cruciferous veggies and cancer

Cruciferous Veggies and Cancer (And How To Maximize Their Benefits)

by Kelley Herring on December 6, 2012

You know the distinct “bite” of broccoli? That powerful flavor is packed with cancer-fighting compounds. You see, when we chop or chew cruciferous vegetables, an enzyme called myrosinase interacts with glucosinolates and releases a variety of compounds called isothiocyanates.

Cruciferous Veggies and Cancer: Boost Antioxidants, Detoxify and Halt Cancer Growth

In human cells, isothiocyanates induce the body’s phase II detoxifying enzymes, including glutathione. These enzymes play important roles in protecting cells from DNA damage by carcinogens and free radicals and also act as detoxifiers.

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells divide unchecked and lose their ability to respond to the body’s cell death signals. Isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit proliferation and induce programmed cell death (or apoptosis) in a number of cancer cell lines. In fact, eating 5 or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week has been associated with significant reductions in cancer risk in some studies.

Cruciferous Veggies: Maximizing the Benefits

Because cooking cruciferous vegetables greatly reduces the levels of glucosinolates in foods, it is important to lightly steam or quickly sauté to achieve the most health benefits.

Here is the breakdown of glucosinolates in foods:

  • Brussels Sprouts: 1/2 cup, 104 mg/serving
  • Mustard greens: 1/2 cup, 79 mg/serving
  • Turnips: 1/2 cup, 60 mg/serving
  • Cabbage, savoy: 1/2 cup, 35 mg/serving
  • Kale: 1/2 cup, 34 mg/serving
  • Watercress: 1 cup, 32 mg/serving
  • Kohlrabi: 1/2 cup, 31 mg/serving
  • Cabbage, red: 1/2 cup, 29 mg/serving
  • Broccoli: 1/2 cup, 27 mg/serving
  • Horseradish: 1 Tbsp, 24 mg/serving
  • Cauliflower: 1/2 cup, 22 mg/serving
  • Bok choy: 1/2 cup, 20 mg/serving

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About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

Fahey JW, Zalcmann AT, Talalay P. The chemical diversity and distribution of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates among plants. Phytochemistry. 2001;56(1):5-51. Zhang Y. Cancer-preventive isothiocyanates: measurement of human exposure and mechanism of action. Mutat Res. 2004;555(1-2):173-190. Hecht SS. Chemoprevention by Isothiocyanates. In: Kelloff GJ, Hawk ET, Sigman CC, eds. Promising Cancer Chemopreventive Agents, Volume 1: Cancer Chemopreventive Agents. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press; 2004:21-35.

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