By: Dr. Keith Kantor
Are you eating the recommended servings of 9-11 servings of vegetables and some fruits per day? If the answer is yes, that is great, I would like to encourage you to take your nutrition a step further and aim to consume more cruciferous vegetables daily. Cruciferous vegetables are nutrient powerhouses have been thoroughly researched to promote optimal health and most importantly they can prevent and reduce the risk for cancer. They have it all, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and antioxidants. Aim to eat multiple servings of cruciferous vegetables daily.
Specifically cruciferous vegetables are grown in the ground and believed to be unique. They absorb potent nutrients from the soil environment in which they are grown. They are rich in sulfur containing compounds called glucosinolates, which support detoxification and indole-3-carbinol, which greatly reduces the risk of breast, colon and lung cancer. Integrative medicine professionals recommend indole- 3- carbinol in both whole food (cruciferous vegetables) and high quality supplement form to those whose blood work shows estrogen dominance or those who have a high risk for certain cancers including breast cancer.
Here is list of the most common cruciferous vegetables:
- Bok Choy
- Brussel Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Mustard greens
A summery of the benefits include:
- Destroying cancer and reducing tumor size.
- Promotes a healthy immune system.
- Facilitates a natural detoxification process.
- Balances blood sugar levels into more optimal ranges.
- Enhances brain function.
- Balances sex hormones including estrogen. This can result in body fat reduction if the estrogen dominance is contributing to weight gain and excessive adipose tissue.
- Reduce inflammation and complications associated with inflammation.
Cruciferous Vegetable Research
A 1996 article – published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention – reviewed 94 studies and found that consumption of these vegetables indicated a decreased risk in all cancer types.
Of the 94 research trials evaluated, 70% of cabbage studies showed a decreased relationship with cancer risk. Other notables include cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts studies that reported 67%, 56% and 29% relationship with decreased cancer risk, respectively.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research cruciferous vegetables have been shown to have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining (endometrium), lung, colon, liver and cervix. Those who have a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables also have been shown to have a reduced risk for prostate cancer.
Studies concluded to say high consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of cancer. Benefits are most consistent for lung, stomach, colon, and rectal cancer.
Glucosinolates is the compound that kills cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, the secret behind the cancer-killing ability of cruciferous veggies is that they are rich in glucosinolates – a large group of sulfur-containing compounds.
Research shows that glucosinolates can activate the body’s own natural antioxidant systems. They act as indirect antioxidants triggering the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes that block free- radical attacks on DNA. As this process happens several antioxidant activities actually cycle over within the body, continuing to protect the overall system, for up to four days after the glucosinolate- containing food was first consumed, as opposed to the less lengthy benefits from most regular antioxidants.
These powerhouse chemicals are known to break down during the chewing and digestion process into biologically active compounds that prevent cancer cells growth, which are referred to as indoles, thiocyanates and isothiocyanates.
Having been discovered to prevent cancer growth in rats and mice, indoles and isothiocyanates are heralded to protect against cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.
Research suggests that this happens because glucosinolates stimulate what are known as Phase II enzymes, the body’s natural antioxidant system. In essence, glucosinolates trigger the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes that block free-radical attacks on your DNA.
It has also been reported that glucosinolates:
- Are anti-inflammatory
- Contain antibacterial and antiviral properties
- Inactivate carcinogens
- Reprogram cancer cells to be terminated
- Prevent tumor formation and metastasis
Reduction in oxidative stress
Another way cruciferous vegetables may help to protect against cancer is by reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the overload of harmful molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are generated by the body. Reducing these free radicals help reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast and other cancers.
In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, 20 participants were encouraged to eat 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables a day. After three weeks, the amount of oxidative stress in their body was measured. Then, after a three-week washout period, the study participants were told to take a multivitamin with fiber. Again, the oxidative stress was measured three weeks later.
The results showed that oxidative stress in the subjects’ bodies dropped 22% during the period when they were eating lots of cruciferous vegetables. But the change during the multivitamin segment was negligible (0.2%), says lead researcher Jay H. Fowke, PhD, an assistant professor and cancer epidemiologist for the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Protects against cardiovascular disease.
Inflammation is the root of cardiovascular disease including heart attack, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, etc.
Nutrients found in Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables have the most vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid
- Kale is rich in vitamin A
- Broccoli vitamin C
- Brussels sprouts and broccoli are both high in folic acid
Brussels sprouts have the most vitamin E (about 9% of the Daily Value) and vitamin B-1 (15% Daily Value). And it’s broccoli and Brussels sprouts again that have the most healthy plant omega-3s: A cup of broccoli contributes about 200 milligrams, and a cup of Brussels sprouts about 260 milligrams.
Tips for eating cruciferous vegetables
- It is best to eat the vegetables lightly steamed, roasted or sautéed or raw to ensure that no nutrients were destroyed in the cooking process.
- Don’t overcook cruciferous vegetables. They can produce a strong sulfur odor and become unappealing.
- You can buy several types of cruciferous vegetables ready-to-go in the frozen or fresh packaged sections of your supermarket, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Avoid canned options. Frozen options can be more economical and will not go bad as quickly; they have the same if not more nutrients.
- Add raw broccoli or cauliflower florets to your green salad to give the nutrients a big boost.
- Add chopped cruciferous veggies to soups, stews, and casseroles.
- The darker the color of the broccoli the better. They’re likely to contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with lighter green tops, this is another reason frozen is a great choice, they are picked at the peak of nutrition.
Conclusion- A nutrition plan rich in cruciferous vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, quality all natural proteins and high fiber unprocessed grains is the best way to reach optimal health and reduce risk for chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Photo Credit: Natural Health 365