By our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.
The winter months are a good time to turn to the cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, for your daily helpings of greens. Watercress is also a crucifer, but comes into its own later in the year.
The crucifers have long been known for their health benefits but modern medical research has put the focus firmly on their anti-cancer properties. Studies have suggested that it is the crucifer content of a diet high in fruits and vegetables which helps prevent cancer. As well as containing polyphenols, which are found in many other fruits and vegetables, the cabbage family are particularly high in another group of phytochemicals known as the glucosinolates.
When a cruciferous vegetable is cooked or eaten raw, the glucosinolate content breaks down to give two very potent types of anti-cancer compound – the isothiocyanates and the indoles. However, the glucosinolates are very water soluble and the enzymes that release the anti-cancer compounds are very sensitive to heat. Therefore, overcooking cruciferous vegetables destroys most of their health benefits. This is why my recipes this month call for briefly cooked, or raw, cabbage.
LIGHT VEGETABLE SOUP
I can’t quite bring myself to juice cabbage. It’s illogical, I know, as I am quite happy to throw broccoli and kale into the juicer. Instead, I tried to recreate a sort of light minestrone (without the beans and pasta) that I had several times on a trip to Bologna in 2010.
Half a cabbage, finely shredded (I used a Sweetheart cabbage for this, but any of the firm green ones will do – you might try Savoy cabbage, for instance).
Two carrots, peeled and chopped into dice
100g of frozen petit pois
One litre vegetable stock
Heat the stock to boiling in a large saucepan and throw in the carrots. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes. Then add in the peas and cabbage and simmer for another five minutes, or till the cabbage wilts. While you are cooking the vegetables, stir in a tablespoon of tomato puree and a teaspoon of marmite to season. Serve in two large bowls.
One white cabbage, finely shredded
Four carrots, peeled and shredded
One white or red onion, finely shredded, or a bunch of finely chopped spring onions
Handful of mixed seeds
For the dressing
100g Greek yoghurt (higher in protein than regular yoghurt)
50g light mayonnaise
Mustard to taste
Beat the dressing ingredients and mix with the shredded vegetables. This coleslaw is good with other salads, baked potatoes and baked sweet potatoes.
LEEK AND CABBAGE STIR FRY
Two leeks, finely chopped
Half a firm green cabbage (I used the other half of the Sweetheart), finely shredded.
Heat some coconut oil, throw in the vegetables and stir fry till the cabbage wilts (not more than five minutes). Finish with a squeeze of lemon. Good with comfort food like mashed potato, carrot and swede and a couple of vegetarian sausages or vegeburgers.