Eat Empowered Wellness Advice from Experts

The Cruciferous Vegetable Benefits You Should Tap Into ASAP

By Mary Stewart, RD, LD

The holiday season is filled with excitement: white lights, festive music, and the smell of family recipes baking in the oven. But if those recipes don’t include cruciferous vegetables, it’s time to add them to the menu.

What are cruciferous vegetables? A family of plants that include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, arugula, radishes, and cabbage. These vegetables are in season during the fall and winter months.

Cruciferous vegetables have cancer-fighting compounds and support cardiovascular health. They’re also perfect for the holidays. Here’s why.

They’re fast and festive.

We can all agree that the holiday season can be hectic, so healthy eating can take a backseat. But preparing cruciferous vegetables is so simple and quick: You can eat them raw with your favorite dressing, roast them in the oven, or sauté them in your go-to skillet (I like to use a cast-iron skillet). If you’re limited on time, buy them frozen to avoid washing, chopping, and dicing.

RELATED: This easy Brussels sprouts recipe is the perfect holiday side dish.

They’re a natural way to detox.

You might have an extra glass of wine or go for that second slice of pie—and hey, that’s all part of a balanced approach to eating. But instead of going on an extreme “detox” after a day of indulging (which doesn’t support sustainable healthy habits!), focus on supporting your body with naturally detoxifying foods—like cruciferous vegetables—instead.

It’s true: Cruciferous vegetables help your body make its own glutathione, a protein produced by your liver. Glutathione acts as an antioxidant and helps your body process and eliminate toxins.

They boost your immune system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people get colds in the winter and spring, and flu activity often begins to increase in October and usually peaks between December and February. Boosting your immune system is critical during this time.

So how do you boost your immune system? Get adequate rest, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, reduce stress, and consume foods packed with micronutrients that regulate the immune system. Micronutrients like vitamins A, C, E, and K, plus B vitamins and phytochemicals, support the immune system and can be found in leafy green cruciferous vegetables like kale and arugula.

Not sure where to start? I challenge you to include at least one serving of a cruciferous vegetable at each meal. For breakfast, you can add cauliflower to your smoothie to get a creamy texture; for lunch, make an arugula salad topped with walnuts and grapes; and for dinner, roast a large sheet pan of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage to pair with your favorite protein. Save leftovers to eat for lunch during the week.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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