Warren Willey

Warren Willey

If I were to take a poll of people’s least favorite foods, for whatever reason — their look, their taste, their texture, being forced to eat them by grandma when they were little and she was babysitting when their parents were away — whatever the reason, I can almost guarantee that Brussels sprouts would be at the top of many people’s lists of least favorite foods. For that matter, most of Brussels sprouts’ cousins — all the cruciferous vegetables — would likely be in most people’s top 10.

Cruciferous vegetables include a full list of favorites such as rutabaga, horseradish, water crest, collards, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, broccoli, cabbage and kale. And though these are not regularly chosen as sides at our favorite restaurants (shall I get the smothered deep-fried french fries today or a nice side of broccoli?), they are extremely powerful foods in disease prevention. Besides their incredible ability to lower endocrine cancer risks, a recent report published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that if we eat more cruciferous vegetables, our risk of heart disease and vascular issues is greatly reduced. As a matter of fact, those who ate more than 45 grams of cruciferous vegetables on a daily basis were 46 percent less likely to have calcium buildup in their aorta versus those who ate little or none every day, according to the study.

This likely translates into less calcium buildup and issues within all your vascular tree, especially the small arteries in your heart and brain. Forty-five grams may sound like a lot, but if we ignore the metric system and use measurements in American terms, that is only 1/2 cup of raw broccoli. That is not a lot — and it does not have to be raw. Simply consuming 1/2 cup of any of those cruciferous vegetables I listed above every day can have an incredible long-term positive impact on health and disease prevention, which translates into better quality of life.

So, even though Brussels sprouts are not something you look forward to on a nice weekend family dinner, it is obvious that grandma, once again, knew what is best for us. Make it a health goal to eat 1/2 cup of cruciferous vegetables a day. Who knows, you might even start to like them!

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician. Visit his website at drwilley.com.