Cruciferous Veggies

Cruciferous Veggies

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What are Cruciferous Veggies?

Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, kale, and cabbage, are a diverse group of edible plants that have many similarities and differences. But all cruciferous vegetables are nutrient dense and good for you! 

For a long time, people have recognized cruciferous veggies as potent medicinal SuperHero foods. Cato the Elder (234–149 BC) said, “Cabbage … banishes and cures all … if a cancerous ulcer appears upon the breast, apply a crushed cabbage leaf and it will make it well.”

Cruciferous veggies have a nutrient part and a non-nutrient part. In other words, these powerful foods nourish us with numerous vitamins, minerals, protein, energy, etc. Also, they contain other compounds such as sulfur, nitrogen, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids and more.  These substances are known to be powerful antioxidants, anti-cancer, and cardio-protective. 

Other common cruciferous vegetables include: Kale, Arugula, Brussel sprouts,, Cauliflower, Radish, Watercress, Bok choy, Collards, Chard, Mustard greens, horseradish, Rutabaga, Turnip, Wasabi, and Kohlrabi.

Benefits of Cruciferous Veggies

  • Cruciferous veggies are protective against cancer, most notably the ones that contain the phytonutrient sulforaphane (broccoli and broccoli sprouts). However, not all cruciferous veggies contain sulforaphane. Some of the cancers that it can help fight include breast, prostate, pancreatic, lung, colon and bladder. In addition, they may neutralize cancer-causing agents such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (produced when charring and barbecuing).
  • Cruciferous veggies are critical for detoxification especially in the liver.  For example, a broccoli sprout beverage can increase benzene (common environmental toxin) excretion by 61%.
  • Cruciferous veggies are anti-aging. They increase production of glutathione, a very potent antioxidant that takes a substance that is potentially cancer causing to something harmless and water soluble to remove from the body. Also, they decrease damage of DNA which leads to rapid aging and even cancer. 
  • Cruciferous veggies are anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting through many various pathways. They are full of wonderful antioxidants such as the beta carotenoids. 
  • Cruciferous veggies are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
  • Cruciferous veggies are high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), very low in fat, and low in calories which helps support healthy weight, stabilization of blood sugar and food satiety. In addition, they can reduce the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Great source of Omega 3s!
  • Cruciferous veggies are loaded with phytonutrients. These are plant compounds that are health promoting. The more well known phytonutrients are sulforaphane and glucoraphanin (precursor to sulforaphane). These compounds activate the NRF2 pathway (the strongest defense in our body against oxidative stress) which affects the expression of over 200 genes regulating aging, cancer, inflammation, detox, and many more.
  • Cruciferous veggies are cardioprotective. They improve lipid profiles such as decreasing the bad LDL and triglycerides. They also reduce strokes and even all cause mortality by up to 22%. 
  • Cruciferous veggies have been shown to improve brain health. Children with autism that were given these foods have been shown to improve behavior and improve the child’s ability to socialize. In addition, it may reduce depression and anxiety.
  • Cruciferous veggies are neuroprotective. They are associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline as we age. They have been shown to help patients (by reducing the inflammation) with Parkinson’s disease (reduce tremors), Alzheimers’s (improve memory), traumatic brain injury (reduce inflammation).
  • Cruciferous veggies promote strong bones. They are full of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin K which are all critical for vibrant bone health.
  • Cruciferous veggies support eye health through two key antioxidants, zeaxanthin and lutein.

Other Tips about Cruciferous Veggies:

There are some mild concerns that cruciferous veggies negatively affect thyroid function. This is largely a myth and most experts including the Mayo clinic don’t support this claim. Only an abnormally large consumption of these veggies may impact our thyroid’s ability to uptake iodine. (Eating a healthy, balanced diet and carefully taking your medication as prescribed by your health care provider will go a long way toward effectively managing hypothyroidism)

Why do we experience bloating and gas when we eat cruciferous vegetables? These veggies contain a natural sugar called raffinose. It can only be digested by our gut bacteria. As they digest this sugar they produce gas and bloating. Some gas and bloating is expected. Over time, the gas and bloating does decrease for most people. 

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*must come from diet, body cannot make

  • Supports bone and muscle health
  • Improves energy
  • Aids in tissue and cell repair (found in every cell)
  • Necessary for proper nerve conduction
  • Normalizes heart beat
  • Helps body maintain a healthy pH

*50-66% of the American population is not getting the recommended amount.

