Eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts is important to help prevent heart disease, cancer and stroke. And according to a study out the University of Western Australia, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts in particular can help protect blood vessels, reducing the risk for stroke among older women.
Researchers studied the eating habits of 954 women over the age of 70 to help determine how consuming certain vegetables affected the blood vessels. Using ultrasound tests to measure the thickness of the carotid arteries, it was discovered that women who ate three or more portions of vegetables each day had 0.05mm thinner arteries than those who ate no vegetables. And according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, cruciferous vegetables were particularly effective in helping to protect against vascular disease. Even though the measured difference in the thickness of carotid arteries between the women appears tiny, reducing the thickness of blood vessels by just 0.1mm can reduce the risk for stroke by up to one fifth. Thicker blood vessels are linked with more fatty deposits that can raise blood pressure and restrict blood flow to the brain, increasing chances of having a stroke.
Although this particular study was carried out on women, researchers see no reason why men wouldn’t experience a similar benefit from increasing their vegetable consumption. Kale, turnips, bok choi, collard greens and cabbage are also considered cruciferous vegetables which are a good source of vitamin C and A as well as soluble fiber.
And before you turn up your nose at these humble veggies from the mustard family, fortunately for us, cooking methods have improved in recent years as research has discovered the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables and chefs have strived to make them more palatable. A far cry from your mother’s bland steamed sprouts, roasting cruciferous veggies in the oven with a little olive oil and sea salt and then tossing with balsamic vinegar or parmesan cheese will bring out their sweetness and improve flavor. Kale can be baked into crisps, used in a salad or blended into smoothies and cauliflower mashed or riced can take the place of starches in many dishes, lowering the calories and increasing vegetable intake without sacrificing flavor. Here’s a recipe to try at home.
Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts
A sweet balsamic vinegar and apple juice glaze makes Brussels sprouts more appealing.
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup 100-percent apple juice
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss. Spread Brussels sprouts in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
Add pecans to the baking sheet and stir. Roast 5 to 7 more minutes, or until Brussels sprouts are tender and slightly browned and pecans are golden.
Meanwhile, combine balsamic vinegar and apple juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about ¼ cup. Remove from heat.
Transfer Brussels sprout mixture to a large bowl; add cranberries. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, and toss until well blended. Serve immediately.
Serving size: ½ cup
Calories: 186; Total Fat: 8.7g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 180mg: Total Carbohydrate: 25.2g; Dietary Fiber: 5.3g; Protein: 4.4g.
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
For more information about adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet visit EatRight.org, for a beginner’s guide to cruciferous vegetables. To read the full study, follow this link to the JAHA. http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/7/8/e008391