Arugula, Bok choi, Broccoli, Broccoli rabe, Broccoli romanesco, Brussels sprout, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Collard greens, Daikon, Garden cress, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Komatsuna, Land cress, Mizuna, Mustard – seeds and leaves, Pak choi, Radish, Rutabaga, Tatsoi, Turnips – root and greens, Wasabi, Watercress
The cruciferous family of vegetables has generated a lot of interest in the health world due to their cancer fighting compounds.
What Are Cruciferous Vegetables?
Broadly, cruciferous vegetables belong to the Cruciferae family, which mostly contains the Brassica genus, but does include a few other genuses. In general, cruciferous vegetables are cool weather vegetables and have flowers that have four petals so that they resemble a cross. In most cases, the leaves or flower buds of cruciferous vegetables are eaten, but there are a few where either the roots or seeds are also eaten.
Lower Cancer Risk?
One of the big reasons to eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables is that they may help to lower your risk of getting cancer.
A review of research published in the October 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that 70% or more of the studies found a link between cruciferous vegetables and protection against cancer.
Various components in cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower cancer risks. Some have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining (endometrium), lung, colon, liver, and cervix, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.
Lab studies show that one of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables – sulforaphane (organosulfur compound that exhibits anti-cancer, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial properties) – can stimulate enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells, says Matthew Wallig, DVM, PhD. Through different mechanisms, two other compounds found in cruciferous vegetables — indole 3-carbinol and crambene — are also suspected of activating detoxification enzymes.
Cruciferous vegetables may help to protect against cancer by reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the overload of harmful molecules called free radicals, which are generated by the body. Reducing these free radicals may reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers.
In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, 20 participants were encouraged to eat 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables a day. And the results? Oxidative stress in the subjects’ bodies dropped 22% during the period when they were eating lots of cruciferous vegetables.
It’s best to eat these veggies raw (not all) or only lightly steamed to retain the phytochemicals that make cruciferous vegetables special in terms of health.
Here’s a comparison table of cruciferous vegetables, including the nutrients for which they contribute at least 10% of the Daily Value. Keep in mind that about half of the fiber in cruciferous vegetables is super-healthy soluble fiber.
Per 1 cup:
|Vitamin A||33% DV||1%||2%||16%||62%||137%|
|Omega-3s||200 mg||140 mg||60 mg||260 mg||100 mg||100 mg|
Tips about Cruciferous Vegetables
To maximize taste and nutrition:
1. Always eat Organic.
2. Don’t overcook cruciferous vegetables. They can produce a strong sulfur odor and become unappealing.
3. When buying fresh broccoli, look for firm florets with a purple, dark green, or bluish hue on the top. They’re likely to contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with lighter green tops. If it has yellow in it or is limp and bendable, the broccoli is old — don’t buy it.