Health Benefits of Mustard Greens
The potential health benefits of mustard greens (leaves of the Brassica juncea plant) are truly impressive. Also known as Indian or Chinese leaf mustard, this green leafy vegetable with a peppery flavor contains nutrients and phytochemicals that may make it an effective natural weapon against a broad range of diseases and conditions, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to health problems involving the eyes. Keep reading to learn more about why mustard greens are so good for you.
A growing body of epidemiological evidence suggests that people who regularly eat Brassica vegetables have a lower risk of cancer. The potential anti-cancer effects of Brassicas, such as mustard greens, have been largely attributed to the glucosinolates these vegetables contain. Although glucosinolates themselves have limited biological activity, their metabolites – such as isothiocyanates – appear to be potent cancer fighters. In laboratory studies, isothiocyanates have been found to induce Phase II enzymes, beneficial enzymes that help neutralize cancer-causing substances, and to stimulate apoptosis (self-destruction) in human tumor cells.
But there's a catch: not all Brassica vegetables provide equally high levels of isothiocyanates. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1998 analyzed isothiocyanate levels in nine Brassica vegetables, and found that mustard greens provided more isothiocyanates than all of the other tested vegetables, with the exception of watercress.
Cholesterol-Lowering Properties Proven by Research
If you're looking for healthy, natural ways to reduce those cholesterol levels, consider adding mustard greens to your diet. A laboratory study published in the June 2008 edition of the journal Nutrition Research reported that mustard greens, along with collard greens and our favorite superfood kale, had the strongest bile acid binding activity among the tested cruciferous vegetables (strong bile acid binding properties are indicative of strong cholesterol lowering properties).
Further Cardiovascular Benefits
Mustard greens are also loaded with vitamin K, a nutrient that scientists now believe can offer significant cardiovascular benefits. The cardioprotective properties of vitamin K are thought to be linked to its ability to direct calcium into the bone tissue, rather than the arteries.
In addition, mustard greens are a good source of vitamin C which may further contribute to the cardiovascular benefits of this green leafy vegetable. In one study, researchers from the University of California discovered that people who received a daily vitamin C supplement (containing 500 milligrams of vitamin C) experienced a 24% drop in their plasma CRP levels (plasma C-reactive protein levels) already two months after the beginning of the study. A growing body of evidence suggests that CRP levels may be an even better indicator of heart disease risk than cholesterol levels.
Mustard Greens Provide Tons of Pro-Vitamin A
If the potential health benefits of mustard greens described above are not enough to convince you to add this spicy Asian green to your diet, consider this: mustard greens are also supercharged with pro-vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). According to USDA's Nutrient Facts data for mustard greens, eating just one ounce of boiled and drained mustard greens can supply your body with a whopping 35% of the Daily Value for vitamin A. In addition to keeping your eyes and mucous membranes healthy, vitamin A acts as antioxidant, providing protection against free radical damage associated with many chronic diseases – such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and macular degeneration – and premature aging of the skin.