GARDEN VIEW: Vegetables that build the immune system

The current pandemic has put the spotlight on the importance of building our immune systems to fight disease. Vitamins and minerals found in vegetables play a major role in our health. While vitamin supplements are good, keep in mind that they should not replace consuming fresh vegetables.

Often our bodies utilize two or three forms of a vitamin. The pill version is only one form of the vitamin. So, to get all of the forms our body needs, we should include fresh vegetables in our daily diets to strengthen our immune systems.

One of the best vegetable families to include, daily, is the cabbage family, or Brassicaceae. This is a large family of vegetables, including cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, bok choy and the small version of this vegetable, pak choy, as well as turnips and kohlrabi. All are a good source of a variety of nutrients. While some of these vegetables are a little higher in one vitamin or another, the entire group is filled with necessary nutrients to support our health, improve our immune system and help fight disease. All members of the cabbage family have excellent antibacterial and antiviral properties.

All cabbage family members are high in vitamins K, C, B1 and B6, and have good amounts of copper, potassium, manganese, fiber, and folate.

Vitamin K is necessary for proper liver function and clotting of blood.

Vitamin C heals cuts and wounds, keeps teeth, gums and bones healthy, and protects us from infections. And, the B complex is essential for proper balance of our bodies, how energy, fats, and carbohydrates are used. This affects everything from our mood to our heart and digestive health and supports a healthy weight.

The cabbage family is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals, especially those that protect us from disease. Boiling these vegetables reduces the effects of their antioxidant compounds, so utilize them fresh in a salad or slaw. Stemming and stir frying quickly, can be done where cooking is preferred. These vegetables are an excellent source of folate (Vitamin B9) and fiber. The new colorful cauliflower varieties are also high in Vitamin A, supporting the immune system and healthy vision.

All of these vegetables are low in calories All members of the cabbage family thrive in south Texas during cooler months and September and October are great months for planting any of these vegetables.

The faster growing types, like collard and mustard greens, kale, as well as Pak Choy, can be planted multiple times into December. So, no excuses, add one of the many vegetables from the cabbage family to your daily diet and treat yourself and your family to a real boost in disease fighting compounds.

And, for information on growing these vegetables, go to https://aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu and select the Easy Gardening Fact Sheets.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can follow her on Facebook at Barbara A Storz.