Cruciferous Vegetables


The quick answer:  Cruciferous vegetables—learn to love them, they’re nutritional champs you should eat most days of the week.


The Cruciferous Family

These vegetables are named for their four-lobed flower, which has the shape of a cross, thus cruciferous.  They’re sometimes called the mustard family because they include the mustard greens.  Examples are arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and radishes.

The cruciferous veggies are nutritional rock stars—dollar for dollar, it’s hard to find a better value. Researchers are giving them a lot of attention, and finding these benefits (for more, read here):

Vitamins:  These plants, especially the leaves, are a concentrated source for B complex vitamins, vitamin K, plus the antioxidant vitamins A and C.

Antioxidants:  The cruciferous family is rich in antioxidants including vitamins A and C (noted above), minerals like manganese, and phytonutrients such as lutein, retinol, and beta-carotene.

Fiber:  If you grade foods as calorie dense (sweetened factory foods) or nutrient dense (natural whole foods) the cruciferous vegetables are the champs.  For example a 100-calorie serving (about 5% of the daily calories) provides 25-40% of fiber need. 

Fighting Cancer

Evidence is still being gathered through studies but cruciferous vegetables may offer anti-cancer protection.  They are known to protect cell DNA, inactivate carcinogens, provide anti-inflammatory aid, and mitigate tumor growth and migration. 

Vegetable Value

A lot of silliness passes for truth in the media.  For example, you often hear laments that poor people can’t afford to eat well.  That may be true in some third-world country, but poor has a different meaning in America.  So we strongly disagree that the poor can’t eat healthy.  In fact, Word of Wisdom Living claims it’s actually cheaper to eat healthy if you’re willing to do three things:

  1. Write a weekly menu.
  2. Shop from a grocery list,
  3. Cook your own food (or be on good terms with a cook).

We made the argument for healthier is cheaper in the post, “Does It Really Cost More To Eat Right?”  Vegetables and whole grains are the all-stars from the healthy but affordable diet.     

How much food do you eat in a year?  Most people, depending on metabolism and energy needs, eat 1200-1500 pounds of food a year.  Most vegetables cost less than $1.00/lb in season.  You can buy most grains for around a buck also.  Bottom line, it’s pretty cheap to eat healthy if you build your diet on veggies and whole grains.

Loving Vegetables

Last year, in the post titled Hate Vegetables?”, we talked about America’s vegetable aversion.  The central challenge in eating healthier is to eat the recommended 5 daily servings of vegetables. 

This Healthy Change—one of eight on vegetables—addresses the cruciferous family:

Please comment:  Share your favoritre way of enjoying cruciferous vegetables.  Some like them with a cheese sauce—it's the healthiest use of cheese I can think of.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: 1500 calorie diet
    Word of Wisdom living - Word of Wisdom Living - Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Response
    This bog teach us the importance of the vegetables that they for the healthiest thing which us taken by the people. They help the every individual to glow their skin and reduce their weight. The chefs prepare dishes of different types with their own ingredients to give them more taste.

Reader Comments (13)

I'm a fan of steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and red bell peppers tossed with a light Caesar Dressing and a touch of parmesean cheese. Sliced black olives guild the lily for us.

I'm big on shopping the sales and loss leaders, but boy howdy is it getting harder to get fresh produce of any sort under the dollar mark -- especially as the season changes....

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizA

I love roasted cauliflower. I chop it up into bite sized pieces, toss it in some olive oil and curry powder and roast it at 475 for 15-20 minutes. I like lots of curry and a crunchy texture. I can eat this as my whole dinner!

