Health Benefits of Bok Choy Cabbage (Pak Choi)
Bok choy, sometimes spelled pak choi, is the most common type of Asian cabbage. The white stems and dark green leaves of bok choy are nutrient-dense, making this mild-tasting cabbage variety a healthy choice for anyone. The very young leaves of bok choy can be eaten raw in salads, but more mature leaves are usually best briefly cooked. Here's a rundown of the most important health benefits of bok choy greens:
Carotenoids for Healthy Eyes
Bok choy (Brassica chinensis in Latin is an incredibly good source of pro-vitamin A (carotenoids), with one ounce of cooked and drained bok choy providing a whopping 24% of the Daily Value for pro-vitamin A. Carotenoids have various roles in human health, but their best-known health benefits relate to their ability to protect eye health. A large body of scientific evidence suggests that carotenoids may help fight age-related macular degeneration, prevent cataracts, improve night vision, and reduce the risk of retinitis pigmentosa.
Tip: When buying bok choy, look for vegetables that have a lot of green surface – the white stalks are not a good source of carotenoids.
Bok Choy – A Powerhouse of Vitamin C
Everyone knows that oranges are good for you because they are loaded with vitamin C. But did you know that many cabbages also deliver plenty of vitamin C? Eating just one ounce of cooked bok choy cabbage, for example, will provide your body with more than 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.
Vitamin C helps keep your skin, bones, and gums strong and healthy, but it also helps prevent iron deficiency by improving your body's capability to absorb iron from foods.
Tip: Including food sources of vitamin E in your bok choy meal helps maximize the health benefits of your meal as vitamin C and E work synergistically.
Eating Bok Choy May Provide Cardiovascular Benefits
Scientific research suggests that diets rich in vitamin C are also good for your cardiovascular system, so incorporating bok choy into your diet may be a smart move if you're trying to improve your cardiovascular health. In one study, scientists from the University of California found that the study participants who received a daily vitamin C supplement (containing 500 milligrams of vitamin C) experienced a 24% drop in their plasma CRP levels already two months after the beginning of the trial. Some recent studies suggest CRP levels (plasma C-reactive protein levels) may be an even better indicator of a person's heart disease risk than cholesterol levels.
But bok choy's potential cardioprotective effects are not limited to its high concentration of vitamin C – this Asian cabbage variety also provides plenty of vitamin K, another nutrient that can be particularly beneficial for those who want to improve their cardiovascular health. Vitamin K works its cardioprotective magic by directing calcium into your bones, rather than your arteries.
Bok Choy – The Bone Builder
The cardioprotective effects of vitamin K described above also have a beneficial side effect: stronger bones! In addition to bok choy's bone health protecting properties owing to its high concentration of vitamin K, this mild cabbage variety also provides a good amount of calcium which is a key component of bones and teeth.
Scientific evidence suggests that the calcium in bok choy is also highly bioavailable. A three-way randomized trial published in the November 1993 issue of the Journal of Food Science measured calcium bioavailability from bok choy leaves and stems in 15 normal women. Fractional calcium absorption from bok choy stems and boy choy leaves averaged 0.519 and 0.520, respectively. Mean absorbability of milk calcium ingested at the same load (about 83 milligrams) has been shown to be slightly lower, about 0.463.
For Hardcore Bok Choy Fans!
Love the mild flavor and health-boosting properties of bok choy? CafePress' funky I Love Bok Choy cup is the ultimate way to express your love for this humble cabbage variety! Available from Amazon here.
Buying Bok Choy
Today, bok choy – also known as pak choi – is available almost year-round in the US, UK, and Canada. If you visit your local Asian market, you'll probably find bok choy that's been grown in China or elsewhere in Asia. If you're looking for locally-grown bok choy, check out the farmers' markets in your area. Also regular grocery stores often sell bok choy that has been grown in North America or the UK.
If you decide to buy your bok choy from a grocery store, you'll likely find the 'Shanghai' and 'Baby' bok choy varieties; Asian markets may have a broader selection of bok choy varieties available.
Grow Your Own Bok Choy for Maximum Health Benefits
The nutritional value of bok choy begins to deteriorate immediately after harvest. Therefore, the best way to maximize the health benefits of bok choy is to grow your own greens and harvest them as needed. By growing your own bok choy you can also control what kind of fertilizers you use, and even grow 100% organic bok choy if you want. If you don't have a big garden, don't worry – you can also grow baby bok choy greens indoors, any time of year.