Find out which vegetables are in the brassica family, how to cook brassicas – and explore our evidence on how vegetables can help prevent cancer.
Brassicas are a group of plants that belong to the Brassicaceae family, also known as the mustard family. They include well-known vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. They also include rocket, radishes, horseradish and mustard greens – a leafy vegetable used in Indian cuisine and sometimes known as saag.
These plants are usually strong in flavour and have several nutritional benefits. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. They’re also abundant in compounds called glucosinolates, which are particularly good for us. It’s these compounds that give brassicas their pungent flavour. For a healthy diet, it’s best to eat a variety of different vegetables (and fruit) in your diet, including brassicas.
Brassicas are cultivated around the world. They are typically cool-season crops and are often grown in the autumn, winter and early spring in temperate regions – perfect for the UK weather!
These types of veg are considered healthy for several reasons:
Brassicas are often affordable compared with other vegetables:
Brassicas are a cool-season crop, meaning they grow best in lower temperatures, and have a longer growing season than warm-season crops. Their long growing season is due to several factors:
Certain brassicas, such as broccoli and cauliflower, have been given a bad reputation because people overboil them – making them mushy and flavourless.
However, brassicas are incredibly versatile vegetables and full of flavour when cooked properly. They can be used in a variety of dishes: raw, steamed, roasted, braised or stir-fried. This versatility means that they can be added into different meals and cuisines, making them a staple in many households.
> Read more about the healthiest cooking methods
Get children involved in growing them! Start with radishes or rocket as they are easy to grow.
Try cooking them in a variety of ways to introduce children to new textures. Our cauliflower cheese monsters are tasty and children can help you prepare them.
What about making crisps out of brassicas, from crispy kale and crunchy broccoli to turnip slices? All these will help children towards their 5 A DAY while inspiring them to enjoy brassicas.
An air fryer is a great way to crisp up brassicas. You only need to coat them in a little oil and pop them in the air fryer for a few minutes. If they aren’t crisp enough, just pop back in for a couple of extra minutes – watch carefully, as they can easily burn.
Brassicas are a nutritious addition to any diet, and incorporating a variety of these vegetables as part of a healthy balanced diet can help support overall health.
To reduce the risk of cancer, we recommend that people eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, pulses like beans and lentils, and wholegrains, like brown rice and wholemeal bread.
Our evidence shows that this pattern of eating reduces the risk of several cancers. So next time you go shopping, think of all those brassicas you can choose from and try cooking something a little different.