Move over spinach and kale and make room for bok choy. This Chinese cabbage has been popular in Asian dishes for centuries and is now becoming a rising star in the world of superfoods. It has a mild, sweet flavor and crispy texture that combines nicely with many dishes and can provide a refreshing variety to your daily intake of vegetables. Additionally, it has a powerful complement of nutrients that provide many wonderful health benefits.
Bok choy is part of the cruciferous vegetable group that includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, arugula, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Cruciferous vegetables are well known for their cancer-fighting properties, heart health benefits, and their ability to support detoxification. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables provide nutrients that help in the production of glutathione. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant. Not only is it a master detoxifier but it is also responsible for recycling and recharging every antioxidant in our body.
Like all members of the cruciferous vegetable family, bok choy has unique sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates have been associated with reducing the risk of many different cancers including breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. These substances may help the body eliminate carcinogens, prevent cancer cells from proliferating, and may alter metabolism to stop the development of hormone-sensitive cancers, like breast cancers.
Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Benefits
Bok choy is a rich source of core antioxidants, like vitamins C and A, that are necessary in the fight against cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. Bok choy provides a full spectrum of over 70 antioxidants all of which work to prevent cell damage in different ways. for instance, bok choy contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that protect the eyes and lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Bok choy also provides anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that help to fight unwanted inflammation. Like other dark leafy greens, it is also an excellent source of the flavonoid quercetin which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects which can ward off many chronic health issues. Quercetin can also be a wonderful natural anti-histamine, so a perfect ally during allergy season.
One of my favorite things about bok choy is its benefits to the bone. It is an excellent source of so many of the vitamins and minerals needed to support bone health including vitamins K and C and minerals calcium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. All of which play a crucial role in maintaining bone structure and strength. Bok choy is also low in oxalates, a naturally occurring compound found in plants that can prevent the absorption of calcium and other minerals. Many high calcium vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, and swiss chard are also high in oxalates and therefore can reduce the absorption of these nutrients.
Bok choy also supplies many nutrients needed for heart health. In particular, bok choy provides folate as well as vitamins B12 and B6 which are necessary for removing the amino acid homocysteine from the blood. This is important because high levels of homocysteine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium are all important for regulating blood pressure as well as heart rate.
How to Enjoy Bok Choy
Bok choy is a very versatile vegetable that has a mild, sweet flavor and crispy texture that you will enjoy eating raw or cooked. It can be shredded raw and tossed with other fresh vegetables to make a salad, it can be added to soups and stews, sauté it, or used in your favorite stir fry. You can consume all parts of the bok choy plant, including its white stems and green leaves.
However, it is important to chew raw bok choy well or chop prior to cooking.
Like all cruciferous vegetables, bok choy contains an enzyme called myrosinase which needs to be activated in order to convert the glucosinolates to its beneficial phytochemical sulforaphane. Chopping and chewing are needed to break down the plant cells to activate the myrosinase.
Cruciferous vegetables have so many wonderful health benefits that we should strive to get at least one serving a day. Bok choy’s ease of preparation, versatility in recipes, and nutrient density make it a superstar in this food category. Although often overlooked when meal planning, bok choy is a delicious and beneficial addition to anyone’s diet!
Check out 2 of my favorite bok choy recipes: