Dive into the wonderful world of Brassicas. Get familiar with what these vegetables are and typical examples, many of which you may already be familiar with.
We’ll share the facts on Brassica health benefits, as well as the potential disadvantages of eating them. You’ll also come to learn whether they’re appropriate for keto and paleo diets.
Lastly, we share our tried-and-true recipes to prepare Brassicas. All of our methods prioritize preserving the nutrients, so you get the most out of your meals.
Table of Contents
What Are Brassicas?
Brassica is a term that refers to any plant within the Brassica genus. In turn, this genus belongs to the Brassicaceae family—or the mustard family.
That’s right; this genus is responsible for your favorite spicy condiment. Seeds are harvested from one of several plants to make mustard.
Believed to hail from the Mediterranean region originally, they’re now cultivated worldwide. Mustard isn’t the only agriculturally-important crop this genus is renowned for.
There are also plenty of vegetable-producing Brassicas too. These types are often called cabbages or cruciferous vegetables.
Many have distinctive, bitter tastes and strong, pungent smells when raw. Considering their piquant origins, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The flavor and textures of certain Brassicas can be altered dramatically with the right preparation.
For instance, raw whole Brussels sprouts can be tough to chew with a sharp taste. When cooked, they are delightfully tender, savory, and a little sweet.
The majority of cruciferous vegetables are versatile: they can be consumed raw or cooked. They have established health benefits as they’re packed with valuable nutrients.
Be warned that a cauliflower salad or cabbage soup might not be a wise choice for everyone. Brassicas can have unpleasant effects that outweigh the good stuff—we’ll cover that shortly.
List of Brassica Vegetables
A large number of vegetables we know and love are Brassicas. These greens are relished across the globe in various cuisines and cultures:
- Bok Choy (also known as Chinese cabbage).
- Brussels sprouts.
- Collard greens.
- Kohlrabi (also known as German turnips).
- Napa cabbage.
- Rutabaga (known by multiple names: the neep, snagger, swede, etc).
- Wasabi (typically sold as a powder).
Health Benefits of Brassicas
If you’ve read the list above and realized Brassicas are a staple part of your diet, we have good news. This diverse genus of vegetables has plenty of health-boosting properties.
If you’re still cringing at the memory of eating your broccoli as a child, try to be open-minded. There are lots of reasons to consider eating Brassicas:
Rich in Helpful Vitamins and Minerals
Unless you’re a supplement fanatic, most of us could use more vitamins and minerals. Most Brassica vegetables contain crucial micronutrients like vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Minerals to note include calcium and iron. You’re not obliged to partake of dairy products or eat meat to get either of these substances.
Bok Choy, kale, collards, broccoli—there are many Brassicas high in bone-building calcium. Iron keeps up red blood cell production—a deficiency can cause anemia.
Vitamin A plays a role in replacing skin cells, as well as our ability to see well in poorly-lit conditions.
Aside from being used in various topical creams, vitamin E works internally to fight nasty free radicals in the body.
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is essential for a functional immune system. If we don’t get enough of it, we can end up fatigued and more likely to get sick.
Orange juice and other citrus fruits aren’t the only way to stock up on it. Half a cup of cooked broccoli will provide you a whopping 85 percent of your required daily value.
Vitamin K is one of the lesser-recognized vitamins, but no less important. It helps our blood to clot—and may also improve bone density.
Leafy green Brassicas like cabbage, collards, and kale are a great way to acquire it. A single cup of raw kale contains 141 percent of your required daily dose of this vitamin.
If the nutritional value doesn’t motivate you to eat more cruciferous vegetables, reflect on calorie conservation. These greens are nearly devoid of fats and sugars, and usually low in carbohydrates.
High in Dietary Fiber
Aside from being nearly sugarless and fat-free, Brassicas can help you cut down on your calories in another way. They’re abundant in dietary fiber, which keeps you feeling full.
That means a hearty serving of Brassicas should lower craving for snacks later on. It’s proven that consuming dietary fiber is associated with lower body weight.
