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Bok Choy – Crispy Goodness

Bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, bai cai and pak choi, is a much-loved vegetable in Asia. Its mild flavor makes it a favorite accompaniment in stir fries, soups, steamed dishes, dim sum, fried rice and noodles. We shine a spotlight on this mid-mannered vegetable and showcase its nutritional super powers.


A part of the cruciferous vegetable family, bok choy is classified as a cabbage even though it bears little resemblance to the round cabbage found in grocery stores. The vegetable has been cultivated in China since the 5th century and is thought to be the oldest of the Asian greens. Generations of seed selection and cultivation altered a single plant from a cabbage family into numerous varieties including bok choy, cabbage and the turnip in the Mediterranean. Bok choy was introduced in the United States in the 19th century by Chinese immigrants involved in the Gold Rush.

Bok (bai or pak) means white and choy (cai or choi) means vegetable, so bok choy translates to “white vegetable.” In Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China, farmers grow more than 20 varieties of bok choy. However, the varieties that are typically cultivated in California are regular, Shanghai and baby.

Nutritional Punch

Low in calories and high in nutrients and vitamins, bok choy is an excellent source of beta carotene, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. The darker the leaf, the more beta carotene the vegetable contains. According to Nutrition and You, bok choy has more vitamin A, beta carotene and flavonoid polyphenol antioxidants (that helps detoxify cell-damaging free radicals in the body) than cabbage or cauliflower.  Bok choy also is in the category of foods that when eaten, will not contribute weight to the body, but will actually help burn or reduce calories.

Nutrition and You notes that bok choy contains antioxidants like thiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane and isothiocyanates. These compounds, along with fiber and vitamins, help to protect the body against breast, colon and prostate cancers, and help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the blood. Bok choy is also an excellent source of vitamin C (to protect against infections), vitamin K (protect bone health), and vitamins B1, B6 and B5.

Bok choy is usually enjoyed in Asian dishes, but because of its crisp texture and delicate flavor, it is an ideal vegetable in all kinds of salads. For a traditional southeast Asian preparation, check out the recipe for spicy bok choy stir fry.

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