The recent popularity of repurposing cauliflower as a rice and pizza crust alternative is exciting, as has made it somewhat of a household staple.  Get to know why this vegetable and its cruciferous cousins belong in your fridge.


Cruciferous vegetables are powerful, health-promoting foods. In addition to their superstar status for high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, they contain compounds that have been well studied in their ability to calm inflammation and promote detoxification.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, cruciferous vegetables reduce the risk of cancer more than other vegetables. This may be due to their high concentrations of sulfur-containing glucosinolates, which are responsible for the “eggy” smell of vegetables in this family. Ample amounts of antioxidants may also contribute to the crucifers’ disease-fighting power.  To retain the availability of these cancer-fighting compounds, it’s important to avoid overcooking and lightly steam, blanch, roast, or stir fry to avoid overcooking.

Here are a few all-star crucifers, along with cooking ideas to include them in your weekly meal plan.

1. Broccoli

The delicate florets of this vegetable make it irresistible.  Like most crucifers, its strong flavor mellows with cooking. Lightly steam and add to salads, roast it until it’s crispy as a side dish, or chop and add to stir fries.  You can even slice broccoli through the stem to create “steaks” and grill it.

2. Cauliflower

It’s impossible to ignore the ubiquity of cauliflower these days – it’s grated to make “rice”, puréed to make pizza crust, and blended into soups for a creamy texture.  The reason it does so well across a variety of uses is because, once cooked, its bitterness mellows and it takes on the flavor of anything you pair with it. Try making a creamy cauliflower soup, or simply roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper.

3. Kale

For some, kale is an acquired taste.  Its incredible cellular integrity is responsible for the waxy, chewy mouthfeel.  Shredding and massaging raw kale significantly improves the experience, as does cooking the vegetable.  If eating a trough-sized kale salad isn’t your thing, chop and add it to soups, stews, or slow-cooker dishes.  It really holds up to the heat and will become soft and sweet.

4. Brussels sprouts

These cute little packages deliver big on nutrition, flavor and texture. Making them part of your next sheet pan dinner is the answer for anyone who is busy and wants to enjoy a healthy dinner with minimal prep time.  Try whisking olive oil with a touch of maple syrup and a bit of mustard. Toss cut sprouts with mixture and roast. The flavor combination really complements the intensity of the sprouts.

5. Arugula

Who knew arugula was a cruciferous vegetable?  If you let arugula overgrow in your garden, you’ll see the telltale signs that this is a broccoli relative – little florets will appear at the end of the shoots.  This is one of the easiest crucifers you can consume as it is readily available pre-washed in the grocery store and does not require cooking. Its spicy leaves make it the perfect base for a salad loaded with vegetables and dressed with a clingy vinaigrette.

Adapted from the original article.

Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN is the founder of Living Plate, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to inspiring wellness through nutrition education that incorporates food experience.  Jeanne develops evidence-based nutrition programming and meal planning tools to help organizations and other dietitians encourage behavior change in their communities.  Learn more at Living Plate.