Pete Evans

Bok choy

Bok choy

With its soft green leaves and chewy white stem, bok choy is a leafy Chinese cabbage that’s jam-packed full of health-giving properties.

With its soft green leaves and chewy white stem, bok choy is a leafy Chinese cabbage that’s jam-packed full of health-giving properties.

As a chef I love bok choy because this cabbage is both versatile in the kitchen and has an excellent nutritional profile. Its crispy stems and light green leaves can be steamed, stir-fried, added as a last-minute addition to soups and stews or eaten raw in salads. The reality is the less you cook bok choy, the more easily the body is able to absorb its essential nutrients.

A cruciferous vegetable, bok choy comes from the same magic family as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, which is also known as the brassica family. And scientific research has shown that – more than any other vegetable family – brassicas are uniquely positioned to support the overall health of the whole body. This is because veggies such as bok choy and other varieties like Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, horseradish, mustard greens, rocket and watercress all help to nurture every aspect of our systems.

Not only are brassicas a great source of those essential key nutrients that we need to survive – vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats – this family of vegetables are also full of lesser known phytonutrients (plant chemicals).

More and more research is being done into the role these phytonutrients play in boosting our energy and enhancing our vitality. The phytonutrients that give cruciferous vegetables their bitter flavour and pungency are sulfur-containing glucosinolates. Simply by chopping or chewing these vegetables, glucosinolates are released and broken down into active chemicals called indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates. These active chemicals are being examined closely by nutritional scientists today to ascertain how higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables may provide health benefits, especially in regards to certain cancers.

For example, according to a 2012 Polish laboratory study in the scientific journal, Roczniki Panstwowego Zaktadu Higieny, the glucosinolates in brassica vegetables may affect the elimination or neutralisation of cancer cells and mutations and could even inhibit cancer development.

Scientific research has also proven the plant chemical compounds present in bok choy and other brassicas can reduce the carcinogenic effects of environmental toxins by triggering the body’s own detoxification systems and supporting DNA repair.
Bok choy is also incredibly anti-inflammatory. It’s full of the key omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the essential building block from which all other omega-3 fatty acids can be made. Recent scientific research also suggests the omega-3 content of cruciferous vegetables may be another key ingredient as to why they are so superior at supporting optimum health.

Indeed, no other vegetable is as high in vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, fibre and, most importantly, vitamin K than bok choy. Vitamin K is an important fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate our inflammatory response. It is also essential for building strong bones, preventing heart disease, optimising insulin levels and helping blood to clot properly. Meanwhile vitamin A is essential for a properly functioning immune system and vitamin C helps to ward of free radicals.

Bok choy is also high in vitamin B6, which is essential for the body’s ability to metabolise carbohydrate, fat and protein. It’s also full of hard-to-obtain trace minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and iron.

Very high levels of potassium, in particular, are found in bok choy, making it an important inclusion in your regular diet to maintain healthy muscle and nerve function.

Indeed, its muscular and many healing properties have been well known and revered by ancient societies. The use of bok choy in culinary traditions dates back to ancient Egypt and arrived in China in 500 AD. It continues to be used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine to promote better digestive and intestinal health and to relieve constipation or quench thirst.

Here are a few more reasons to fall in love with bok choy:

  • It contains decent levels of calcium and so bok choy and collards can be a good dietary inclusion in the absence of dairy products.
  • The beta-carotene that’s present in vast quantities is known to help prevent night blindness and reduce the risk of cataract and macular degeneration.
  • Eating bok choy that is raw is far more beneficial as the enzymes that fight the cancer causing compounds are preserved.
  • By contrast, lightly steamed or cooked Bok Choy allows for the important carotenoids, like beta-carotene, to be more easily absorbed into the body. That’s why it’s good to eat a mix of both raw and cooked.
  • Just one cup of shredded bok choy contains half the body’s daily requirement of vitamin A, K and C. And that’s why it’s so good for you!

Cook with love and laughter,

Pete

By Pete Evans

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