By: Gloria Tsang, RD
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 prevent cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis (hardening and/or clogging of arteries).
Cruciferous Vegetables Help Prevent Atherosclerosis
A new study published just last month revealed that for artery health, cruciferous vegetables are the most beneficial.
Cruciferous Vegetables Include:
- Bok Choy
- Brussels Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Gai-Lan (Chinese Broccoli)
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.
o.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.
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 veggies, 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; 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:
- mechanically cut and slice
So for those vegetables that we often cook anyway, like cabbage and cauliflower, continue to do so. For those cruciferous we often eat raw, like arugula and kale, cut into small pieces, and add lemon juice or other acid dressing to boost enzyme release.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.