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Oct 17, 2017 12:00 PM

Author: Laura Holtrop-Kohl, MS, RD

Tomato avocado kale salad

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI. This blog post is shared from our partners at Harmons. Learn about the Cancer-Fighting Foods Shopping List created by HCI and Harmons.

Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Cruciferae family, also known as the mustard family. You may also hear them referred to as the “the brassicas.” Whatever you call them, these vegetables are beautiful, stinky cancer-fighting machines that can either taste delightfully sweet and decadent or they can tragically bring back flashbacks of family vacations to Yellowstone National Park’s sulfurous geysers.

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and a helpful compound called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are key. Researchers are giving glucosinolates the credit for crucifers’ ability to give cancer a kick in the pants (figuratively speaking). However, they are also what give these vegetables their pungent and bitter properties. Knowing this, it is not surprising that the two vegetables with the highest amounts of glucosinolates, kale and Brussels sprouts, are rumored to be American’s least-accepted vegetables. Good news: I have some tips on how to tone down the bitterness and bring out the sweetness.

Use an acidic ingredient

Raising the pH of the cruciferous dish can help tone down the bitterness. Do this by splashing on some vinegar or citrus juice (lemon or lime are especially good options). My favorite combinations include:

  • Lemon or lime juice with olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • Rice vinegar with sesame oil
  • Orange juice and ginger in a kale smoothie

Salt (lightly)

Salting the cruciferous vegetable can also cut the bitter and emphasize the other flavors these vegetables offer.

Don’t overcook

Whether you are sautéing, roasting, or steaming, avoid the limp, slimy, sulfurous effect by cooking just until they are tender (or better yet, leave them al dente for a slight crunch).

Massage the leafy ones

Couldn't we use a little more massage in our life? Spending a few minutes massaging hearty leafy greens like kale softens them up and helps them lose their bitterness. If you are eating them raw, let them “marinate” in an oil and vinegar dressing for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Cruciferous vegetables include our favorites:
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Turnip
And also many leafy greens like:
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Arugula
  • Watercress
  • Bok choy
As well as some that are a bit more obscure:
  • Kohlrabi
  • Ginger
  • Wasabi
  • Radish

And many more! Try Harmon's Tomato Avocado Kale Salad for a tasty intro to cruciferous veggies.

Laura Holtrop-Kohl, MS, RD

Harmons Dietitian

cancer prevention nutrition recipe

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