June 16, 2024

Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage often used in Asian cuisine, particularly soups and stir-fries. This vegetable resembles celery at the stem and tapers into green leaves that collect at the top. Bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable, along with broccoli and kale. It belongs to the Brassicaceae (also known as Cruciferae) family of plants that contain many health-promoting nutrients.

This article examines the nutritional and health benefits of eating bok choy, including how to prepare it and whether someone may want to avoid it.

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Nutrition Facts: 1 Serving of Bok Choy

One serving of leafy green vegetables like bok choy is one cup of loosely packed raw leaves. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 1-cup, or 70 gram (g), serving of raw bok choy leaves has the following nutritional profile:

  • Calories: 9
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Total Carbohydrates: 1.5 g
  • Fiber: 0.7 g
  • Vitamin C: 35% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin K: 27% DV
  • Vitamin A: 17% DV
  • Folate: 12% DV
  • Calcium: 6% DV
  • Manganese: 5% DV
  • Iron: 3% DV
  • Magnesium: 3% DV

Bok choy is a good source of vitamins C and K and provides a variety of other vitamins and minerals that support overall wellness.

Compounds and Nutrients

Bok choy is packed with phytonutrients and compounds known to benefit health.

Bok choy and other greens are rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that help protect your cells from oxidative stress and damage. Without antioxidants, your body becomes more susceptible to inflammation and disease. One of the major antioxidants in bok choy is vitamin C.

As a cruciferous vegetable, bok choy also contains sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds are responsible for these veggies’ bitter taste and pungent odor but also offer numerous health benefits.

Benefits of Eating More Bok Choy

Eating bok choy is a great way to add more health-promoting nutrients and compounds to your diet.

When bok choy is chopped or chewed, its glucosinolate compounds are broken down by an enzyme called myrosinase and produce other compounds called isothiocyanates. One of the best-studied isothiocyanates in cruciferous veggies is called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is understood to have anticancer and heart-protective effects and helps support healthy cells and genes.

Glucosinolate and isothiocyanates have been studied for their potential cancer-preventive activity and their heart, brain, and musculoskeletal health benefits.

The vitamins and minerals found in bok choy offer additional benefits, such as:

  • Potassium, magnesium, and calcium help support normal blood pressure regulation, an important factor in heart health.
  • Folate and vitamin B6 may help protect the health of your blood vessels by preventing the buildup of a compound called homocysteine, reducing the risk of stroke.
  • Magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K in bok choy support bone health.

When to Skip Bok Choy

Are there disadvantages of bok choy? For most people, bok choy is a healthy addition to the diet when consumed in moderation. In large amounts, however, bok choy may pose a risk of side effects, albeit in rare cases.

For example, one case study found that a high concentration of isothiocyanates in the body can interfere with the proper absorption of iodine by your thyroid and cause a severely underactive thyroid. Note that in this instance, a woman consumed 14-21 cups of bok choy every day for months, which is an excessive amount that most people probably don’t eat.

Research on the potential thyroid effects of eating bok choy (or other vegetables containing isothiocyanates) is limited. To reduce your risk, just consume bok choy in normal amounts as you would other vegetables. Furthermore, cooking bok choy deactivates myrosinase, removing this risk altogether.

Can You Eat Bok Choy Raw?

Bok choy can be eaten both raw and cooked. If you typically eat a large amount of bok choy and are concerned about myrosinase and your thyroid, cook bok choy first.

Bok Choy Meal Prep Inspiration

One of the best things about preparing meals with bok choy is that you can consume all parts of the plant, including the green leaves and the white stem, if you choose to. It has a strong smell and a slightly bitter flavor that lends itself well to several recipes.

If you’ve never used bok choy before, you’ll notice that it looks different than a round head of cabbage you probably see at the grocery store. The good news is that it can be prepared in several delicious, healthy ways. Plus, some research suggests that cooking it, such as in stir-fries, increases the concentration of certain antioxidants.

Here are some ideas:

  • Shred bok choy raw to make a coleslaw or to toss with other greens to make a salad.
  • Slice the whole plant lengthwise, then drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle it with seasoning before roasting it in the oven.
  • Dice it to add to soups or stir-fries.
  • Chop bok choy and sauté it on the stovetop with olive oil and seasoning, which can be added to protein bowls, used to top pasta dishes, or served on its own as a side dish.
  • Finely shred it and add it to fried rice with other veggies.
  • Make a garlic bok choy by quartering and adding it to a sauté pan with garlic, shallots, olive oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil and cook until the desired texture is achieved.

Be creative. However you decide to experiment with bok choy in the kitchen, you will be adding flavor, texture, and nutrition to your meals.

Summary

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage and a cruciferous vegetable. It’s best known for its uses in Asian cuisine, like soups and stir-fries, but bok choy can be consumed raw or cooked. It’s rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and compounds called glucosinolates and isothiocyanate, studied for their anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and heart, brain, and musculoskeletal health benefits.

If you like leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, try this one to add a unique flavor and variety of nutrients to your diet.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, is a plant-based dietitian, writer, and speaker who specializes in helping people bring more plants to their plate. She’s a highly respected writer in the health and nutrition space and loves talking about the power of diet. Lauren aims to connect people with the information and resources to live their healthiest, fullest life.

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