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February 6, 2013

Eating Healthy Cruciferous Vegetables

Healthy Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are among the healthiest vegetables we can eat.  Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. The pungent aroma and spicy taste of cruciferous vegetables are the result of sulfur containing compounds called glucosinolates.

The Names of Cruciferous Vegetables

There is no shortage of cruciferous vegetables to choose from. Arugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, mustard, radish, turnips, wasabi, and watercress are examples of cruciferous vegetables.

What Make Cruciferous Vegetables Healthy?

Cruciferous vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants that limit tissue damage that leads to inflammation and cancer. In one study oxidative stress was reduced by 22% after increase consumption of cruciferous vegetables. Inflammation contributes to many chronic diseases like heart disease, and cancer remains the seconding leading cause of death in the US next to heart disease.

Higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables have been associated with lower risks of cancer especially lung and colon cancer. Some studies show lower rates of prostate, breast, and endometrial cancers with higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables.

These healthy vegetables contain compounds that detoxify or neutralize carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) before they damage healthy normal cells. These compounds include sulphoraphane, indole-3-carbinol, and crambene.

The breakdown products of glucosinoaltes like indole-3-carbinol inhibit the development of hormone sensitive cancers through their effects on metabolism of estrogen. Estrogen can be metabolized into 16 alpha-hydroxyesterone or 2 hydroxyesterone. 16 alpha-hydroxyesterone is carcinogenic.  Compounds like indole-3-carbinol favor metabolism into non-carcinogenic 2 hydroxyesterone.

Cruciferous vegetables helps to improve the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide improves vascular function, enhances the immune system, and improves neural cell to cell communication.

Tips for Cooking Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are best eaten raw or lightly steamed. Cooking at too high of temperature destroys the beneficial phytochemicals found in them. Overcooking can also produce the strong sulfur smell that many find unappealing.

They can be added to green salads, soups, stews, and casseroles for those who prefer not eat them alone.

There are no current recommendations on how many servings of cruciferous vegetables should be consumed in a day or week. In animal studies consumption of too much cruciferous vegetables can lead to low thyroid function but that has not been shown in any human studies, though there have been case reports of humans developing low thyroid after consumption of excessive amounts of these vegetables.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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