Cruciferous Vegetables Carry a Strong Nutritional Punch

Eat more cruciferous vegetables to fight cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables are one of the most talked-about foods these days, because they are nutritious foods that should be included in any healthy diet.

Cruciferous vegetables are part of the Brassica family of vegetables, and include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens, and watercress.

These vegetables are some of the most nutritionally sound foods that are good to eat for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

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• They contain high amounts of soluble fiber, which is necessary to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood sugar. Soluble fiber is also extremely important in preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and anal fissures.

• Cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidant vitamins, like vitamins C and E, and folic acid, which are necessary for normal immunity, detoxification, and cardiovascular health. In addition, these vegetables contain high amounts of vitamin K, which is a vitamin necessary for normal bone growth and blood clotting.

• Cruciferous vegetables also contain the antioxidants from the carotenoid family of vitamins (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), which are important for free-radical protection in the eyes, heart, and blood vessels.

These nutritious vegetables have received a great deal of attention, mostly due to the associated lower risk of various cancers in people who consume the highest amounts of cruciferous vegetables.

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Here’s where their cancer-fighting abilities come in. Cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of chemicals known as indole-3-carbinol and sulphoraphane.

These chemicals have been vigorously studied over the last several decades in cell-culture studies, animal studies, and also in human studies.

The studies have collectively illustrated that the chemicals in cruciferous vegetables, when ingested in high amounts, can help prevent various cancers, including breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung.

The reason why they’ve been associated with a reduced risk of cancer is because these cruciferous vegetables have been shown to improve cellular detoxification, encourage free-radical protection, and have anti-inflammatory action. The chemicals found in cruciferous vegetables can also prevent a process known as angiogenesis, which occurs when there is a growth of new blood vessels in a cancerous tumor. This process can cause tumors to grow, and allow tumor cells to seed and spread to other tissues. The spread of cancer cells greatly increases the morbidity and mortality rates for the disease.

These vegetables are definitely ones you should include in your diet. Cruciferous vegetables can be eaten raw (although it’s best to cook them for 30 minutes to prevent goiters), lightly steamed, or grilled. Improve your health by eating these nutrient-rich “superfoods,” and try to consume two to three servings of these vegetables per day.


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Sources:
Li, Y., et al., “Antioxidant Function of Isoflavone and 3,3′-Diindolylmethane: Are They Important for Cancer Prevention and Therapy?,” Antioxid Redox Signal.; first published online March 14, 2013.
Wang, M., et al., “Antiangiogenic activity of indole-3-carbinol in endothelial cells stimulated with activated macrophages,” Food Chem. September 15, 2012; 134(2): 811–20.
Brandi, G., et al., “Antitumoral Activity of Indole-3-carbinol Cyclic Tri- and Tetrameric Derivatives mixture in Human Breast Cancer Cells: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies,” Anticancer Agents Med Chem.; first published online October 18, 2012.
Semov, A., et al., “Diindolilmethane (DIM) selectively inhibits cancer stem cells,” Biochem Biophys Res Commun. July 20, 2012; 424(1): 45–51.
“Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention,” National Cancer Institute web site, June 7, 2012; http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/diet/cruciferous-vegetables, last accessed April 8, 2013.
“Cruciferous Vegetables,” Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruciferous, last accessed April 8, 2013.