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Ask the Pharmacist: Health benefits of mustard greens

Suzy Cohen
Columnist
A mustard green plant grown at New Way Aquaponic Farms on Tuesday, March  3, 2020.

Eating mustard greens is probably an acquired taste, it’s not something most people like due to the pungent flavor of the greens. It’s worth it though, and I can help you make it taste delicious. One quick tip when cooking it is to use half mustard greens and half Swiss chard which makes it taste milder.

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The benefits of this vegetable are hard to beat and impart strong cancer-fighting compounds such as isothiocyanate or ITCs. These are sulfur-based nutrients that have been studied repeatedly for cancer-fighting effects. They can detoxify the body and this effect is common among all the cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, watercress and Brussels sprouts.

You might be thinking that mustard greens are goitrogenic, and can suppress thyroid function, however, if you cook them that is not going to be an issue. You will have to be careful though if you have kidney stones because of the high oxalates. Another caution is for those of you who take anticoagulant medications like warfarin. Mustard greens, like all greens contain a lot of natural Vitamin K which impacts blood clotting factors. With all these cautions out of the way, let me tell the rest of you why you should acquire a taste for mustard greens.

Two major reasons to eat mustard greens

  1. Isothiocyanates or ITCs – Cruciferous veggies contain ITCs which are made from other compounds called “glucosinolates.” Mustard greens have the highest ITC yield as compared to all cruciferous vegetables. One particular glucosinolate is called “Sinigrin” and it has been studied for its ability to reduce AGE (Advanced Glycation End Products). It’s important to reduce AGE if you’re dealing a degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The mustard seeds have the most of this compound (sinigrin), which has major therapeutic anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative potential. Absorbed ITCs are rapidly converted in your liver to something amazing called glutathione. That’s an antioxidant that is known to detoxify heavy metals and other garbage in the body. Glutathione is a powerful benefit of eating greens!
  2. SOD – SOD is short for Superoxide Dismutase which is an enzyme in your body that vacuums up dangerous “superoxides” which are oxygen-derived free radicals. One infamous toxin in this category is Hydrogen Peroxide or H2O2. It’s not just in those brown bottles sold as an antiseptic, your cells make it! In a normal, healthy pathway the H2O2 is broken down immediately by Catalase or SOD which turns them into water and oxygen.

But some people don’t have enough SOD or Catalase. When it builds up it raises your risk for thyroid disease, chronic fatigue, breast cancer (most cancers actually!) as well as respiratory problems such as COPD (Chronic Pulmonary Disease) and asthma.

I have a longer version of this article posted at my website as well as a recipe for Garlic Parmesan Mustard Greens. It’s delicious! Eating these greens even once or twice a week will give you noticeable health impacts that can’t be beat! 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.