Fall has finally arrived with crisp mornings and slightly warming temperatures throughout the day. The trees are offering a vast variety of color brilliance. Along with these annual changes come a cornucopia of vegetables with flavors enhanced by cooling temperatures.
An underused vegetable packed with healthy benefits is bok choy. Looking a lot like celery with oversized leaves, this Chinese white cabbage is part of the cruciferous family. Like other cruciferous veggies, bok choy has anti-cancer properties — lowering risks for lung, prostate and colon cancers.
This vegetable is high in several important nutrients. Bok choy contains folate that plays a role in production and repair of DNA. It also contains the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene needed to protect against free radicals. The selenium supports a healthy thyroid, detoxifies some cancer-causing compounds and reduces inflammation in the body. The fiber content not only protects the bowels and promotes regularity, but also reduces risk factors for some cancers. Fiber feeds the healthy gut bacteria, affecting overall health, metabolism and digestion. But the benefits of this food don't stop here.
Your bone health is benefited by the iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin K content. These vitamin and minerals work together in the bone building process. Likewise, they maintain bone strength and healthy structure.
If you are looking for a food to assist in lowering your blood pressure, bok choy is an excellent choice. According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the potassium found in bok choy helps decrease blood pressure. The combination of potassium, calcium and magnesium present in this vegetable work together to lower and maintain blood pressure.
If you are worried about cardiovascular health, bok choy can help in this area as well. The folate, potassium, vitamin C and B-6 content all contribute to maintaining a healthy heart. The B-6 and folate reduce homocysteine buildup that can damage blood vessels.
Finally, bok choy has been found to improve the immune system by stimulating the production of T-cells to fight invaders (bacterial or viral). The vitamin C supports the production of collagen. This in turn promotes healthy skin. Finish this off with bok choy being rich in glucosinolates (sulfur-containing compounds) that are beneficial to the body in many ways.
Bok choy can be eaten raw or added to stir-fries and soups to harvest health benefits.
Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. She has her doctorate degree in naturopathy, a master's degree in health and wellness, a bachelor's degree in public health education and is a certified wellness specialist. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.