A Host of Health Benefits for Cruciferous Vegetables

 Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy

Let's talk Cruciferous vegetables.  Some of which include (bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower) and dark, leafy greens in this category  (collard greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard)  Raw or cooked these vegetables are rich sources of antioxidant compounds like vitamins A and C and flavonoids that help reduce inflammation which as we know is the root cause of most problems in our body.  

Now you may or may not be a fan of these vegetables.  Most of the time they tend to get a bad wrap because they have so much fiber and cause flatulence - not exactly pretty!  However, we all process them differently and some may need to take in small incremental doses while others can eat all they want without having any problems.  However, the more you incorporate these vegetables, the more benefits and the better able we are to digest them.  Start slowly and start to build over time rather than introducing everything out of the gate.  Find creative ways to incorporate these vegetables making if fun and tasty to eat with the entire family.  

Let's get into the benefits of these vegetables and why  they are so important to incorporate into our diets.

1.) Cancer Fighting:

Cruciferous vegetables are unique because they possess sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. They have also been linked to a long list of health benefits, including improved heart health, increased weight loss and reduced inflammation.  I will go into more detail in the list below. 

To shed some light and frankly talk a little bit over my own head its important to know the compounds that are in these vegetables and why they produce the benefits they do!  Studies have shown that present in these vegetables, the ITCs • Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and its metabolite 3,3 diindolylmethane (DIM) are especially protective against breast cancer and prostate cancer.  There have been multiple studies showing an association between consumption of cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. For example, one review comprised 94 studies and reported that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was linked to a lower risk of lung, stomach, colon and rectal cancer.

Higher consumption of Chinese cabbage, bok choy, and turnips had a strong protective effect in women with the GSTP1 gene for breast cancer.   Results show a staggering almost 50% less amount of cancer appeared in those with higher intake.

2.) Reduce Inflammation:

Inflammation is a normal immune response designed to protect the body against illness and infection. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is at the root of most diseases and believed to contribute to conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. 

One study in 2014 published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with up to a 25 percent reduction in markers of inflammation among 1,005 women. 

Broccoli.jpg

In addition to the benefits I'm listing, here are more known diseases  that greens prevent and resolve:

  • Cervical dysplasia 
  • Laryngeal papillomas
  • Ordinary warts • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
  • HPV (human papilloma virus)
  • Hepatitis 

Make sure to choose a colorful range of cruciferous vegetables to take advantage of the multitude of health benefits.  Here are some to look for in your local grocer or farmers market:

 

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
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3.) Regulate Blood Sugar:

Cruciferous vegetables supply a good amount of dietary fiber in each serving. In fact, a half cup of cooked brussel sprouts for example, contains two grams of fiber, knocking out up to nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber needs with just one serving. 

Fiber slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar.   For best results in maintaining normal blood sugar pair a serving or two of cruciferous vegetables each day with plenty of physical activity and an overall healthy lifestyle.

4. Promote Weight Loss

The #1 thing I hear when teaching or coaching clients is they want to lose weight.  Some very simple steps and you can start to achieve your weight loss goals.  Start by loading your plate up with cruciferous vegetables and its probably one of the easiest ways to bump up weight loss.

Not only are these vegetables low in calories, but they’re also high in fiber. Fiber moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, promoting satiety and warding off cravings.  By not succumbing to those cravings we consequently make healthier choose thus promoting weight loss. 

6. Promote Estrogen Balance

Ever since I was a teenager I've always had a hormone imbalance.  I started birth control at 18 to regulate my periods AND to control my hormones.  Well turns out, Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system. However, too much estrogen can disrupt your balance of hormones and cause symptoms like bloating, irregular menstrual periods, a decreased sex drive and headaches.  That's why we take precautions to be very careful of not disrupting the cycle.  

Researchers have found that there may be an association between cruciferous vegetables and estrogen levels. This is thanks to the presence of indole-3-carbinol, a compound that is found in cruciferous vegetables that helps regulate estrogen activity and metabolism. Because of this compound, filling up on cruciferous veggies may be able to help regulate estrogen levels to prevent adverse side effects.

You can also help balance your hormones by swapping starchy carbs and sugar for healthy fats and whole grain carbs, using essential oils, herbs, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep each night.

5. Enhance Heart Health

With the rise of fast food, packaged foods, unhealthy fats, sugar and etc, the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease.  This is projected to affect 44 percent of the United States population by the year 2030.   Sound scary?  There's something you can do to take preventative measures now!  By upping your intake of cruciferous vegetables it is one easy way to combat heart disease to keep your heart healthy and strong.

Some studies have found that increasing your consumption of vegetables in general could decrease your risk of heart disease and heart problems. Plus, a massive study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 134,796 adults over an average period of 10 years and found that a higher intake of vegetables — and especially cruciferous vegetables — was associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease.  Now let's eat to that!

Now who doesn't want to take full advantage of these benefits?!?  Let's eat to our long and happy health with a daily dose of cruciferous vegetables!

Resources: Joel Fuhrman man M.D.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2014