They are high in vitamin C and fiber and contain phytochemicals that are known to fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease.
These vegetables are member of the broccoli and cabbage family and include kale, collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, water cress, bok choy, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnip root greens, rutabaga, radish, mustard seeds and horseradish. They are named cruciferous from the Latin word, cruciferae meaning cross bearing, because their flowers have four pedals in the shape of a cross.
Cruciferous Vegetables and Lower Cancer Rates
The phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables, namely a class called to glucosinolates, have been linked to lower cancer risks. Over 100 different glucosinolates have been identified in cruciferous vegetables, and all of the glucosinolates studied to date have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. (1)
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, some of these compounds have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining, lung, colon, liver and cervix. And studies have found that men who eat a diet high in cruciferous vegetables have a lower rate of prostate cancer. (2)
Cruciferous vegetables have a high degree of anti-oxidant properties, helping to reduce free radicals in the body, thereby reducing the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers. Studies have shown that some of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables – sulforaphane, indole 3-carbinol and crambene, not only help neutralize free radicals, they actually stimulate enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells. And this protection isn’t short lived; the phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables continue to protect our bodies for 3-5 days after they are eaten. (3)
According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, studies have shown that if consumption of plant food intake goes up 20% in a population, cancer rates typically drop 20%. But cruciferous vegetables have been shown to be twice as effective. As cruciferous vegetable intake goes up 20% in a population, cancer rates drop 40%. In another study on prostate cancer, it was found that 28 servings of vegetables per week decreased the risk of prostate cancer by 33%, but 3 or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week decreased the risk by 41% (4)
Cruciferous Vegetables and Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Diets rich cruciferous vegetables may also help to protect against cardiovascular disease. A recent study found that such a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables was linked to lower levels of markers of inflammation in the body (4). Cruciferous vegetables are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – an important anti inflammatory compound in the body (1).
Studies have shown that In some individuals susceptible to high blood sugar, the anti-inflammatory properties of some of the phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables (sulforaphane) may be able to prevent, or even reverse some of the damage to blood vessel linings that can be caused by chronic blood sugar problems. Decreased risk of heart attacks and strokes may also eventually be linked in a statistically significant way to the intake of cruciferous vegetables and their unique anti-inflammatory compounds. (1)
So eat your cruciferous vegetables! For maximum health benefit, it is best, to eat these veggies raw or only lightly steamed. Chop them up and chew them well as the crushing of the molecules releases the beneficial phytochemicals. Juicing cruciferous vegetables is strongly recommended and has been shown to markedly inhibit the growth of breast cancer with significant death of cancer cells occurring at higher concentrations of cruciferous juice (4)