Getting Sick of Kale?

Articles
October 18, 2013

Getting Sick of Kale?

Kale is all the rage and rightly so, it is a powerful food rich in nutrition – but there are other cruciferous vegetables that can provide you with the variety in taste and texture, with similar health benefits. Find out what they are here

Kale is all the rage and rightly so, it is a powerful food rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and more – but there are other cruciferous vegetables that can provide you with the variety in taste and texture, with similar health benefits, that your body and taste buds are looking for.

The entire cruciferous family contains vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, as well as chemicals known as glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing chemicals that are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables. They break down into several biologically active compounds that are being studied for possible anticancer effects.

Cruciferous vegetables are part of the Brassica genus of plants. They include: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, wasabi and more.

During food preparation, chewing, and digestion, (yet another reason to chew your food!) the glucosinolates are broken down to form biologically active anti-cancer compounds such as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates.  We hear a lot about these compounds in kale, but they are also found in all of the cruciferous vegetables mentioned above.

And here is another reason to eat your crucifers. A recent study found that immune cells essential to intestinal and overall health might be controlled by the leafy greens in our diet.

Researchers from the Walters + Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia identified a gene, called T-bet, that produces the innate lymphoid (immune) cells (ILCs), and responds to the foods we eat. ILCs promote good gut health by keeping unwanted bacteria out of the intestine, helping control or prevent conditions like cancer, food allergies, obesity, and inflammation.

So how exactly does our food interact with our genes? In this instance, the proteins in cruciferous vegetables interact with a cell surface receptor that switches on T-bet, possibly playing a role in producing the immune cells, according to researchers. “ILCs are essential for immune surveillance of the digestive system and this is the first time that we have identified a gene responsible for the production of ILCs,” said Dr. Gabrielle Belz in a Walters + Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research press release.

Dr. Belz goes on to say, “our research shows that, without the gene T-bet, the body is more susceptible to bacterial infections that enter through the digestive system. This suggests that boosting ILCs in the gut may aid in the treatment of these bacterial infections,” Dr Belz commented.

This type of research… “will give us more insight into how the food we eat influences our immune system and gut bacteria,” said Dr. Belz. 

The importance of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables has never been greater as we are learning every day about the subtle yet key factors that eating whole foods brings for our health. 

If kale is the only dark leafy green in your diet, SupermarketGuru suggests you get out there and try a different cruciferous vegetable every day (or every other day) of the week. You might find a few more vegetables that you like and can add to your diet, making it more flavorful and varied.

For more information on cancer and cruciferous vegetables click here