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

This recipe was astonishingly good:

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Homemade coleslaw! Roasted broccoli, brussels sprouts, or cauliflower is delicious, too.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZarah

I like Brussels sprouts sautéed with a little bacon, onion, and garlic. Cauliflower I prefer in a puréed in a soup with and cheese (blue or cheddar). I love cabbage soup as well. I bought some oxtails at the market this week to attempt making stock for a cabbage soup a little differently than I normally do. Plain steamed broccoli is always a good side, but it is even better with a little butter. :)

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Two of my favorite vegetable recipes are with cruciferous vegetables: broccoli and brussels sprouts (which I craved when I was recently pregnant!). I'm linking my favorite recipes for them. Sooo good!

Ina Garten roasted broccoli:

Roasted Brussels Sprout Chips:

For the brussels sprouts, you can skip the part about peeling them into individual leaves if you like and apply the same flavor principles to cleaned and halved brussels sprouts. The chips are nice, but it's time consuming.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

We often replace mashed potatoes with steamed cauliflower that has been mashed - butter and salt/pepper optional - and serve it with meat and gravy, an occasional treat. We also enjoy cauliflower roasted with garlic and olive oil, dressed with capers, including a little juice.

I've been using thinly sliced cabbage instead of lettuce in tacos and tostados. It makes a healthful dish when combined with whole wheat tortillas, ground turkey taco meat, tomatoes, and whatever else you add to your tacos. Years ago on a trip to Mexico we were surprised to find that tacos were typically served with cabbage.

BTW Skip, I've really enjoyed your blog and have implemented many of your changes and recipes into our diet. You've been extremely motivating to me. Thank you for your well-researched and well-written posts.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Great post, Skip. Tell us, are kohlrabi and turnips also in the family? Living in East Asia, these are in abundance....

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDee Dee

i think that this year was the year i began my love affair with cruciferous veggies. i eat a smoothie every day for breakfast with kale in it, which i prefer over a spinach based green smoothie. i love brussels sprouts but some of my favorite recipes have them prepared in the worst ways (deep-fried, with bacon, etc.) which will probably kill me quickly.

one of my absolute favorite recipes though is this cauliflower soup recipe. absolutely delicious with a crusty bread and salad, and perfect for the advent of soup season. the recipe is fairly simple and healthy (especially if you make your own broth, too).

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhannah

Hi Dee Dee, nice to hear from you. Yes, you lucky girl, both turnips and kohlrabi are considered cruciferous, as is rutabaga if you chance upon that. Best to you.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

I love broccoli and cheese soup, cauliflower gratin, roasted cabbage or brussel sprouts, and cauliflower soup. I grew up eating cruciferous vegetables all the time in my family so I have always loved them!

September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Best recipe for Brussels sprouts is Cooking Lights Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce (
People who hate Brussels sprouts (or works brilliantly with broccoli too!)...their eyes roll back in their heads after eating this! Seriously double the sauce recipe on your first go. It's that good.

My hands down favorite way to eat broccoli or cauliflower is roasted in the oven. Toss cut up heads with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a smidge of crushed red pepper if you like heat. Then bake at 450 til browned and crispy in's fantastic!

Another favorite is raw broccoli when you use a vinegary dressing and so cold it almost hurts to eat it...yummy!

Cabbage I LOVE but I don't have many recipes I use it in...I don't like traditional coleslaw (too much Mayo...too sweet etc) but I love tossing it in soups or stews for an extra bit of flavor and nutrition. Skillet cabbage rolls are yummo too!

Turnips and rutabagas..I love them husband doesn't care for them so they don't go on the table often. Usually I roast them or mash them or and to a stew.

Kohlrabi is something I'm not sure if I like. I've only had it with cheese sauce and it was very good...but I like cheese sauce on anything.

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

We like to make an Asian type dish with lots of vegetables and a few noodles. In olive oil with a little drizzle of sesame oil for flavor, I saute lots of thinly sliced cabbage and whatever vegetables I have on hand like sliced carrots, onions, bell pepper, garlic and my favorite is the stalks of broccoli (which I used to throw out until I discovered how yummy they are peeled and cut into coins). When the vegetables are crisp-tender, add some cooked spaghetti or linguine noodles and some soy sauce.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterST

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>