Bok choy - nutrient dense and delicious!

Bok choy (or pak choi) is a relative of cabbage, scientifically named Brassica chinensis. It is most often associated with Chinese cuisine, and has been grown in China for over six thousand years. Today, bok choy is also grown in Europe, Canada, and the U.S, and is available almost year-round – it is said to be most tasty in the winter months.

Bok choy has crisp, white stalks and dark green leaves, and in Chinese its name means “white vegetable.” There are over twenty different varieties of bok choy – the two most common seen here in the U.S. are the traditional and “baby” or “Shanghai” bok choy – however, if you visit your local Asian market, you may see several more of these varieties.1-2

Bok choy - traditional

Bok choy provides abundant amounts of vitamins A, C, and K as well as folate and calcium.3 A recent study detected 28 different polyphenols - antioxidant phytochemicals - in bok choy. Some of these were more concentrated in the leaves, and some in the stems.4 The most abundant polyphenol these scientists found in bok choy was kaempferol, a molecule shown to have anti-cancer properties.5 

Bok choy falls under the category of cruciferous vegetables, a family of especially nutrient-dense vegetables that contain unique anti-cancer compounds. Like all cruciferous vegetables, more cancer-preventive compounds are produced when bok choy is chopped before cooking. 

Bok choy is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world, and it is uniquely beneficial for its calcium availability – bok choy is lower in oxalate, a substance that binds up calcium and prevents it from being absorbed, than most other leafy greens. 54% of the calcium in bok choy can be absorbed by the human body – compare this to 5% in spinach, a high oxalate vegetable, and 32% in milk. We can much more readily absorb calcium from bok choy than from dairy products.

Bok choy can be eaten raw in salads, green smoothies, or vegetable juices, or cooked in stir-fries, soups, or other vegetable dishes. 

 Baby (Shanghai) bok choy

Braised Bok Choy

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

8 baby bok choy or 3 regular bok choy

1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce

2 cups coarsely chopped shiitake mushrooms

2 large cloves garlic, chopped, optional

1 tablespoon unhulled sesame seeds, lightly toasted *

Instructions:

Cover bottom of large skillet with 1/2 inch water. Add bok choy (cut baby bok choy in half lengthwise or cut regular bok choy into chunks).

Drizzle with liquid aminos. Cover and cook on high heat until bok choy is tender, about 6 minutes.

Remove bok choy and add mushrooms and garlic to the liquid in the pan.

Simmer liquid until reduced to a glaze. Pour over bok choy. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

*Lightly toast sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat for 3 minutes, shaking pan frequently. 

 

 

References:

1. http://chinesefood.about.com/od/vegetablesrecipes/a/bokchoy.htm

2. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=3002

3. http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2377/2?print=true

4. Harbaum B et al. Identification of flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids in pak choi varieties (Brassica campestris L. ssp. chinensis var. communis) by HPLC-ESI-MSn and NMR and their quantification by HPLC-DAD. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Oct 3;55(20):8251-60. Epub 2007 Sep 12.

5. Luo H et al. Kaempferol inhibits angiogenesis and VEGF expression through both HIF dependent and independent pathways in human ovarian cancer cells. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(4):554-63.

 

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Comments (12) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
ron - January 12, 2010 4:24 PM

Dr. Micheal Greger in is 2009 nutritional said Bok Choy is the least nutritious of the cruciferous vegetables.
He is not saying we should not eat it as the writer in the article pointed out just comparing it to other cruciferous vegetables, if you have to make a choice.
I naturally tend to go to other cruciferous vegetables, am I missing something

Any comments

Deana Ferreri - January 12, 2010 5:10 PM

The only foods that score higher than bok choy using Dr. Fuhrman's ANDI score are also leafy greens and cruciferous, kale and collards for example. However, bok choy scores higher than several other cruciferous vegetables, all of which are nutrient dense.

Greg - January 12, 2010 10:16 PM

The choice most people make is between Bok Choy and beef, not Bok Choy and Kale. Bok Choy is great and I eat it every chance I get. It certainly doesn't limit the amount of kale I consume because I opt for both.

CJ - January 13, 2010 3:12 PM

Thank you for this information, I love Bok Choy and use it often in smoothies, as well as cooked dishes.

Mr. Curious - January 14, 2010 9:32 PM

I made the bok choi recipe tonight and my whole family liked it including my 3 year old son. I chopped everything up prior to cooking, placing the white parts first for a few minutes. What is awesome about this is that the same recipe can be used for other leafy greens such as chard, kale, collards.

I also put some grated fresh ginger on mine - YUM!

Janis Jaquith - January 29, 2010 9:59 AM

Do you have a reference for this piece of advice:

"...like all cruciferous vegetables, more cancer-preventive compounds are produced when bok choy is chopped before cooking."

I googled it, but came up empty. Thanks!

Deana Ferreri - January 29, 2010 12:03 PM

Janis,
The enzyme needed is located in the cell walls, and chopping or blending allows it to come into contact with its substrates and convert them into the anti-cancer compounds (isothiocyanates).

Paul - April 27, 2010 8:22 PM

I have a question about the amounts.

When the recepie calls for 3 bok choi,or 8 baby bok choi.

Is one bok choi one stock and one leaf, or the multiple stocks and all the leafs in the bundle?

Thanks,

Paul C.

Deana Ferreri - April 28, 2010 9:54 AM

Paul - one bok choy is the entire bundle.

jim frogner - January 21, 2011 5:51 AM

We blend bok choi in smoothies, use in my daughters feeding tube (she has a TBI injury). What part of the plant has the best vitamins-stem or leafy part? should we use the entire plant? Thanks for any feedback. By the way, Joran's awareness has improved since we started giving her fresh veggies & fruits.

Peter - October 27, 2011 3:19 PM

Bok choy actually means "white vegetable" in Cantonese Chinese. Bok choy, choy sum, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are my favourite vegetables.

Loida Brinckhaus - January 14, 2013 12:25 PM

What is the nutritional differences (comparison) between boy choy and kale and collard?

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