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Healthy Cruciferous Vegetable Menu

Martha Stewart Living, November 2003

Mom was right when she said to finish your broccoli. Making sure you eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, kale, collard greens, broccoli rabe, and brussels sprouts) may significantly reduce your risk of various types of cancer.

Named for the cross-shaped flowers they bear, crucifers contain a wide variety of disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals -- including carotenoids, vitamin C, and indoles, which scientists believe may stave off the growth of cancerous cells in the stomach, colon, and lungs. Kale, collard greens, and turnip greens provide calcium as well; brussels sprouts, iron. And all crucifers are also sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber.

Health experts recommend eating at least three servings of crucifers each week. The vegetables are easy to steam, saute, or roast -- methods that preserve their vibrant flavor. If you choose to boil them, be mindful of the clock; cooked too long, they may give off an unpleasant odor as they release sulfur compounds into the air, not to mention that they lose valuable nutrients. (Interestingly, adding a walnut in its shell to the cooking water can prevent the undesirable smell.)

The recipes on these pages offer creative ways to incorporate these vegetables into your diet. For a light meal, serve our hearty turnip and broccoli rabe hash topped with a poached egg.

A bowl of creamy broccoli soup, made with the stems as well as the florets, is a delicious main course for lunch or first course for dinner; floating cheddar toasts add some crunch. And spice up any entree with a fragrant side dish such as curried cauliflower or sauteed kale and red onions -- all recipes that would surely please Mom.

Do You Know?
Broccoli with purplish or dark-green florets have high levels of beta-carotene.

Turnip Hash with Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Toasts
Roasted Curried Cauliflower
Tuscan Kale with Caramelized Onions and Red-Wine Vinegar