What are cruciferous vegetables and what do they do?

Cruciferous - don’t try to say that three times fast. Cruciferous vegetables are a category of vegetables, and extremely nutritious ones at that. This group of veggies has grown in popularity over the past few years, as there is research that points to them helping prevent cancer (1). We will break down all the benefits and research done on cruciferous vegetables, but first, let’s figure out which vegetables are in this category.


Cruciferous vegetables:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Radish
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale 
  • Arugula 
  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage 
  • Turnips
  • Wasabi
  • Watercress


If you’re familiar with the majority of these vegetables, you’ll probably notice that these are all considered fairly healthy. This is because these veggies are filled with vitamins and minerals, so adding them to your diet is a great choice (2). Plus, cruciferous vegetables are full of fiber and are low in calories, so they can be a helpful in weight management. So, those people that eat tons of broccoli to help them lose weight may be onto something. You get to feel full and satisifed, as you get to eat a larger volume for less calories.


As mentioned, cruciferous vegetables are thought to help prevent cancer. Quite the benefit for food! While cancer prevention studies can be inconclusive, this area has actually been fairly well studied. There are studies that show the prevention of different types of cancer in relation to being paired with cruciferous vegetables. Some types of cancer have more researched data about this topic, especially ones related to weight and obesity. This is because there are at least a dozen types of cancer that are linked to obesity, and cruciferous vegetables help prevent weight gain (3).


So, if you’re convinced about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables, you’re likely wondering how much of them you should eat a day, as well as how you can incorporate more into your diet. The USDA recommends that you have at least 1.5-2.5 cups of cruciferous vegetables a week (4). When they’re so easy to incorporate into your diet, though, why stop there? You can aim to have a serving of cruciferous vegetables with at least one meal a day, everyday, and you’ll be sure to enjoy the health benefits of them.


Below is a list of ways you can up your cruciferous vegetable intake:

1. Spice up your salad

Since spinach and arugula are both cruciferous vegetables, you can easily add them to your salads to get in a serving. If you prefer a different base for your salads, you can always do a mix of the types so you can still enjoy your favorite flavors.

2. Make a sheet pan side

There’s a reason there are so many sheet pan recipes out there - it’s an easy and delicious way to prepare a bunch of different foods all at once. With variations aside, there are even plenty of vegetable-only sheet pan recipes out there (5). Plus, roasting vegetables is a great way to get even the pickiest eaters eating their veggies.

3. Get saucey

Pesto is an easy way to sneak in some arugula or spinach, and you can use it as a sauce for a cauliflower crust pizza. Cauliflower crust is delicious, and it’s gluten-free, too!

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