You are probably most familiar with bok choy as that green leafy vegetable floating in Chinese soup, but once you know more about it, you’ll understand why it should have more of a starring role in your cuisine.
Bok choy is also sometimes called Chinese cabbage, but it’s more closely related to chard. Technically part of the brassica family, bok choy contains indoles, which are compounds that lower the risk of cancer. A favorite in Chinese medicine and cuisine for centuries, leafy green bok choy is rapidly becoming a staple on American tables, cultivated mostly in California. Not only is it highly versatile, but with its cancer-fighting properties and a host of other nutritional benefits, bok choy is a certified superfood and one of osteopath and alternative medicine physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola’s most recommended vegetables for a healthy diet.
Here are some highlights of bok choy’s nutritional properties:
- Provides significant amounts of calcium (11 percent of the RDA) and is a good alternative to dairy products as a source of bone-building calcium.
- Excellent source of antioxidant and free radical-shielding vitamin C (75 percent of the RDA).
- High in antioxidant carotenoids like beta-carotene that can be converted into vitamin A as needed by the body. This is especially good for vegans who don’t get their vitamin A from eggs. Beta carotene is associated with preventing night blindness and possibly reducing the risk of cataract and macular degeneration. Provides almost all the body’s daily need for vitamin A (89 percent of the RDA!).
- Contains potassium for healthy nerve and muscle function.
- Has significant levels of vitamin K and a variety of B vitamins, especially folate. B6 assists with carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Vitamin K is essential for proper calcium metabolism and preventing many inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, osteoporosis and arthritis.
- Also, a source of magnesium, manganese, and iron (4 percent of the RDA).
And this is all at less than 20 calories a cup of the raw vegetable. When bok choy is cooked, you get more in a cup, so you get a higher concentration of the nutrients.
The word ‘bok choy’ is from the Chinese word for soup spoon due to the leaves’ utensil-like shape. The elongated heads make this vegetable look sort of like Romaine, but that’s where the similarity ends. The white stalks are juicy, crispy and mild, more like celery than cabbage. They are sometimes pickled. The leaves taste like a cross between cabbage and spinach, with a mild mustard-like flavor. Baby bok choy is less fibrous and more tender. Whether baby or mature, bok choy can be eaten raw in salads, grilled as a side dish, in stir fry dishes and yes, in soup.
When adding to soup, put the stalks in first and the dark green leaves in at the last minute. When sautéing or stir frying, cook quickly at a high temperature so it keeps its crispy texture and preserves the vitamins. Light steaming is the best way to cook bok choy while still preserving all the nutrients. You can also add bok choy to fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies.
Below is a recipe For Baby Bok Choy from my second cookbook, The Age Beautifully Cookbook, that is delicious and practically foolproof. The indoles (sulfur compounds) help to prevent cancer by neutralizing carcinogens. These compounds are also needed to make keratin for healthy nails, hair, and skin.
Baby Bok Choy
1 Tbs. coconut oil or sesame oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
6 cups baby bok choy (about 4–5 heads)
Salt or salt substitute and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the tamari sauce and bok choy and sauté for 3–5 minutes, turning frequently, until the leaves are wilted and the stalks crisp-tender. The smaller heads will be done first. Remove them to a serving plate while the larger ones finish cooking.
- Season with the salt and pepper.
You can use full-size bok choy instead of baby bok choy. Just cut them in half lengthwise or increase the cooking time.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, Buckwheat Crepes from my first cookbook, The Age Gracefully Cookbook, is one to try. This vegetarian main dish is full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. In this recipe, I turn buckwheat pancake mix into crepes and stuff them with healthful vegetables including two cups of bok choy as well as asparagus, carrots, leeks and immunity-boosting shiitake mushrooms.
Here’s a version of a recipe I discovered:
Stir Fried Chicken with Bok Choy
For the Sauce:
2 Tbs. honey or maple syrup
½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs. reduced sodium gluten-free soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
For the Stir-Fry:
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 head of bok choy washed and cut cross-wise into 1-inch strips
2 large carrots peeled in strips (or 1/2 cup matchstick cut carrots)
5-6 green onions diced
6 brown mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 Tbs. sesame seeds
¼ cup chopped cilantro
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Heat sesame oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add in chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes, till just done. Add in bok choy, carrots, green onions, mushrooms and sesame seeds. Stir continuously for 3 minutes and then add in sauce. Cook until sauce has coated the chicken and vegetables and heated through.
- Serve with a sprinkle of cilantro.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.