Alarming statistics now suggest that more than half of all cancers in US adults may be caused by poor diet.1 What these frightening numbers mean is that much of the death and misery caused by cancer can be prevented.
There is no denying that vegetables are a requirement for nourishment and a healthy body. The compounds found in certain vegetables support the body’s natural detoxification process, helping to rid it of cancer-causing agents in our food, water, and environment.
However, cruciferous vegetables definitely seem to be on nearly every list of must-eat foods out there, and for good reason – they provide amazing health benefits.
Cruciferous vegetables, which are also known as Brassica vegetables, are all a part of the cabbage family.Their plants are in the Cruciferae family, and are known by their cross-shaped flowers with four petals.
The most common choices are:
The cruciferous family is unique among vegetables because of their glucosinolate content — glucosinolates give cruciferous vegetables their characteristic spicy or bitter tastes; when the plant cell walls are broken by blending, chopping, or chewing, an enzyme called myrosinase converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (ITCs) — compounds with potent anti-cancer effects, including:
-Anti-inflammatory effects — ITCs have been found to decrease the secretion of inflammatory molecules.
-Anti-angiogenic effects — isothiocyanates can inhibit the development of new blood vessels to limit tumor growth.
-Detoxification of carcinogens — Some carcinogens must be converted to their active form before they can bind DNA to cause carcinogenic changes — isothiocyanates can block this transformation.
-Preventing DNA damage — Isothiocyanates also increase the production of our body’s natural detoxification enzymes, which protect DNA against damage from carcinogens and free radicals.
-Stopping cell division in cells whose DNA has been damaged
-Promoting programmed cell death in cancerous cells
-Anti-estrogenic activity — Exposure to estrogen is known to increase breast cancer risk; estrogens can alter gene expression, promoting cell proliferation breast tissue. ITCs have been shown to inhibit the expression of estrogen-responsive genes.
-Shifting hormone metabolism — Eating cruciferous vegetables regularly helps the body to shift hormone metabolism, reducing the cancer-promoting potency of estrogen and other hormones.