RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Although the oft-repeated request to “Eat your broccoli” has been heard around dinner tables for some time, it gains new resonance now that a study has linked cruciferous veggies—broccoli, brussels sprouts, and the like—to long life and healthy hearts. Since Asian populations consume lots of broccoli and cruciferous vegetables, researchers from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Shanghai Cancer Institute in Shanghai, China, set out to evaluate the potential health effects of eating these foods. The researchers studied the dietary intakes of more than 130,000 Chinese adults. They found that, overall, a higher fruit and vegetable intake was linked with a lower risk of mortality, and that the pattern was particularly strong when it came to intake of cruciferous vegetables; the results were primarily a lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
Cooking broccoli and cruciferous vegetables can be a challenge if you're not a fan of their distinct flavors. The cruciferous vegetable family’s members range from the well-known representatives—broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, and cauliflower—to more surprising siblings, such as kohlrabi, turnips, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, and watercress. For tips on making the most of these healthy vegetables, we turned to chef Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, who recommends buying your produce from your local farmer’s market or CSA. Says Keevil: “This helps promote a true community environment because we are helping our neighbors.”
Tips for cooking cruciferous veggies:
For those who haven’t acquired a taste for broccoli, Keevil suggests getting some color on it: “For example, place broccoli in a 400-degree oven until tender (about 15 minutes) so you get some of that roasted flavor—plus, you’re not losing as many nutrients as you do when you boil it,” he says. After you remove the broccoli from the oven, drizzle it with homemade vinaigrette for an acidic kick.
“Deep-fry these for about 30 seconds and toss them in a bacon and caper vinaigrette,” suggests Keevil. Perhaps not the healthiest option, but it's hard not to wonder what deep-fried brussel sprouts taste like. Also see Maria Rodale's blog for Brussel Sprouts That Will Blow Your Mind, with further suggestions from her blog readers.