Cruciferous vegetables are among some of the world’s first plants to have been regularly consumed by human populations; in fact, they have been a staple of the Chinese diet for thousands of years. The Latin word crucifer is the root of the term “cruciferous,” as the flowers of these vegetables sprout four petals that form a cross. While Grandma’s cabbage soup may be the only thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the cruciferous, the family is quite large and contains such vegetables as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, rapini, radish, daikon, Brussels sprouts, and collards.
Cruciferous vegetables have remarkable health benefits that provide worthy cause for their being such a long-standing staple in our ancestors’ diets. They are an excellent source of calcium (one cup of broccoli contains almost the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk!), magnesium, vitamins A and C, and beta carotene. Yet what makes cruciferous vegetables the powerhouse of the plants is their incredible phytochemical composition. These plant-derived chemical compounds have the ability to ward off carcinogens and inhibit cancer formation. In one recent study, it was found that men who ate at least 1.5 cups of these vegetables a week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by more than 40%. In addition, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have confirmed that the cruciferous contain anti-cancer, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Not too bad for Grandma’s cabbage soup!