The strangely named bok choy (aka pak choy) is a vegetable in the brassica family. It originated in China around 400 AD and is often referred to as ‘Chinese cabbage’ or ‘spoon cabbage’ due to the shape of its leaves. It is one of the most nutrient dense plants in the world and is used in Chinese medicine for this reason.
After Spain conquered the Philippines in the 16th century, large numbers of Chinese immigrated to the islands and brought bok choy with them. Bok choy made its way to Europe in the 18th or 19th century. It is currently available year-round in supermarkets throughout North America, where people still associate it with Chinese cooking.
Unlike many other types of cabbage, bok choy does not form heads, but rather spreads a dense cluster of leaves, similar to mustard greens. This dense vegetable has earned its place in the diet of many health-conscious people, and is often used as a replacement for spinach, collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables. It has a light, sweet flavor, a crisp texture, and commonly makes an appearance in Chinese cuisine in stir-fries and soups. The name comes from Cantonese and literally means “white vegetable.”
Nutritionally, bok choy is loaded with vitamins K, C, and A as well as potassium, folate, calcium, and vitamin B6. It has a remarkable concentration of antioxidants which provide anti-inflammatory benefits from omega-3s and vitamin K. Additionally, bok choy contains considerable amounts of to fiber and nitrogen compounds called indoles, both of which appear to lower the risk of various forms of cancer. It is a recommended vegetable in weight-reduction programs falling under “zero calorie or negative calorie” category, which adds no extra calories to the body when eaten, but facilitates calorie burn.
Bok choy is known for improving bone strength, preventing chronic diseases such as cancer, boosting circulation and helping to heal quicker, boosting the immune system, improving cardiovascular, skin, and eye health, as well as lowering blood pressure.
In Chinese medicine, bok choy is used to quench thirst, relieve constipation, improve digestive health, and treat diabetes.