlds Healthiest Foods website highlights findings on the health benefits of kale. They say:

  • Researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale. These compounds help prevent chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Kale provides improved cholesterol-lowering benefits when steamed. The fibers in kale bind bile acids-which are then excreted- more effectively after they have been cooked.
  • Kale's risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer. The protective benefits from isothiocyanates play a primary role.
  • Kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body's detoxification system. Isothiocyanates can help regulate detoxification at a genetic level.

Visual Guides to Greens

Research is one thing, but what about shopping? If you struggle to tell the difference between all these beautiful dark leafy greens, here are three visual guides online that can help you sort them out:

Cookbooks

Looking for cookbooks with delicious brassica recipes? Here are several to get you started:

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: A Complete Nutritional and Cooking Guide for Healthy Living by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre (Grand Central Life and Style, 2014). Includes recipes for Beet, Kale and Walnut Salad; Kale Salad with Lemon and Pumpkin Seeds; Apple Spiced Collard Greens; Mediterranean Chard; and Sauteed Cabbage with Cumin.

The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age Busting Power Foods by Rebecca Katz. (Ten Speed Press, 2013) Includes recipes for Asian Cabbage Crunch Salad; Sweet and Sour Asian Cabbage and Kale; Broccoli with Red Onion, Feta and Mint; and Swiss Chard and Roasted Butternut Squash Tart.

Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America's Farmers Markets by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press, 2008)

The Recipes

Finally, on to the recipes. These are both tried and true dishes that will not disappoint. Enjoy!

Emerald City Salad

This colorful salad keeps wonderfully in the refrigerator for several days. The hot rice steams the greens ever so slightly, so they are tender and sweet but keep their brightness. Add some protein - like nuts, seeds, hardboiled egg, or leftover chicken - and it becomes a balanced, yummy, nutrient packed lunch for the office.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups water or stock
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup wild rice (black; 1/2" long)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb, cored & chopped
  • 1/2 of a red or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cups very finely chopped dark leafy greens (6-7 leaves of chard, kale, or collards)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Bring water or stock to a boil. Add butter, ½ teaspoon of the salt and rice. Bring to boil again, cover, lower heat and simmer 60-65 minutes. Check to see that until all water is absorbed by tipping the pan to one side.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt in a large serving bowl. Add fennel, red pepper, cabbage, parsley and then the greens .

Once rice is fully cooked, cool until it quits steaming but is still warm, and then spread like a blanket on top of the greens. When the rice cools to room temperature, toss rice, vegetables and dressing together. Taste the salad and adjust seasonings, some extra salt and/or lemon may be required.

Prep time: 1 hour for wild rice, 20 minutes for salad

Serves 6-8

Recipe from Feeding the Whole Family (third edition) by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008).

Scrumptious Roasted Cauliflower

This cauliflower is crispy and brown on the outside, and tender and creamy on the inside, almost like roasted potatoes. Fabulous!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into small ½ inch florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from one whole lemon
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread out florets on a baking sheet. Sprinkle minced garlic and a pinch of cumin over florets. Squeeze the juice from one lemon, evenly coating florets. Generously drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender and browned on top.

Prep time: 15 minutes active, 45 minutes cooking

Serves: 4

Recipe adapted from http://www.elizadomestica.com

References:

Higdon, Jane. 2005. Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center. Cruciferous Vegetables: Rich source of sulfur containing compounds called glucosinolates. Accessed at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/

Worlds Healthiest Foods. Eating Healthy with Cruciferous Vegetables. Accessed at: http://www.whfoods.com/.

World's Healthiest Foods. Kale. Accessed at: http://www.whfoods.com/

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Ruth Goldstein, MS, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian who works for Sojourns Community Health Clinic in Westminster, VT. Ruth's primary focus is on whole foods nutrition and helping clients set practical goals that reflect their lifestyle and health needs. Ruth's particular areas of interest include gut health, food intolerances, emotional eating, and eating disorders. Ruth graduated from Bastyr University with a Master of Science degree in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Keene State College.

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