  • Supports over 600 reactions in the body
  • Helps create energy
  • Helps create proteins
  • Supports muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Helps create and repair DNA and RNA
  • Helps regulate nervous system
  • Improves exercise performance
  • Helps improve mental health
  • Helps regulate blood pressure
  • Fights inflammation
  • May prevent migraines
  • Reduces insulin resistance
  • May improve some PMS symptoms
  • Antioxidant
  • Heart healthy
  • Anticancer
  • Decreases inflammation 
  • Decreases mental decline
  • Supports thyroid health
  • Boosts immune system
  • Reduces asthma symptoms
  • Supports bone and teeth health
  • Necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Heart healthy
  • Co-factor (has to be present) for many reactions to take place
  • Supports healthy blood pressure
  • Supports normal blood clotting
  • Prevents anemia (deficiency of red blood cells)
  • Improves muscle endurance
  • Boosts energy
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves sleep 
  • Reduces bruising
  • Supports normal blood clotting
  • Boosts immune system
  • Speeds up wound healing
  • Reduces acne
  • Decreases age-related illnesses
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Part of many enzymes for building protein and genetic material (DNA)
  • Critical for normal taste
  • Supports fetal development
  • Assists in sperm production
  • Necessary for normal growth and sexual maturation
  • Supports bone health
  • Antioxidant
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Decrease seizure activity
  • Supports brain health
  • Supports thyroid health
  • Assists in wound healing
  • Regulates the body’s fluid balance
  • Nervous system health
  • Regulates heart and muscle contractions
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Protects against strokes
  • Prevents kidney stone
  • Protects against osteoporosis
  • Helps with water balance in the body
  • Necessary for normal muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Supports brain and nervous system health
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Promotes skin health
  • Assists in production of red blood cells (prevents anemia)
  • Regulates blood pressure and heart rate
  • Necessary for iron absorption
  • Activates immune system
  • Supports bone and brain health and maintenance


Especially in kale

  • Supports vision/eye health
  • Boosts immune system
  • Protects and revitalizes skin
  • Improves fertility
  • Critical for fetal development
  • Anti-oxidant, cancer fighting

Especially in broccoli

  • Boosts immune system
  • Antioxidant (prevent chronic disease)
  • Anti Inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
  • May decrease blood pressure (relaxes artery walls)
  • Helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides
  • May reduce anemia (helps absorption of iron)
  • May slow down dementia and protect memory
  • Assists in wound repair
  • Supports hair, nail, and skin health (Vit C is necessary for the production of collagen).
  • Anti-oxidant (helps repair damaged cells and more)
  • Anti-cancer
  • Promotes healthy blood clotting (K1)
  • Contributes to bone health (K2)
  • Contributes to heart health (K2)
  • Anti-cancer
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B12 (cobalamin)
  • B9 (folate, folic acid)
  • B5 (Pantothenic acid)

  • Supports cellular health
  • Increases energy
  • Improves eyesight
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Increases muscle tone
  • Improves nerve function
  • Increases brain function

Choline & Fat

  • not a vitamin
  • not a mineral
  • similar to B vitamins
  • essential (must be acquired through the diet)
  • found especially in broccoli and cauliflower

  • Supports a healthy nervous system in making acetylcholine (an important neurotransmitter).
    • Supports memory
    • Mood
    • Intelligence
    • Brain development and overall function
    • Important in pregnancy
  • Important nutrient for DNA synthesis
  • Maintains healthy cell structures via structural integrity of cell membranes
  • Supports liver health by making a substance that removes excess cholesterol from the liver. 
  • Important for muscle movement
  • Cardio protective
  • very small amount
  • Omega-3 Fatty acids
  • Especially broccoli
  • Reduces mental decline
  • Improves infant development (especially DHEA)
  • Heart healthy

Protein, Carbohydrates & Sulfur

  • Reduces appetite/ can help with weight control
  • Increases muscle mass and strength
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Supports bone health
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Helps body repair after injury
  • Helps maintain fitness as body ages
  • Provide energy
  • Insoluble
  • Soluble 

*recommended daily fiber
– men 35 grams
– women 25 grams

  • Can help with weight control due to reduction in appetite
  • Reduces blood sugar spike
  • Supports gut health and a healthy microbiome
  • Contributes to a feeling of being full
  • Regulates bowel movements and reduces constipation
  • May reduce the chance of colon cancer
  • May lower cholesterol levels
  • Glucosinolates (GSLs)
    • More than 120 different GSLs
    • Glucoraphanin
      • most well known and studied
      • Broccoli sprouts (highest concentration)
  • S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide (SMCO)

*Note: Above-mentioned compounds are precursors to isothiocyanates which are responsible for the biologic activity.

