You know how kids LOVE vegetables? Especially the really healthy ones? And the greener the better, right? Kids just can’t get enough green veggies! What? No? Maybe that’s just my imaginary children but to be fair, they are exceptional. Self-potty trained by 6 months, slept through the night from birth and they wouldn’t dare dream of bringing a single germ into Mommy’s personal space. But if you live back in what we’ll loosely refer to as “reality”, and then you are probably always getting creative/bribing with dessert for vegetables get a little movement off their plates. And if you haven’t heard yet, a particular class of veggies are worth continuing the on-going campaign with even the pickiest little palates.
Cruciferous vegetables are from the Cruciferae or Brassicaceae family but we know them as all the veggies that a) smell a little pungent while cooking and b) make most kids run the other direction. Bok choy, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, arugula and cabbage are among the vegetables on this list of what some are saying are the most important for health and disease prevention. That’s because of an antioxidant called sulforaphane and its ability to inhibit the growth of the deadliest of cells. According to research conducted largely at the Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon, sulforaphane has been proven to target and destroy cancerous and precancerous cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed….truly the holy grail of cancer treatment research since current treatments like chemotherapy and radiation often do a great job of killing cancer but can also leave a damaging trail through perfectly healthy cells. In fact, according to one study funded by the National Cancer Institute, cruciferous veggies appeared to neutralize oxidative stress on the body’s cells caused by free radicals before it even had a chance to dangerously alter the cell makeup.
Dr Joel Fuhrman is a renowned MD, author of the book “Eat to Live”, a lecturer at Cornell University and, most recently was chosen by Whole Foods to help launch their employee health initiative “Health Starts Here.” In a post on Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Life blog, Dr. Fuhrman extolled the virtues of cruciferous vegetables saying they should definitely be at the forefront of the ultimate anti-cancer diet. That’s because of their glucosinolates, a substance that when chopped or blended transforms into isothiocyanates (ITC’s). According to Dr. Fuhrman,“ ITCs work synergistically to remove carcinogens, kill cancer cells, and prevent tumours from growing. Some ITCs can even help the body excrete estrogen and other hormones, reducing the risk for hormonal cancers.” And while all vegetables have amazing health value, the cruciferous types truly outperform when it comes to protecting our health. Dr. Fuhrman says “cruciferous vegetables are twice as powerful as other plant foods. In population studies, a 20% increase in plant food intake generally corresponds to a 20% decrease in cancer rates, but a 20% increase in cruciferous vegetable intake corresponds to a 40% decrease in cancer rates.” And bang for your buck is important when you’re just trying to get kids to eat their 5-9 servings.
Unlike some nutrients which benefit from cooking, these compounds are best eaten raw or just lightly cooked. Good news for many parents who know kids just might try a raw, crunchy bite (dipped in something yummy doesn’t hurt!) before they’d even consider eating that nasty green “thing” that made the house smell frankly, foul. And since chopping and blending are key to releasing all the benefits of nature’s little cancer blaster, these veggies lend themselves to being strategically “delivered”…think pureed soups and dips….imagine, you could have your kids dipping their broccoli in….wait for it….cauliflower dip! Oooh, the devious genius of it!
Here are a couple more ideas:
Steam broccoli, cauliflower and kale lightly. Blend with fresh roasted or canned tomatoes and use as a sauce on other veggies, fish, pasta, etc.
Try adding small amounts of steamed, cooled cruciferous veggies to sweet fruit smoothies. With enough pineapple and yogurt, strawberries and bananas, nobody going to notice the handful of health you tossed in.
Steam any of the cruciferous veggies and blend with yogurt or sour cream to use as a dip for raw veggies that your kids already love.
Swap steamed cauliflower for half of your usual mashed potatoes. Make them as you usually do with milk or butter etc and they taste like…..mashed potatoes!
And remember this little tip from a study conducted in Spain. Children who were allowed to choose the veggies they ate at meals consumed 80% more of them than those who were not. And yes, the kids in the study consistently stayed away from sulforaphane containing veggies so give options and aim to make these little super foods as appealing as possible.