Cruciferous Vegetables

By: Dr. Amy Fletcher

One of the best things you can do to improve your overall health is to start making small changes in your diet. January brings a new year and an increased motivation to participate in cleaner eating, detox programs and new exercise plans. We all know that eating fruits and vegetables is a foundation aspect of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Unfortunately only about 1 in 10 Americans consume the recommended 5-9 servings of these foods a day. Despite the mounting evidence of the health benefits of including these in your diet, the vast majority of us are falling short. Making a small change in just this area of your health can have big results!

One easy place to start is to expand the variety of vegetables in your diet. As expected, not all vegetables are created the same when it comes to their value-add.. Some are better than others in terms of nutritional content and their impact on important factors such as inflammation and reduction of cancer risk. Often times we think of these as “Super Foods”. At the top of the list of superfoods are those of the Brassica family, commonly known as cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, rutabaga, turnip and even arugula. There is a growing amount of research into their specific effects on the body and implications on overall health. Increasing your knowledge about these will hopefully motivate you to boost your consumption up to the recommended one serving of cruciferous vegetables a day

Cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients, including several carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin); vitamins C, E, and K; folate, and minerals as well as an excellent source of fiber. In addition, cruciferous vegetables contain an important group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur- containing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables. The glucosinolates are broken down into active compounds such as sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol when they are digested. These are the key compounds that are under extensive research with regards to their role in reducing the incidence of cancer.

Sulforaphane has been studied for the prevention and treatment of several types of cancer, including stomach, bladder, breast, prostate, lung, colon and skin. In addition, research indicates sulforaphane possesses the capacity to intervene in multistage carcinogenesis through the modulation and/or regulation of important cellular mechanisms and to be selectively toxic to malignant cells. Sulforaphane can also induce cell death (apoptosis) and inhibit tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration.

Sulforaphane is increasingly referred to as an anticancer compound. This reputation is linked mainly to sulforaphane’s potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, not dissimilar to tumeric (curcumin). In fact, one promising, preclinical study found that the combination of sulforaphane, aspirin and curcumin was effective for the chemoprevention of pancreatic cancer. Lastly, these key compounds also help to protect cells from DNA damage or oxidative stress. There are almost 300 studies on PubMed alone referring to these vegetables and antioxidant capacities!

We are in a world inundated with chemicals and toxins. The average person is exposed to millions of these per day. Cruciferous vegetables can assist your body’s innate ability to detoxify which is very helpful on a day to day basis and even more reason to eat a serving each day. The detoxifying qualities of cruciferous vegetables is thought to be directly connected to sulforaphane’s role in activation of Nrf2, which is known to have a critical role in the metabolism and excretion of toxic substances.

An equally important benefit of cruciferous vegetables is their impact on inflammation. Dysfunctional inflammation has increasingly become identified to be a driving factor at the root of most, if not all, chronic illness and disease. In some form or another, somewhere, a body that is unwell, is inflamed. Luckily, nature has provided us with phytochemicals and antioxidants within our food to reduce the inflammatory burden. Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with these properties. The consumption of these important foods can modulate the excretion of biomarkers linked to inflammation and vascular reactions according to a 2015 study. Food really is medicine!

At Thrive, our mission is to educate and empower you on your path towards optimal health. The tremendous benefits of eating your sulforaphane-rich cruciferous vegetables should not be underestimated. Start your new year off on right and take advantage of the power of cruciferous veggies on her health by making them a regular part of your diet. .

One response to “Cruciferous Vegetables”

  1. Veronica says:

    Another good article. Thank you!
    Cruciferous vegetables in slaw form are my favorite way to consume them. Lightly cooked is ok, but the smell is often too strong for me.

    Is bok choy a cruciferous veggie? Yummy stuff.

    Unfortunately, every book/article I’ve ever read about the thyroid has warned against eating cruciferous vegetables. I take that with a grain of salt and balance that out as best as I can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *