Something I believe strongly in is the power of food to heal our bodies. Food is a wonderful ally to prevent illness, to fight chronic health issues and to aid traditional medicine for a faster recovery.
And when we’re thinking about food as medicine, it’s crucial to analyze the so-called “superfoods” first. Each month I’ll dedicate one post to one of these superfoods that I’ve been eating lately to see the benefits they have for our bodies and how to add them to our diets. But before we start, I’m sure many of you are wondering what makes a food “super”. It’s considered a superfood when it has a very high level of nutrients, such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids, that are considered beneficial to a person’s health.
One way to determine this is a scoring system called ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman that rates whole foods on their nutrient content. To do so, the formula measures how healthy of a food is when you divide its nutrient per calorie. This gives a result from 1,000 to 0, being 1000 the most nutrient dense food.
To get this series started I wanted to dig deeper into a category that is by itself considered a superfood: green, leafy vegetables. Although all the vegetables that fall into this category are extremely beneficial, I’ll be reviewing them individually, since they all have particular properties to highlight.
As a category, green, leafy vegetables, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are wonderful for your brain health. They help slow cognitive decline, because they are rich in vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene. Another great benefit is that they can help inhibit the growth of cancer cells, because they contain glucosinolates.
Get acquainted with Bok Choy
Also known as Pak Choi, this type of Chinese cabbage is a bomb of nutrients. Although most green, leafy vegetables are best eaten raw, Bok Choy is recommended to be cooked. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be eaten raw, it’s possible to have it in a salad, but because of its taste and nutrients it’s better when it’s cooked. I particularly love it in ramen soups (my recipe here).
Bok Choy is ranked sixth in the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, with a score of 895. This vegetable is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. Chinese cabbage is 95% water, 2% carbohydrates, 1% protein and less than 1% fat.
One of its biggest benefits is that it provides a big percentage of what you should consume daily of vitamins A, C and K.
Here are five things Bok Choy can do for your body:
- Diminishes chances to get cancer – There are several compounds that can help prevent cancer and that are found in this vegetable, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, folate and selenium. These compounds are also antioxidants, which means they prevent cell damage from free radicals. Selenium, in particular, slows down the growth rate of tumors.
- Fights inflammation – Green, leafy vegetables have a flavonoid called quercetin. This nutrient can help fight inflammation in the body. Inflammation is one of the worst things we can deal with because it affects our system in a number of ways, from arthritis to heart disease, so having something there to keep an eye on it is always useful.
- Takes care of your heart – In order for your blood vessels to be strong and healthy they should receive vitamin B6, and Bok Choy is rich in that. Blood pressure is also key for a healthy heart, and potassium, magnesium and calcium — which are also found in this vegetable — help reduce it. In particular, potassium lowers high blood pressure caused by ingesting a lot of sodium, which is common in diets that include a lot of processed foods.
- Keeps your eyes and skin sharp – Carrots aren’t the only ones that promote healthy eyesight. Although it’s not orange, Bok Choy also has beta-carotene and vitamin A. For your skin, Vitamin C is essential. It fights free radicals that hurt its looks and texture, stimulates the production of collagen to prevent signs of aging, and reduces the risk of damage caused by the sun, smoke and pollution.
- Strengthens your bones – People don’t usually think that vegetables are good for their bones, but there are some, like Chinese Cabbage, that are actually high in calcium. However, calcium is not the only responsible for a strong bone structure, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and vitamin K are essential to keep your skeleton sturdy, all of them in this vegetable.
These are only a few things that Bok Choy can do for you, but certainly not the only ones. This green vegetable is also good at keeping a healthy immune system, increases your consumption of folate, helps your body detoxify, improves your sleep and helps with memory.
Have you tried it? Share your recipes! Would love to try them out.