Cruciferous Vegetables Like Kale May Boost Artery Health. Eat Raw or Cooked?

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Eating more vegetables is good for us. But it doesn’t help eating the same old veggies every meal of every day. We had previously discussed the benefits of eating different colored veggies. Instead of counting how many servings of fruits and vegetables you eat a day (the old way), we suggest focusing on eating various colors. In fact, here is our monthly challenge to help you try a new color every month! A recent Australian study shed a light on a specific group of veggies – cruciferous vegetables – and how they collectively help boost artery health and prevent cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis (hardening and/or clogging of arteries).

Should you cook kale and other cruciferous vegetables? It may surprise you.

Cruciferous Vegetables List:

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Gai-Lan (Chinese Broccoli)
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Wasabi
  • Watercress

Cruciferous Vegetables Help Boost Artery Health

A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that for artery health, cruciferous vegetables are the most beneficial.

Researchers looked at data of over 900 Australian women over 70 years of age, their food intake, particularly the types of vegetables they ate, and the results of their sonogram exam that measured the thickness of their carotid artery walls and plaque buildup. Results showed that the group eating the most vegetables, their carotid artery wall was 0.05 mm thinner, than those eating the least vegetables.

0.05 mm sounds really minute? For every reduction of 0.1 mm in arterial wall thickness, the risk for stroke and heart attack is reduced by 10 to 18%. Now that’s significant!

And among all vegetables being looked at, the benefits of cruciferous vegetables are the most promising. Researchers found that for every extra daily serving of 10 grams of cruciferous vegetables, the thickness of the carotid artery wall was reduced by 0.8%. No other vegetables displayed such benefits.

Purple kale and kohlrabi. Should you cook them or eat them raw?

Unique Nutrients Found in Cruciferous Vegetables

Collectively, cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamin A, C and K, as well as folate and antioxidants. And glucosinolates, the unique nutrient compound present in this group of vegetables, are also the reason why they have a slight bitter taste and a unique smell when cut and sliced.

When we cook them, glucosinolates will break down into bioactive compounds like indoles. These compounds are the nutrients responsible for protecting our arteries and heart. If that’s not enough, preliminary animal studies also show that glucosinolates are cancer-protective too.

Best to Cook Cruciferous Vegetables; Cut Small If Eaten Raw

In order to break down glucosinolates into bioactive nutrients, an enzyme is needed. There are 3 ways to release this enzymes:

  1. heat
  2. mechanically cut and slice
  3. acid

So for those vegetables that we often cook anyway, like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, continue to do so. For those cruciferous we often eat raw, like kale and arugula, cut into small pieces, and add lemon juice or other acid dressing to boost enzyme release.


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