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Bok choy nutrition facts

Bok choy, also known as leafy Chinese cabbage, is one of the popular vegetable in mainland China, Philippines, Vietnam and other East-Asian regions. At the same time, this humble Brassica family leafy-vegetable has captured attention of the western world for its sweet, succulent nutritious leaves and stalks.

Scientific name: Brassica campestris L. (Chinensis group). It is also recognized by several local dialects in the East Asian countries as pe-tsai, pak choi, petsay, white-celery mustard, Chinese white cabbage…etc.



bok choy
Bok choy. Note for small, upright, cylindrical stem with dark green leaves.


In structure, bok choy resembles collards, and could be described as a non-heading cabbage (Acephala group). It is a small plant which grows upright from the ground surface with smooth white romaine lettuce like stalks, which spread at its top to fine, glossy green, oval or round leaves. Fully grown-up bok choy may reach about 12-18 inches in height.

Brassica campestris group can be further categorized according to the color of petioles in its leaves as:

White petioled; varieties include joi choi, pak-choy white, prize choi, lei choi, taisai, canton pak choi…etc.

Green petioled types are chinese pak choi green, mei qing choi…etc.


Health benefits of bok choy

  • Bok choy is one of the popular very low calorie leafy vegetables. Nonetheless, it is a very rich source of many vital phyto-nutrients, vitamins, minerals and health-benefiting anti-oxidants.

  • 100 g of bok choy carries just 13 calories. It is one of the recommended vegetables in the weight reduction programs falling under "zero calorie or negative calorie" category of food items, which when eaten would add no extra calories into the body but facilitate calorie burn and thereby reduction of body weight.

  • As in other Brassica family vegetables, bok choy too contains certain anti-oxidant plant chemicals such as thiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, zea-xanthin, sulforaphane and isothiocyanates. Together with dietary fiber and vitamins, these compounds help protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers and help reduce LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels in the blood.

  • Fresh pak choi is an excellent source of water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin-C (ascorbic acid). 100 g provides 45 mg or 75 % of daily requirements of vitamin C. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

  • Bok-choy has more vitamin A, carotenes, and other flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants than cabbage, cauliflower, etc. Just 100 g of fresh Bokchoy leaves provide 4468 IU or 149% of daily-required levels vitamin A.

  • Pak choi is a very good source of vitamin K, provides about 38% of RDA levels. Vitamin-K has a potential role in the bone metabolism by promoting osteotrophic activity inside bone cells. Hence, enough vitamin K in the diet makes your bone stronger, healthier and delay osteoporosis. Further, vitamin-K also has been found to have an established role in curing Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.

  • Fresh bok choy is vital source of B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine, and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that our body requires them from external sources to replenish.

  • Further, this leafy vegetable is a moderate source of minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Potassium is an important electrolyte inside the cells and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the human body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for the red blood cell formation.



Selection and storage

Although bok choy can be available year-round, however, it is at its best during the winter season. In the markets, buy fresh harvest featuring firm stalks and dark green crispy flavorful leaves. Avoid slump plant with leaves wilted and lost their luster.

Once at home store whole pak choi (bok-choy) in vegetable compartment inside the refrigerator, set at high relative humidity. If stored appropriately, it stays fresh for upto 3-4 days without loss of much of nutrients. However, pak choi is more nutritious, sweeter, and flavorful when used fresh.


Preparation and serving methods

Trim off at its base and remove outer discolored leaves. Wash whole vegetable in cold water. Gently pat dry or place it upside down until all the water drained out.

To prepare, separate outer stalks from the base using a paring knife and slice whole plant in equal halves lengthwise. Then, chop from the stem end about an inch apart and work towards its leafy end. Add it into a variety of recipes, either combined with other vegetables or enjoy all alone in stir-fry or soup.

Here are some of the preparation tips:

bock choy stir fry
Bok choy stir-fry with ginger, garlic, soy sauce and a bit of chili paste.
Photo courtesy: Scott
  • Crispy, sweet bok choy stalks can be eaten raw, added to salads, sandwiches, and burgers.

  • Its stalks can be mix well with cabbage in coleslaw.

  • Baby bok choy can be a very attractive addition to salads and stir-fries.

  • in korean peninsula, it is employed much like napa cabbage in the preparation of "bok-choy kimchi".

  • In China and other East Asian regions, it is used much like cabbage in stew fries with added onion, garlic, bell pepper, and green chillies mixed with steamed rice and soy/chilli/tomato sauce to prepare chowmein.

  • Pak choi is one of the wonderful vegetables used generously in modern-day recipes like stir fries, soups, stuffing…etc.

  • It mixes well with cabbage, chilies, capsicum, onion, ginger, garlic, rice, tofu, seafood, meat and poultry.


Safety profile

Like in cabbage, bok choy too contains certain chemical compounds in it known as "goitrogens." These plant-based compounds found abundantly in Brassica/cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli... etc. Prolonged consumption of vegetables high in goitrogens may lead to swelling of thyroid gland, a condition known as goiter. It is, therefore, advised that in some individuals with thyroid dysfunction to limit consumption of brassica family vegetables in their food. However, they may be consumed without any reservations in healthy. (Medical disclaimer).



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Further resources:

1. Oriental cabbage production-pdf.

2. USDA National Nutrient Database.


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