I have been using bok choy in my green smoothies recently. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut of the same-old kale, spinach and romaine day after day that it’s nice to branch out and sample some less familiar greens.
Bok choy, also called pak choi or “Chinese cabbage” is a Brassica vegetable related to cabbage, kale and broccoli. It has flat, dark green leaves with a long, wide white stalk. It’s not as “leafy” as curly kale or spinach, but bok choy definitely adds a powerful dose of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to your green smoothie.
Bok Choy Nutrition and Health Benefits
Five leaves of bok choy (about 1 cup, shredded) only contains 9 calories, but provides 104% RDA of vitamin A (as beta-carotene), 35% RDA vitamin C, 27% RDA vitamin K and 12% RDA of folate. When it comes to minerals, five leaves contain 70mg of calcium (7% RDA) and small amounts of most other minerals.
Like other Brassica vegetables, bok choy contains glucosinolates, which have chemoprotective properties that may help prevent and fight cancer cells and reduce oxidative stress, acting as an antioxidant.
It is important to note that while glucosinolates, in small doses, do provide some documented health benefits, in large amounts, glucosinolates are toxic and can cause thyroid problems. Unless you have existing thyroid-related health problems, you don’t need to worry about toxicity from Brassica vegetables like bok choy by adding 10 leaves to your smoothie or even an entire head.
However, earlier in 2010, an elderly woman was hospitalized with hypothyroidism, resulting in myxedema coma after consuming 2-3 pounds of bok choy daily for several months. Granted, this is a LOT of bok choy and she didn’t rotate her greens, which I strongly advocate.
I recommend that you consume bok choy as you would any other green like kale, but don’t consume it (or any other Brassica vegetable) in large amounts, every day for an extended period of time. Brassicas like bok choy, kale, broccoli and turnip greens should be rotated with non-Brassicas like lettuce, spinach, beet greens and chard. Also, be sure your diet includes sea vegetables like kelp or dulse as they are rich sources of iodine which is important for proper thyroid function.
How To Use Bok Choy In A Smoothie
Bok choy has a distinctive, bitter flavor. It tastes somewhat like spinach, only stronger. I actually really like the flavor and enjoy eating the raw leaves plain.
In a green smoothie, bok choy is easily masked by just about any fruit you add to it. You can use bok choy interchangeably with baby spinach. I’d say it’s less bitter than kale, and certainly a lot less bitter than dandelion. Be sure to use the entire white stalk too!
You’ll get a good helping of vitamins and minerals if you use about 10 leaves in a typical smoothie. I usually toss in an entire head of baby bok choy in my smoothies.
How To Select And Store Bok Choy
Select bok choy that has dark green leaves and bright, white stalks (baby bok choy might have greenish stalks). Avoid any that is wilted or yellowing.
I keep all my leafy greens in clear plastic tubs in the refrigerator (or use your vegetable crisper drawer). Add a strip of paper towel or a dry cloth to absorb excess moisture and condensation. Three heads of baby bok choy were still crisp and fresh after five days stored this way. Don’t leave greens in plastic produce bags as they will go bad very quickly.
As with any leafy green, choose organic whenever possible. Unless you routinely shop in an organic market or a health food store, you might have difficulty finding organic bok choy.
Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.