Cruciferous vegetables fight cancer
Cancer is one of the ugliest diseases of our time, affecting 1 out of 3 people over the course of their lifetime: everyone from innocent children and young fathers to warm, loving grandmothers who want to spend their golden years doting on their grandkids. Seeing people of all ages bravely fight this horrible disease can really put a lot about health and medicine in perspective.
While cancer doesn’t discriminate, that doesn’t mean we have to accept the risk and just hope that we don’t fall into its clutches. It’s always easier to prevent disease than treat it after you’ve been diagnosed. Cancer is no exception.
Fortunately, you don’t have to look far or spend an entire paycheck to find one of the most powerful natural cancer fighters available. You just need to walk into your local organic market or grocery store, head straight for the produce section, and load your cart with this powerful, cancer-fighting family of vegetables.
Crunchy, delicious, cancer-fighting super-foods
The most common cruciferous veggies are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. But cabbage, arugula, bok choy, collard greens, kale, turnips, radish, kohlrabi, rutabaga, horseradish, watercress, and mustard greens should be on your shopping list as well.
We already know that these vegetables have a ton of nutritional value—abundant in vitamins A and K, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, to name a few. But what makes them such great, cancer-fighting weapons?
It all starts with their high content of sulfur-rich compounds called glucosinates (the source of that telltale pungent aroma). When you chop or chew these plants, an enzyme called myrosinase breaks down the glucosinates, producing isothiocyanates (ITCs). Various ITCs form as a result of this reaction, and all of them have been shown to remove carcinogens from the body, prevent tumors, and kill cancer cells.
An early review of 94 studies, published in 1996, found that eating cruciferous vegetables decreases the risk of cancer, especially lung, stomach, and colon cancers.
Since then, the praise has only continued to grow. Three separate meta-analyses published in the last couple of years concluded that these plants cut the risk of breast, bladder, and prostate cancer. And a 2014 review found that diets high in cruciferous veggies—particularly broccoli—guarded against colorectal cancer.
Other research published last year revealed that cruciferous plants also appear to reduce chronic inflammation—a known risk factor for cancer.
Raw or Cooked
To get the highest level of protection against cancer, add any or all of the cruciferous vegetables to your diet at least three to four times per week (or more, if you prefer!)
You get the greatest benefit by eating them raw. It allows the cancer-fighting enzymes to fully activate, offering their strongest protection. Just be sure to chew well to release the enzyme! And for maximum nutrient content, whenever possible, choose organic, just-picked veggies and eat them within 48 hours. (The best place to buy organic, freshly-picked produce is your local farmer’s market.)
If you prefer your veggies cooked, you can increase their cancer-fighting abilities by chopping the raw vegetable and letting it sit for several minutes before heating. This allows important chemical reactions to take place before the heat destroys the beneficial enzymes. Interestingly, the probiotic bacteria that reside in our intestines can also convert cruciferous veggie enzymes into powerful cancer-fighting chemicals. So even if the enzyme is destroyed by cooking it, this important conversion may still take place in the gut after you eat the vegetables.
A final option is to blend or juice these vegetables and add them to smoothies or just drink them straight. For an extra antioxidant, energy, and nutritional boost, add powdered greens.
As you can see, you can’t go wrong by enhancing your diet with a rainbow of cruciferous vegetables. They’re nutritional powerhouses that protect every cell in your body.
Last Updated: February 27, 2020
Originally Published: January 21, 2015