What are Cruciferous Vegetables and Why Are They Highly Researched for their Importance in Disease Prevention?
When I was first studying Natural Health I learned that this group of vegetables was originally named for the four equal-sized petals in its flowers that could be viewed as forming a cross-like or crucifix shape. However, because research on cruciferous vegetables has skyrocketed many scientists are starting to favor the term "brassica vegetables” because they are of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae). Cruciferous vegetables are one of the dominant food crops worldwide.
The vitamin K content of cruciferous vegetables — especially kale and collards — is fascinating to think about in light of the intensive research over the past five years on cancer, inflammation. Vitamin K is a conventional nutrient that clearly helps regulate our inflammatory response, including chronic, excessive inflammatory responses that can increase our risk of certain cancers. Studies on cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention have not typically focused on vitamin K per se, but we suspect that the amazing K content of cruciferous vegetables is definitely related to their cancer-preventive properties through mechanisms involving better control of inflammation.1
The most exciting research is that they contain nutrients which Kill Cancer! According to the National Cancer Institute, the secret behind the cancer-killing ability of cruciferous veggies is that they are rich in glucosinolates – a large group of sulfur-containing compounds. These powerhouse chemicals are known to break down during the chewing and digestion process into biologically active compounds that prevent cancer cells growth, which are referred to as indoles, thiocyanates and isothiocyanates.
Having been discovered to prevent cancer growth in rats and mice, indoles and isothiocyanates are heralded to protect against cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.
Research suggests that this happens because glucosinolates stimulate what are known as Phase II enzymes, the body’s natural antioxidant system. In essence, glucosinolates trigger the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes that block free-radical attack on your DNA. It has also been reported that glucosinolates: 2
Teri Tomlinson has been studying natural health for more than 30 years. She is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor, a Master Herbalist, Certified Natural Health Professional, Certified Weight loss Coach and a Chi Kung/Tai Chi Master Trainer. She was presented a “Higher Achievement Award” for Naturopathic Doctors by the American Naturopathic Medical Association in Sept 2014.