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Bok Choy

This article is part of a larger article titled "100+ Healthiest Foods On Planet Earth."  Read it here.

Bok Choy Nutritional Information (per 100g)

Water: 95.3 g
Calories: 13 kcal
Protein: 1.5 g
Carbohydrate: 2.2 g
Dietary fiber: 1 g
Sugars: 1.2 g
Fat: 0.2 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1 g
Vitamin C: 45 mg
Vitamin B2: 0.1 mg
Vitamin B3: 0.5 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg
Vitamin B9: 66 μg
Vitamin A: 223 μg
Vitamin E: 0.1 mg
Vitamin K: 45.5 μg
Calcium: 105 mg
Iron: 0.8 mg
Magnesium: 19 mg
Phosphorus: 37 mg
Potassium: 252 mg
Sodium: 65 mg
Zinc: 0.2 mg

Bok choy, also known as pakchoi or Chinese cabbage, is a food popular in China and Southeast Asia, commonly used in oriental cuisine.

A member of the brassica family, bok choy is becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world, firstly because it is easy to grow (being resistant to cold winters), but also because of its recognised health and nutritional benefits.

Bok choy benefits from being a vegetable with a lot of nutrients and a lack of calories. 100g contains just 13 calories, placing it second in lowest number of calories out of all the foods in this list, beaten only by watercress, which contains 11 calories.

In those 13 calories however, you get 57 % of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, a vitamin essential for blood clotting and bone health, and 75% DV of vitamin C, a vitamin crucial for the creation of connective tissue and a powerful antioxidant.

Beyond the nutritional strengths common to brassicas, bok choy benefits from some other high nutrient values. 100g contains 89% DV of vitamin A equivalents, which is great for the long-term health of the eye. It also contains 10% DV of both calcium and vitamin B6. Calcium plays a role in bone health and regulates muscle activity. Vitamin B6 is essential to a plethora of processes in the body, and helps everything from digestive to immune health to flourish.

The real benefits of bok choy, and the brassica family, lie not in the ‘micronutrients’ (vitamins and minerals), but in the ‘phytonutrients’ (compounds that are beneficial to health but not essential). In particular, compounds called glucosinalates (sulphur-containing compounds unique to brassicas) have been shown to have great cancer-protective properties.

Most brassicas contain high levels of two really beneficial compounds, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (arugula being an exception). Studies on cruciferous vegetables have shown that increased intake of brassicas seems to have benefit for a whole range of cancers; breast cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer have all been studied and have all shown the power of cruciferous vegetable intake.

Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol have further beneficial effects, as shown when they are studied independently. This review paper notes that sulforaphane has been shown to have general tumour prevention properties. Indole-3-carbinol is not only being linked with the anti-cancer properties mentioned, but also with a broad ‘chemo-protective’ effect, meaning that it may protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of chemotherapy (and possibly other) drugs.

The bottom line: the brassica family are great when it comes to fighting cancer!

There are some things to bear in mind, however. Firstly, different brassicas contain differing levels of glucosinalates, meaning it’s best to get a wide variety of them for the full health benefits, and bok choy does not have the highest concentration of glucosinalates (but Brussel sprouts, horseradish, kale and broccoli do).

Also, glucosinates, while fantastic in reasonable doses, do come with a health warning. Extremely high levels of brassica intake have been associated with hypothyroidism: in one tragic case, an elderly woman who attempted to cure her diabetes by eating over a kilo a day of raw bok choy developed hypothyroidism and died.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat brassicas! Obviously those with pre-existing thyroid problems have to be careful, but there seems to be no reason to worry aside from that – this study, for example, found that eating 150g of cooked Brussel sprouts a day had no effect on thyroid function.

So long as you don’t suffer from thyroid issues, bok choy is a great addition to your diet and proof that it should include large amounts and a variety of cruciferous vegetables. Bok choy is low in calories, high in nutrients, and fantastic for your health!