  • Sulforaphane is the most well known. 

*myrosinase is an enzyme expressed upon injury to the plant (broccoli, broccoli sprouts) that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates. It is found in human gut flora and in mustard seeds.

  • Kill fungi, Bacteria, and parasites
    1. Prevent certain cancers such as colorectal, pancreatic, lung, prostate, breast, GI and ovarian cancer
      1. Detox carcinogens. Neutralizes harmful substances (found inside the body and in the environment, Xenobiotics) and helps eliminate them. 
      2. Many other mechanisms such apoptosis and induction of autophagy
    2. Treat certain cancers
    3. May reduce gastritis (stomach inflammation. 
    4. Reduces inflammation throughout the body
    5. Antioxidant
      1. Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
      2. Peroxidase
  • Can kill cancer cells
  • Stimulates (induces) glutathione-S transferase which leads to
    • Anti-inflammation
    • Anti-microbial
    • Anti-cancer
    • Detoxification of Xenobiotics (harmful substances from environment)


  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Beta Carotene (precursor to vitamin A)

*Provides the various colors (Eat the rainbow)

  • Support eye health and reduce the risk of macular degeneration (leading cause of blindness as we age)
  • Support skin health
  • Phenolic compounds
    • Phenolic acid
    • Tannins
    • Anthocyanins
    • Flavonoids
      • Flavonol
        • Quercetin
        • Myricetin
        • kaempferol
    • Flavones
      • Apigenin
      • Luteolin

*Provides the various colors (Eat the rainbow)

  • Reduce excessive inflammation in the body
  • Are synergistic and have multifunctional positive effects on the body
  • May reduce incidence of Parkinson’s disease
  • Anti-cancer
  • Boost brain health
  • Improve memory
  • Neutralize free radicals and reduce damage to cells and their components, anti-oxidant
  • Fight heart disease
  • Fight neurodegenerative diseases
  • Fight any diseases associated with oxidative stress (too many free radicals).
  • May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • Prevents cancer
  • Cardioprotective
  • Prevents cancer
    • Breast
    • Uterine
    • cervical

How to Buy Cruciferous Veggies

Pro tip!When buying fresh broccoli, look for firm stems and florets, especially with a purple, dark green or bluish hue on top.  They are more likely to contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with lighter green tops.  If it has yellow in it or is flimsy and bendable, the broccoli is old.  Don’t buy it.

Look for broccoli and cauliflower with green leaves still attached. Did you know that you can eat these? They are so tasty and good for you! Instead of tossing these nutrient gems, chop them up and put them in a soup OR lather with avocado oil and spices and roast them in the oven, much like you would with kale chips.

Lastly, always aim for organic, if possible. Especially when buying kale, collard, or mustard greens – they’re on the ‘Dirty Dozen‘ list!

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Cruciferous Veggies

Don’t overcook (over-steam, over-roast) cruciferous veggies.  Whether you are sauteing, roasting, or steaming, avoid cooking them until they are tender.  It is best to leave them al dente for a slight crunch.  (When you overcook cruciferous veggies, it inactivates the myrosinase enzyme, leading to lower conversion of glucosinolates into the active and beneficial isothiocyanates. Basically, you lose some of the health benefits!)


Arugula is a leafy green cruciferous veggie that has a wonderful pepper/spicy taste. It tastes great raw. Arugula is one of my favorite greens for a salad. To get more arugula in my kids’ diet, I often put a couple leaves of arugula next to or on top of other foods they already enjoy, such as homemade pizza, pasta, hamburgers, and tacos.  Sometimes I just put a couple pieces on their plate. I’m always happy when my family eats a lot of arugula.



