Brassica Vegetables: 19 Types + Benefits, According To Experts
We know consuming a variety of produce and vegetables can optimize your nutrition intake and that the four main types include greens, nightshades, root, and cruciferous vegetables. But to break it down even further, let's look at cruciferous veggies’ counterpart: the ever-nutritious group of brassica vegetables. Part of the genus Brassica species, according to research from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Agricultural University of Cracow1, these are actually the most highly consumed vegetables in the world.
"Brassica vegetables are part of the mustard family and can also be categorized as cruciferous vegetables from the cabbage family," says Cory Ruth, RDN, registered dietitian and CEO of The Women's Dietitian. "Brassica vegetables are some of the most nutritious vegetables you can put on your plate."
Types of brassica vegetables:
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Swiss chard
Health benefits of brassica vegetables.
Brassica vegetables have an impressive lineup of health benefits. "Along with plenty of tummy-friendly fiber and phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties, known as glucosinolates, most brassica veggies are rich in vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone health, as well as folate, which is a B vitamin critical for building red blood cells and supporting the nervous system," says Desiree Nielsen, R.D., author of Good for Your Gut: A Plant-Based Digestive Health Guide and Nourishing Recipes for Living Well. She adds that many brassica vegetables like cabbage and broccoli also contain plenty of vitamin C, which can help support your skin health and immune system.
Brassica vs. cruciferous vegetables.
While brassica and cruciferous vegetables aren't all that different, Ruth says "Brassica veggies can be categorized as cruciferous vegetables," as opposed to the other way around. Think of cruciferous vegetables as the umbrella category, whereas brassica vegetables are a subtype.
How to cook with brassica vegetables.
If you're not looking to chomp down on a raw head of broccoli, we hear you. That's why we're taking our experts' lead with their simple yet drool-worthy brassica vegetable cooking ideas: "They're delicious no matter how you prepare them, whether you grill, bake, or sauté them," says Ruth. "I prefer roasting my brassica vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt, pepper, and garlic." She notes that you can even eat many of them raw, like kale and arugula in salad, which can help preserve some of their nutrients that can be lost to high heat.
Instead of tearing off huge chunks or leaves of these dense vegetables, Nielsen advises shredding them in a salad or slaw, sautéing them with garlic and olive oil, or simmering them in a rich coconut curry. "When in doubt, roast it!" Nielsen says. "Roasting brings out the subtle sweetness of many brassica vegetables, from broccoli to cabbage."
Steal her idea: First, cut your brassica vegetables of choice into wedges or florets, and toss them with avocado oil, salt and pepper, and any spices you have on hand. Not sure where to start? Nielsen says, "Coriander is lovely with broccoli and cabbage, or try a bit of cumin or thyme with cauliflower." Then, roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until caramelized, and prepare to be hooked on the easiest side dish or appetizer your taste buds have yet to encounter.
Need some more inspo? Check out these delicious recipes featuring brassica veggies:
- Creamy Broccoli Soup With Anti-inflammatory Properties
- Garlic, Tofu & Broccoli Stir-Fry
- Roasted Veggie & Fig Farro Salad
- Kale & Cabbage Slaw With Radishes & Pepitas
- Roast Cauliflower Steaks with Ginger & Spices
- Brussels Sprouts & Wild Rice Salad
- Butternut Squash, Oyster Mushroom & Swiss Chard Lasagna
- Tomato & Horseradish Braised Chicken
- Kale, Carrot & Bean Salad (Kale, Gajar, Sem Salad)
Though it's hard to go wrong with virtually any vegetable, brassicas stand out from the produce pack for their well-being properties, which include improving bone and skin health, supporting digestion, and assisting with blood clotting. Plus, you can eat them to your heart's content—and trust us, you'll definitely want to.
Marissa Miller is a certified personal trainer from the American Council on Exercise and holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell. She has over 10 years of experience editing and reporting on all things health, nutrition, beauty, fitness, style and home for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and many more.
Her first novel PRETTY WEIRD: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome and Other Oddly Empowering Lessons was published by Skyhorse Publishing and distributed by Simon & Schuster in May 2021.