Mustard greens (Brassica juncea) of the plant family, Cruciferae, have been cultivated by people for over thousands of years and are known for their beneficial effects on human health and hygiene. They are of various types and come in a host of colors, like emerald green, dark red and deep purple. A popular variety of cultivated mustard greens is the Mizuna. It is consumed in the raw as well as cooked forms. The pungent, peppery flavor of the vegetable adds spunk and zing to any recipe. The high vitamin and protein content of mustard greens have made them very valuable nutritionally and they have widely been incorporated in the traditional cuisine of a number of regions. However, the vegetable is thought to have originated in the high altitude region of the Himalayas (India) about 5000 years ago. At present, its prime cultivators are India, Nepal, China, Japan and the United States. Given below are some of the health benefits of mustard greens.
Health Benefits Of Eating Mustard Greens
- Mustard greens are very valuable in the prevention and cure of the reversible airway obstructive disorder, asthma and certain other immune-related disorders. The vitamin C present in the vegetable is responsible for this. This vitamin neutralizes the free radicals that cause smooth muscle contraction and airway obstruction in asthma. Also, it assists in the breakdown of the inflammatory chemical called histamine, which is overproduced in these conditions.
- Adding to the beneficial effect of vitamin C in curing asthma is the mineral magnesium, which is also present in the vegetable. It helps the smooth muscle cells lining the walls of the bronchial tubes and lungs stay relaxed and avoid any constriction. This mechanism is very important in the prevention of this condition.
- One feature for which mustard greens are especially known for is that they are a rich source of three vitamins (E, C, and A) which popular anti-oxidizing agents. These nutrients combine to act against certain free radicals that are produced in the body and thus, help prevent a host of ailments and diseases. This includes the prevention of asthmatic conditions, heart diseases and certain menopausal symptoms.
- Consumption of pro-vitamin A, in the form of mustard greens, is very important, especially if you are a smoker or get exposed to second-hand smoke. This is due to the fact that the vitamin helps in the prevention of lung inflammation and subsequently emphysema, by counteracting the harmful effects of a carcinogen present in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene.
- The unique combination of nutrients present in the vegetable is very effective for preventing disorders related to the cardio-vascular system. The vitamin E present in the vegetable helps reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, by protecting the oxidation of LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein or bad cholesterol) and decreasing the clumping of platelets.
- Consumption of vitamin E and vitamin C, present in mustard greens, inhibits the oxidation of LDL and HDL, by associating with an enzyme called paraoxonase.
- The magnesium present in the vegetable is necessary for maintaining the normal blood vessel tone and function. Thereby, they help in reducing high blood pressure levels and subsequently, the risk of heart diseases.
- A diet consisting of a regular intake of vitamin C-rich foods, like mustard greens, provides defense against inflammatory polyarthritis, a type of Rheumatoid Arthritis involving two or more joints.
- Certain phytonutrients present in the vegetable reduce the effect of harmful carcinogens and promote optimal health and well-being. These are known as glucosinolates. They combine with an enzyme called myrosinase (present in plants) and get converted into certain active compounds, called ndoles or isothiocyanates. It is these compounds that act against the harmful carcinogens.
- People with untreated or existing kidney or gall bladder problems should strictly avoid the consumption of mustard greens. This is because of the fact that sometimes, the oxalates present in the vegetable get too concentrated and may crystallize, creating health problems. Besides this, oxalates also interfere with the process of calcium absorption in the body.
- The first and foremost step prior to the preparation of the vegetable is its thorough cleaning and washing with water.
- The best way to clean mustard greens is by placing them in large bowl containing tepid water and use swishing movement of the hands. Repeat this process several times until the leaves are clean, with no signs of dirt or dust. Next, fold the leaves in half, with the top of the green folded inwards. Then, cut along the stem and remove.