Radishes are another peppery cruciferous veggie that is great raw. Radishes are linked to glowing, radiant skin.  They contain zinc, vitamin C and phosphorus which can be very hydrating.  For your kiddos, cut a radish into little circle chips and put a few on your kiddos plate. Dip them in ranch or guacamole.  A few radish slices on the dinner plate can add a lot of fun color that kids love.


Broccoli can be cooked so many different ways and there are many spices that taste great with broccoli! When you steam broccoli, make sure you don’t overcook it. You want it to be slightly firm when you serve them. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Chop broccoli very finely and add to spaghetti sauce.  Broil broccoli with any sheet pan dish.  Try spices like: oregano, cumin, garlic or salt and pepper.  We put an “everything bagel” spice on broccoli recently, and it was excellent.  Toss in a stir fry or cook it and top it with cheese for a cheesy broccoli dish.

Cruciferous veggies

– PRO TIP! –

Here is something fun to encourage your kids to eat more broccoli.  Put a piece of broccoli on your kids’ plates. Make sure they have a serving dish with more broccoli within reach. With your kids, pretend that you have a broccoli family and they are going to take a family trip to get a haircut. Give your own piece of broccoli a fun “hair cut” by eating some of it.   Then ask your children to do the same.  Maybe your broccoli will even shave their head.  Relax and enjoy how much broccoli your kids will eat!! We got this idea from Snacks with Jax on Instagram!

Cruciferous veggies

Brussel Sprouts

Roast brussels sprouts with avocado oil, salt, pepper and garlic.  At dinner, let your kids eat them by hand as they’ll have fun peeling each layer as they eat it.  Make it fun and count how many layers you can peel. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar for a sweeter flavor profile.  When you kids are old enough, have them help you cut each brussels sprout in half before baking them.  This makes for more crispy pieces and if you kids are like mine, a nice crunchy layer on the outside can be fun.


My favorite way to eat kale is to hand massage them with olive oil and sea salt. That alone makes a great salad. But you can also make kale chips with by throwing that in the oven in a single even layer. Add to the oven at 275°F for around 20 minutes. So tasty! My kids love them more than potato chips. Plus it’s a great recipe for kids. My kids love massaging the kale and licking the salty olive oil off their hands afterwards. 

You can also chop the kale very finely and put it in spaghetti sauce or make a honey vinaigrette dressing and soak your kale in it for 15-30 mins.  Serve as a side with your kid’s meal with some pumpkin seeds and chopped dried apricots. Kale is so easy to prepare and very versatile!

Cruciferous veggies


Similar to kale, you can make purple or green cabbage chips. You can also roast cabbage with avocado oil, salt and pepper. Steaming cabbage is a great option too. You can take a half a head and add it to a steamer basket. Then put out Asian rice, soy or tamari sauce, an assortment of veggies and some Asian inspired grass-fed meat. They can make mini cabbage “tacos” by hand. Such a fun dinner. Chopped up cabbage can also be made into a simple salad or slaw, added to dishes like fried rice and most sauces. It’s wonderfully versatile.


Cauliflower is so versatile and easy! You can use cauliflower to make pizza crust or rice for a great gluten-free dish. Much like broccoli, you can season and bake it in the office for a great side dish to any meal. Have your kids help break the cauliflower into smaller pieces. Did you know that there is purple cauliflower?  Bake both the purple and white versions and ask your kids which color tastes better. You can also play the broccoli haircut game above with cauliflower too!

Cruciferous veggies
Cruciferous veggies

Bok Choy

Bok choy is so tasty and very easy to prepare! They have a wonderful crunchy texture. They’re like eating cabbage but with a lot more flavor. You can sauté it with avocado oil, garlic, and ginger. Finish with a bit of soy sauce. You can cut them in half and roast them in the oven with sea salt or avocado oil. They’re great in stir-fry and a wonderful addition to soup or salads. Throw them on the grill to have with your grass-fed steaks. Make sure to use indirect heat. Steam them and add a bit of olive oil, salt, and tamari or soy sauce to finish.

Cruciferous veggies can be bitter

The strong flavors of cruciferous veggies hold up nicely with many spices and spices are incredibly healthy so it’s a win win!  SPICE AWAY!!

Sometimes cruciferous veggies can be bitter.  Some ways to tone down the bitterness are to splash with citrus juice like lemon, lime and oranges. Salt can also cut the bitterness and enhance other wonderful flavors.