Green Being

The Food Pyramid: Eat Your Greens!

Green leafy vegetables are an important component to any healthy diet.

Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, and Kale

”Eat your greens! Eat your vegetables! Make sure to get plenty of fiber!” may have been your mother’s dietary advice. And she would be right to say so.

These vegetables are all members of the Brassicacaea family which consists of a wide variety of commercial crops such as rapeseed (used to make canola oil) to the different varieties of kale you might see at a local farmer’s market. In between, you will find arugula, cauliflower, and horseradish, amongst others.

Why do we eat them?

Phytonutrients are a wide range of biologically active chemical compounds that are found in a variety of whole, plant-based foods. Specific kinds of these nutrients are more prevalent in certain foods than others.

For example, the phytonutrients found in the vegetable members of the Brassicacaea or Crucifera families are specifically linked to the blocking of carcinogens, acting as antioxidants within the body, and slowing of tumor growth.

Whereas, flavanoids, which are found in soy, citrus, and onions, are known for minimizing inflammation and boosting the immune system.

In addition to these healthful aspects, the broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage family of vegetables is also a significant source for dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamins.

Health & Environmental Benefits

What is good for the body is also good for the planet. For example, lentils, a type of legume, when planted with kale, creates a beneficial relationship between the two crops. Kale serves as an early spring cover to sprouting lentils, which in turn affix nitrogen back into the soil for future yields.

And this dynamic duo has great potential in helping to solve the problems of malnutrition associated with both undernourished and obese populations.

Brassica in the Kitchen

The culinary applications abound considering the variety and uses for this group of vegetables. This is true from a cultural perspective also. For example, cabbage is fermented and preserved in both German cuisine as sauerkraut and as kimchi in Korea. There is also the ubiquitous rocket arugula and pear salad often found on menus in the United States or crispy Brussels sprouts at the local gastropub.


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Juge, N., Mithen, R. F., & Traka, M. (2007). Molecular basis for chemoprevention by sulforaphane: A comprehensive review. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 64(9), 1105-1127. doi:10.1007/s00018-007-6484-5

Khan, A. (2018). Phytochemicals and their role in curing fatal diseases: A Review. Pure and Applied Biology, 7(4). doi:10.19045/bspab.2018.700193

Migliozzi, M., Thavarajah, D., Thavarajah, P., & Smith, P. (2015). Lentil and Kale: Complementary Nutrient-Rich Whole Food Sources to Combat Micronutrient and Calorie Malnutrition. Nutrients, 7(11), 9285-9298. doi:10.3390/nu7115471