Bok choy is a cruciferous green vegetable and a variety of cabbage that hails from China. Also known as Pak choi, it falls under the Brassica plant family. However, unlike most crucifers, Bok choy does not have a “head”. This vegetable stands out with its dark green leaves that extend from a cluster of thick white stalks. Bok choy leaves taste similar to cabbage and its crunchy and juicy stalk tastes like celery.
Although Bok choy originates from China where it has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, the vegetable is now grown in parts of the United States and Canada. Due to its versatility, the “Chinese cabbage” is fast becoming the new fancy ingredient in many cuisines. However, Bok choy has more to offer than novelty. This vegetable is nutrient-dense and provides various health benefits, which we are going to look into in this article.
You’ve probably heard that leafy green vegetables are good for your health. Bok choy is no exception. This vegetable is packed with health-promoting compounds that provide both nutritional and health benefits. Bok choy is rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also contains a good amount of dietary fiber while being free of cholesterol.
A cup of raw, shredded bok choy contains:
It is also a healthy source of the following minerals:
Bok choy is a nutrient-filled vegetable you should consider adding to your diet as it offers various health benefits. Below we look at how Bok choy benefits overall health.
Bok choy, like other dark green vegetables, contains a flavonoid known as quercetin. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that might help fight cancer cells, reduce swelling, regulate blood sugar, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Bok choy also contains sulforaphane which is known to help reduce inflammation by prompting the liver to detoxify. The combination of both quercetin and sulforaphane makes Bok Choy one of the best anti-inflammatory foods.
Bok choy is full of compounds that promote heart health. It is high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are all minerals that help to regulate blood pressure. Studies show that potassium-rich foods can help lower the amount of sodium in the blood, thereby lowering blood pressure. When your blood pressure is under control, you are less likely to develop heart diseases.
Moreover, Bok choy contains vitamin B6 and folate. These minerals lower the amount of homocysteine in the blood and prevent hyperhomocysteinemia. High homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) in the blood can affect the lining of the arteries and lead to increased blood clotting. When a blood clot occurs in your blood vessel (thrombus), it can obstruct blood flow to the heart and other vital organs.
Bok choy is a rich source of bone-strengthening minerals such as calcium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin K, and iron. If you don’t take dairy products, Bok choy and other green leafy veggies can provide you with an adequate amount of calcium. Calcium and phosphorus fuse to form hydroxyapatite, an essential mineral in bones and teeth.
Also, Vitamin K which is present in Bok choy regulates the mineralization of bones and helps to form various proteins that are needed for blood clotting and the building of bones. Zinc and iron play an important role in vitamin D metabolism and collagen synthesis. Collagen reduction can lead to osteoporosis and make the bones prone to fracture.
Cruciferous vegetables, including Bok choy, are famous for their cancer-fighting properties. This benefit comes from glucosinolates, a sulfur-containing compound that has anti-inflammatory effects. Glucosinolates and their end products isothiocyanates inhibit cancer by altering the enzymes involved in chemically induced cancers.
Additionally, Bok choy contains Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene. Vitamin C and E are known to be powerful antioxidants that mitigate free radical damage, thus preventing various diseases including cancer. Folate aids the repair of DNA which may lower the risk of cancer. Bok choy is also a fiber-rich food. Fiber is helpful to the digestive system and may help to prevent colon cancer.
This Asian cabbage is filled with various nutrients that can contribute to a healthy immune system. Vitamin C contributes to the body’s defense by stimulating the production of white blood cells. It also acts as an antioxidant by preventing oxidative stress, which may lead to chronic diseases. Another immune-boosting nutrient in Bok choy is selenium. It acts as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, thus enhancing immune function.
The thyroid gland, which is an endocrine gland in your neck, releases thyroid hormones (thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3)) into your bloodstream. These hormones play an important role in metabolism and growth. Selenium is vital to thyroid health and it helps remove oxygen free radicals generated during the production of thyroid hormones. A cup serving of selenium can provide you with about 1% DV of selenium.
Bok choy is a low-calorie leafy vegetable that contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It is a good source of soluble antioxidants vitamins C and K, and vital minerals like folate, selenium, and calcium. These nutrients and antioxidants are known to offer benefits ranging from better thyroid function, immune system stimulation, and improving heart and bone health. Because of its anti-inflammatory compounds, Bok choy may even have cancer-fighting abilities. Increase your daily intake of health-promoting nutrients by adding Bok choy to your plant-based diet. It's easy to prepare and makes a tasty addition to salads, soups, stir-fries, and many other dishes.