Vegetables are a healthy diet; they contain many vitamins and minerals. Many vegetables are rich in fiber as well. However, besides having all the nutrients, vegetables also safeguard us from various diseases. Certain types of vegetables, specifically cruciferous vegetables, have some unique properties that make them effective in preventing cancer.
What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables have gained popularity recently due to their superficial cancer-fighting properties. This large group of plants is assorted, providing solid and unique aroma. It is named after the Latin word for crucifix because the blossoms of these plants resemble a cross. The cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin K and calcium. Dark green cruciferous veggies are also a source of vitamins A and C. These vitamins are helpful in lowering inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are crunchy and tasty. They are excellent weather vegetables. These vegetables also are rich in fiber and low in calories, which means they will feel full for a long time. People also consume cruciferous vegetables, flower buds or the leaves.
Following are some of the cruciferous vegetables; adding some of these vegetables into your diet may help lower your risk for cancer:
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprout
- Mustard (leaves and seeds)
The link between cancer and cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables have nutrients that lower your risk for several cancers, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer. Cruciferous vegetables contain carotenoids zeaxanthin, lutein, beta-carotene, folate and vitamins C, E, and K. They are also rich in minerals and an excellent source of fiber, which helps in preventing colorectal cancer.
This group of vegetables is also an excellent dietary source of glucosinolates, which has cancer-fighting properties. When intact, the glucosinolates are not effective. Still, when we break them down through chewing, processing, and pests, they contact the myrosinase enzyme and initiate a process that releases specific chemicals that can prevent cancer.
How do cruciferous vegetables stop cancer?
There are three primary ways that cruciferous vegetables can prevent cancer. Researchers have found substantial evidence that a person’s risk of cancer can decrease when they are part of a healthy, clean, low-fat diet.
• Glucosinolates – These chemicals contain sulfur in all cruciferous vegetables, giving them their trademark bitter flavor and intense aroma. When someone breaks this substance down by chewing, preparation, or digestion, it forms certain compounds (indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane) that scientists have identified as having “anticancer properties.” They do this by impeding the development or growth of cancer. Studies have looked at this effect on mice and rats and found that it is particularly effective in certain organs. Researchers are also looking at other ways the substances can prevent cancer. When working in the body, they:
- Have anti-inflammatory properties
- Aid in preventing DNA damage to cells
- Inhibit the formation of blood vessels in tumors
- Are antibacterial and antiviral
- Inhibit the migration of tumor cells, thus halting metastasis
- Cause cancerous cells to die
- Aid in causing carcinogens to become inactive
- Bioactive components – Some studies have shown that the bioactive components of these veggies can actually affect the biomarkers of processes related to cancer in the human body such as decreasing abnormal cell growth.
- Genetic encoding of glutathione S-transferase – Glutathione S-transferase is an enzyme that helps the body metabolize and eliminate isothiocyanates. This is important because isothiocyanates prevent the activation of carcinogens, increase the speed at which the carcinogens are eliminated from the body, and counteract the dangerous effects of active carcinogens.
Best Ways to Consume Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are at their most nutritious and have the most potent cancer-fighting properties when they are raw. When one chops and chews the vegetables, they release the most cancer-fighting chemicals. Likewise, they lose a great deal of those properties while cooking. Steaming or boiling the vegetables very lightly for less than 5 minutes will allow them to retain some of those cancer-fighting properties.
Features of cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are low-calorie and rich in folate, vitamins C, E, K, and fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient to incorporate if weight loss is the goal, as it helps keep you fuller longer. These vegetables are also good sources of phytonutrients, which are plant-based mixtures that may help lower inflammation and reduce cancer risk.
Cruciferous vegetables also have glucosinolates. These chemicals not only enhance aroma and flavor, but they have also been shown to have anticancer effects.
How much cruciferous vegetables should you eat everyday?
An adult woman should eat 2.5 cups of vegetables per day, while for an adult man it is recommended to have 3 cups everyday. One cup of cooked or raw broccoli, brussels sprouts, or cauliflower counts as one cup of vegetables. Two cups of leafy vegetables, like kale or arugula, count as one cup from the vegetable group.
Your total vegetable intake should not be only cruciferous vegetables, but it should be incorporated daily for maximum health benefits.