The beginning of summer is a wonderful time of year to explore bright green and crisp seasonal leafy greens that offer a welcome variety from the standard spinach, kale and swiss chard we have access to in our supermarkets all year round.
One of these is a potent cancer fighter, yet it might not be your first choice: pungent but powerful Mustard Greens! Just this weekend I picked up a bunch at my local farm, and got reminded very quickly why this leaf needs a little extra attention before making it palatable. I could not resist munching on a leaf as I was storing my bags in the car, and gave myself a nasal shot of burn akin to when you have too much wasabi! The mustard oil in the leaves has the tendency to do that when eaten raw. We also know this taste from a condiment made from its seeds, yellow mustard.
Now before you discard this blog, read on, as one can most definitely tame this wild leaf and benefit from its numerous anti-cancer properties you do not want to miss out on.
Mustard Greens belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, radishes and turnips. This family contains more cancer-fighting phytochemicals than any other vegetable group.
These sulfur-containing chemicals are called glucosinolates, which give its members the often distinguished bitter and pungent taste. Indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane are the most widely known, and have been shown in animal studies to inhibit the growth of cancer in different organs (breast, bladder, colon, lung, liver & stomach).
Mustard greens are a warming food, supporting such vital organs as the lungs, stomach and spleen while also helping to increase blood circulation. In addition, they boast high levels of vitamin C, A and K, as well as folate, calcium and magnesium.
So how can you turn this nutrient dense, but bitter-tasting cancer-fighting tool into a delicious bite? The easiest way is to serve it lightly steamed as the heating process neutralizes the pungent taste. Here are a few ways to use them:
- sauteè them lightly in a little olive oil
- in soups
- in casseroles
- in frittatas
- in scrambled eggs
- in meat or curry sauces
- in hummus or dips (lightly steam beforehand)
RECIPE – Variations on how to serve sauteèd mustard greens
- Strip the leaves from their stalks, wash and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Add a little olive oil to coat a stainless steel pan.
- Always sauteè minced garlic or chipped red onions or scallions first, 1-2 minutes.
- Add mustard green leaves.
- Add a tiny dash of maple syrup, juice of half a lemon and Himalayan sea salt to taste.
Add a handful of
- goji berries or cranberries
- sesame seeds
- cashew nuts
- chopped apple slices
- chopped orange slices
If you would like a creamy effect, add a little coconut milk
All brassica family members listed above contain goitrogens and this, if consumed in excess by people with any thyroid issues, can interfere with iodine absorption in the body. This can affect the overall functioning of the thyroid gland. Cooking helps to inactivate goitrogens.
- Antonious GF, Turley E, Antonious A, Trivette T. “Emerging technology for increasing glucosinolates in arugula and mustard greens”, J Environ Sci Health B. 2017 Mar 29:1-4
- Lin, Long-Ze et al. “UHPLC-PDA-ESI/HRMS/MSnAnalysis of Anthocyanins, Flavonol Glycosides, and Hydroxycinnamic Acid Derivatives in Red Mustard Greens (Brassica Juncea Coss Variety).” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry22 (2011): 12059–12072. PMC. Web. 19 June 2017.
- Lin, Long-Ze, and James M Harnly. “Phenolic Component Profiles of Mustard Greens, Yu Choy, and 15 Other Brassica” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry58.11 (2010): 6850–6857. PMC. Web. 19 June 2017.
- Kahlon TS, Chiu MC, Chapman MH. Steam Cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper and cabbage, Nutr. Res. 2008 Jun;28(6):351-7
- Capuano E, Dekker M, Verkerk R, Oliviero T. “Food as Pharma? The Case of Glucosinolates”. Curr Pharm Des. 2017 Jan 20
- The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood
- The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND