Ah, the versatile cruciferous vegetable…crunchy cauliflower and broccoli, perfectly adorable Brussels sprouts, spicy arugula, hearty leafy greens, over-sized cabbage heads, delicate bok choy, zesty radishes, earthy turnups, stinky sulfur – wait, what?  

Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which are sulfur-containing compounds.  These compounds are responsible for that strong aroma and at times bitter flavor.  You might think overcooking will rid the unwanted flavor and smell, but alas, it will not.  What it will do, unfortunately, is break down these vegetables’ healthful nutrients.   

Most importantly, cruciferous vegetables raise the bar when it comes to cancer-fighting properties and overall nutrition.  They are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and selenium.  Research suggests that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower risk of certain cancers including breast, pancreatic, bladder, lung, prostate, and colon. 

While some of us enjoy the distinct aroma and flavor of cruciferous vegetables, some of us don’t.  For those in the latter – it’s all in the preparation!  There are plenty of ways to prepare this unique and interesting family of crunchy and colorful vegetables to your liking.  Here are just a few: 

  • Roasting – Softens the vegetables’ texture, caramelizes sugars, and neutralizes bitter-tasting compounds. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings and add vegetables to baking sheet.  Roast 25-30 minutes (depending on which vegetables you are using) or until a fork easily slides through the vegetable. 
  • Steaming – Fill a medium pan with approximately 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Add vegetables, cover, and cook 2-3 minutes or until tender. 
  • Sautéing – Heat pan over medium, add oil (just enough to thinly cover the bottom of pan) and heat until shimmering. Add chopped vegetables and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender. 
  • Grilling – Heat grill to medium-high, drizzle vegetables on both sides with olive oil and seasonings (if desired), and grill in a single layer for 3-4 minutes (or longer depending on vegetable) on each side. 
  • Spice ‘em up! – Add salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic, turmeric, cayenne pepper, etc. 
  • Get saucy! – Drizzle a homemade stir-fry sauce, hot sauce, aioli, etc. 
  • Raw – Dip into your favorite dip such as hummus, guacamole, salsa, bean dip, tzatziki, etc. 
  • Neutralize Bitter Greens (cue the notorious kale) – First, massage the leaves with your hands. Then add an acid such as lemon or vinegar to the leaves during preparation or pair them with something sweet like roasted carrots or fruit. 

By: Michele DiCristofaro MS, RD, LDN 

Resources: Science of Flavor: Cruciferous Vegetables