What to eat instead of kale
It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault.
She made kale cool, now every juice, cookbook, insta-worthy smoothie and hipster health food cafe has cashed in on the glorified ‘superfood.’
Sure, the bitter green veg contains a truckload of benefits – (it’s good for heart, bones, skin, blood pressure and asthma) but if you can’t stand the taste (and quite honestly, we don’t blame you) introducing its cruciferous cousins – leafy, stalky veggies will do just as well as hipster kale. And they won’t taste as bad.
Cauliflower, for example, is taking over the world. It’s being made into pizza, rice, mash, you name it! Plus all those other veggies we loved to hate as kids – cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli – are officially making a comeback.
And they’re not just tastier than kale, the extended cruciferous family can also cure hangovers, repair skin damage, boost libido, up brain power and fight off cancer.
Researchers at South Dakota State University placed human cervical cancer cells in a Petri dish with phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC – an enzyme found in cruciferous veggies – including cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and broccoli) and within 24 hours, 75 per cent of the cancer cells had died.
Cruciferous veggies also contain glucosinolates – special anti-cancer molecules proven to fight off everything from colon, prostate, lung and breast cancer, and they help keep the gut healthy too.
Scientists have found that the high protein levels in cruciferous vegies can activate a gene called the T-bet, which help create healthy immune cells that keep bad bacteria out of the intestine.
There’s a downside to upping your cabbage intake though, and we all know what it is: flatulence.
But it’s been proven that producing gas can actually be a sign that the microbes in the gut are getting nutrients – so that broccoli you’ve been munching is nature’s way of producing healthy gut bacteria (despite the unpleasant side effect).
Slightly turned off? Don’t be, there are so many other (fart-justifiably) awesome things about these veggies.
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1. They can aid in weight loss.
Harvard University found a direct link between cruciferous veggies and weight reduction thanks to their high fibre, low GI nutritional content (note: more so in broccoli and Brussels sprouts versus cabbage which has less fibre and a higher-glycaemic index).
2. They are brimming with essential nutrients
A key reason Bodypass nutritionist Rachael Javes believes is fuelling the trend back to stalked veggies.
“While they have massive health benefits, they are back in vogue because of their high protein value, their high iron levels – they have more iron than any other vegetable groups – and their high calcium levels.”
Meaning whether you’re in the gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan or non-dairy bracket (or all of the above) cruciferous veggies have got all your dietary needs covered.
Basically, without having to try, chomping on a few cruciferous veggies regularly will give you everything you need to stay healthy.
3. They can help a hangover
“Rich in detoxifying sulphur, chlorine and B6, cabbage is a high fibre cruciferous veggie that’s been used to assist with the metabolism of alcohol and it’s by-product acetaldehyde for centuries,” says naturopath Kirsten Shanks.
“The high lactic acid works to relieve headaches so the night before drinking, juice a cabbage and make some power shots for the morning after. Or for maximum nutritional benefit boil up a cabbage, keep the water for drinking and munch on the boiled leaves for fibre.”
4. They can boost performance in the bedroom
“The more estrogen men carry, the less sex-drive promoting testosterone they have. Brussels sprouts have high indole-3-carbinol levels – a compound that helps the liver eliminate excessive estrogen,” says Shanks.
“By adding more Brussels sprouts to your male partner’s diet, it promotes a healthy hormonal balance. They also have a rich source of zinc (known for its libido powers) so add them to the wok to really heat things up in the bedroom.”
5. They support sun damaged skin
“Broccoli contains high amounts of glucoraphanin, which converts into a detoxifying compound called sulforaphane – a powerful protector against UV damage,” says Shanks.
“As our skin is the largest organ in the body, the cells when activated (through brocolli) carry out a detoxification process that counteracts sun damage. Add broccoli to summer salads to support you through the sunnier months.”
Where to start
Not sure where to begin? Javes recommends starting with key all-rounders such as cauliflower and broccoli.
“Cauliflower has high levels of vitamin C – so as an anti-inflammatory it works with the body’s detox system and as an antioxidant it has great cancer prevention properties,” says Javes.
“Broccoli has high levels of vitamin K, fibre and vitamin C so it’s great for helping the digestive system, keeping you full for longer and improving the immune system. It also has high levels of folate, an important nutrient for pregnant mums that assists with embryo development.”
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How to cook with them
“Cauliflower is perfect in Indian dishes or to make ‘rice,’ broccoli can be eaten raw or steamed as an accompaniment or in a stir-fry and cabbage is great sliced finely and added to coleslaw,” says Javes.
As for dietary intake, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods Organisation, we should aim for at least ½ – 2 cups per day, or at the least – 2-3 times per week (or half a cup per day) in order to activate those cancer-fighting cells.
Roasted cauliflower with lemon scented garden herbs and pomegranate
Recipe from The Healthy Chef.
1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 brown onion
Thinly sliced handful roasted almonds, chopped or pine nuts or Dukkah
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch mint leaves,
Chopped seeds from one pomegranate
1/2 teaspoon sea salt and pepper
1.Heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a good heavy based pan.
2. Add the crushed fennel seed and cinnamon followed by the cauliflower.
3. Sauté over a low to medium heat for 15 minutes or until browned on all sides. Make sure you stir the cauliflower every few minutes just to make sure it cooks evenly.
4. Add almonds at this point.
5. While your cauliflower is pan roasting – brown the onion in another pan until golden. This normally takes 10 – 15 minutes.
6. Take the cauliflower off the heat and then spoon into a mixing bowl.
7. Add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
8. Add your parsley, mint and pomegranate then toss through.
9. Spoon onto a serving platter and top with browned onion and extra herbs. 9. To serve- add a generous spoon of goats curd, natural yoghurt, tahini, Persian feta or baba ganoush.
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