Power Plants

Kale’s tasty relatives are making a comeback in nutritional circles.


Kale has had a long run as a health-food star.Now its cousins-including bok choy,broccoli.Brussels sprouts,and cauliflower-are being toited as the cool kids of the produce aisle.But to scientists and nutritionists,these vegetable called crucifers,have always been hot.

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Benefits For Your Body

“Cruciferous vegetable are among the most nitritious becouse they are rich in several vitamins and minerals,plus they contain unique disease-fighting compounds,”says Maxine Siegel,R.D., who heads Consumer Reports’ food-testing department.Cruciferous vegetables are the most cammon dietary sources of glucosinolates.These are natural chemicals that give the veggies their pungent flavor and break down into cancer-protecting compounds.A study in the Annals of Oncology found that just one serving per week over a two-year period lowered the risk of breast,colon,and oral cancer by;17 percent;esophageal cancer by 28;and Kidney cancer, by 32 percent.

Each type of vegetables has different anti-cancer compounds,so it’s best to eat a variety.This vegetables family stands out for its rich bounty of vision-protecting carotenoids as well as fiber,folate,potassioum,and vitamins C,E,and K. Some of these nutrients might contribute to that cancer-fighting ability,but they could also be part of the reason crucifers help control inflammation and protect against heart disease. In an analysis of 134,796 people,researchers in China found that those who ate about 6 ounces per day reduced their risk of heart disease by about 20 percent compared with subject who ate an ounce or less.

Cooking and Serving Tips

Steam or srir-fry.  These cooking methods preserve the most glucosinolates.Aim for an al dente texture.Overcooking not only turns these vegetables an unappetizing color but also makes them mushy,gives them a stronger flavor than you might like,and diminishes the nutrient content. Try Brussels sprout chips. Remove the leaves from the base. Toss with olive oil and bake at 350′ F for  about 20 minutes or until crispy,turning every 5 minutes.

Make a slaw .Season thinly sliced raw cabbage with rice-wine vinegar and olive oil.Use as a side dish or as a topping for fish tacos.Test-tube studies suggest that cabbage’s sulfur compounds make the selenium in fish a more potent cancer fighter.

Hang on to broccoli leaves and stems. Mix it with milder greens such as baby spinach and pair with sweet and creamy flavors such as lemon juice,avocado,and apple slices to balance out the strong flavor.

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The Power of Purple

Purple cauliflower-and other purple veggies and grains–aren’t new.Until the 17th century,when the Dutch introduced orange pigment to carrots in celebration of the Dutch royal family,many carrots were purple.And purple potatoes were reportedly hot sellers in 18th century Parisian markets.Now produce purveyors and marketers are hoping American shoppers will discover again the power of purple,and the campaign seems to be working.Whole Foods listed purple produce as one of its top food trends for 2017.

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“Purple vegetables get their color from anthocyanins,a naturaly accuring antioxidant that has been linked ti a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food-testing program.But Check labels on packaged foods carefully.

“Purple cereal,chips,or other products may have just as many calories,sugars,and sodium as the less colorful options,” she says.

What about taste? “There ins’t a discernible difference between the taste of purple and standard-colored varieties,”Siegel says.

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