Feasting on fibrous vegetables can lower your risk of diseases. Dietary fiber can lower your chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions.
Natural Sources of Glucosolinates
Glucosolinates are plentiful in Brassica vegetables. These sulfur-containing compounds become activated by processing or chewing.
They have multiple advantages, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and metabolic. A major perk is their cancer-fighting abilities.
Our diets alone can’t prevent cancer entirely—nothing can do that yet, unfortunately. Still, several studies have linked cruciferous vegetable intake to decreased cancer risks.
This is due to all the helpful compounds they contain, particularly the glucosinolates. Studies have demonstrated they lower risks of such common cancers like breast, lung, and prostate.
Are There Any Cons to Brassicas?
For some individuals, Brassicas are best avoided. They may contribute to the formation of goiters for people with dysfunctional thyroids.
Kale, cabbage, and broccoli are recognized as typical triggers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Otherwise, you shouldn’t have any serious reactions to Brassicas unless you’re allergic.
There is one more con that we’re obliged to mention: gassiness. We’re all familiar with the jokes about certain vegetables in this family, resulting in embarrassing flatulence.
Don’t worry, if vegetables don’t usually cause gas in you, you’ll probably be fine. If you do notice that certain Brassicas provoke wind in you, don’t eat them.
Are Brassicas Paleo-Friendly?
The Paleo diet is all about keeping your diet fresh, nutritious, and natural. Specifically, you need to steer clear of foods that didn’t exist during the Paleolithic era.
Like many vegetables, Brassicas have been around for centuries. That means they’re both accepted and encouraged by proponents of the Paleo diet.
You’ll also be getting a dose of those beneficial micronutrients we talked about above. By now, you know that there are enough Brassica vegetables for you to find at least one that you like.
Are Brassicas Keto-Friendly?
The unbreakable principle of the ketogenic diet is to cut down on carbohydrates. The more successful you are at doing this, the faster you’ll attain ketogenesis.
That’s the metabolic state that boosts fat loss by burning ketones for energy. Staying in ketosis is simple yet challenging: you have to keep limiting your consumption of carbs.
Fruits may not be ideal with their high sugar content, but greens certainly are. Aside from being keto-friendly, Brassicas are also healthful and filling—a win-win.
How to Cook Brassicas
The nutritional value of a food can be different depending on whether it’s raw or cooked. This is particularly true of vegetables and legumes.
To get the most out of your Brassicas, you want to preserve their micronutrients. What’s the best way to do this?
There’s no simple answer—both methods have their pros. Steam cooking improves the capacity of these veggies to lower your chances of cancer and heart disease:
- Brussels sprouts.
- Collard greens.
- Mustard greens.
Eating freshly picked brassicas can stock you with anti-cancerous isothiocyanates. The catch is that they have to be eaten within eight hours of being taken off the plant.
We’ll give you some of our yummy nutrient-saving, Paleo-friendly recipes. You can always get creative and adapt them to your tastes (literally):
Partake in this simple yet flavorful dish. Kale is the ideal complement to salmon, which is rich in wholesome fatty acids. There’s also a dash of bacon in this salad.
This delectable mix of sliced tenderloin and soft sprouts is a satisfying main course. Garnished with almonds and cranberries, this meal takes only 20 minutes to prepare.
A spicy side or a standalone dish, pepper-loves will adore this piquant take on broccoli. Seasoning it is the hardest part—your oven will do the rest.
Vegetarians will delight in this scrumptious sweet and sour Instant Pot cabbage. It’s a breeze to make, and meat-eaters can easily combine it with a protein of choice.
Brussels sprouts make our list for the second time. Simply but deliciously seasoned with bacon to top them off, you’ll enjoy tucking into this dish.
This refreshing take on the Middle Eastern staple is perfect for a light snack or meal. You can also serve it up as an exotic and healthy appetizer to friends and family.
Who says salads can’t be a satiating main course? This kale and sweet potato salad with cranberries should keep you comfortably full until your next meal.
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