Trying to name the healthiest vegetable is like trying to choose a favorite child. They're all wonderful. But cruciferous vegetables do have some healthful compounds not plentiful in other produce.

Thanks to the ubiquitous kale salad, this leafy green may be the cruciferous vegetable you're most familiar with. But you have many other options, including arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and watercress. And these rival kale in their healthfulness.

“Cruciferous vegetables are among the most nutritious because they are rich in several vitamins and minerals, plus they contain unique disease-fighting compounds,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads Consumer Reports’ food-testing department.

What's Special About Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are the most common dietary sources of glucosinolates. These are natural chemicals that give the veggies their pungent flavor and break down into cancer-protecting compounds.

A study in the Annals of Oncology found that having just one serving of cruciferous vegetables per week over a two-year period lowered the risk of breast, colon, and oral cancer by 17 percent; esophageal cancer by 28 percent; and kidney cancer by 32 percent. Each type of vegetable has different anticancer compounds, so it’s best to eat a variety.

This vegetable family also stands out for its rich bounty of vision-protecting carotenoids as well as fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins C, E, and K.

Some of these nutrients may contribute to that cancer-fighting ability, but they may also be part of the reason crucifers help control inflammation and protect against heart disease. In an analysis of 134,796 people, researchers in China found that those who ate about 6 ounces per day reduced their risk of heart disease by about 20 percent compared with those who ate an ounce or less.

Cooking and Serving Tips

Steam or stir-fry. These methods preserve the most glucosinolates. Aim for an al dente texture. Overcooking not only turns these vegetables an unappetizing color but also makes them mushy, gives them a stronger flavor than you might like, and diminishes the nutrient content.

Try brussels sprout chips. Remove the leaves from the base. Toss with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until crispy, turning every 5 minutes.

Make a slaw. Season thinly sliced raw cabbage with rice-wine vinegar and olive oil. Use as a topping for fish tacos. Test-tube studies suggest that cabbage’s sulfur compounds make the selenium in fish a more potent cancer fighter.

Hang on to broccoli leaves and stems. Peel stalks and slice into coins to use in pasta dishes or as a dipper for hummus. Sauté greens with garlic in olive oil. They taste great, and you'll be helping to minimize food waste.

"Rice" some cauliflower. Grate cauliflower florets or pulse them in a food processor to make rice-sized granules. Or you can buy already riced cauliflower fresh or frozen in many supermarkets. It makes for a lower-carb, lower-calorie replacement for couscous, rice, and potatoes.

Use watercress for more than a garnish. Mix it with milder greens like baby spinach and pair with sweet and creamy flavors like lemon juice, avocado, and apple slices to balance out the strong flavor.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2017 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.