Cruciferous Veggies & Your Health, Part 1
Let your food be your medicine … Diet and health are inextricably linked. When it comes to a class of foods with health-giving properties, everyone’s mother knew of the value of vegetables. Within this noble group, however, exists a family of vegetables with truly profound health benefits: cruciferous vegetables (crucifers). Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, kale, and mustard greens are all examples of crucifers. They are readily identifiable by their pungency, indicating the presence of sulfur compounds and other valuable phytonutrients. Think of the peppery tang of watercress or arugula, for example. Think of healthy goodness.
Cruciferous vegetable compounds have been extensively studied for their activity in the human body and role in health. The phytonutrients present in crucifers are some of the most detoxifying, cleansing and cell-protective substances found in food. The term “detoxification” may be defined as the cleansing process by which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds. We will explore some of the specific chemicals found in crucifers and their amazing abilities.
What Do They Do?
The compounds found in cruciferous vegetables have a broad array of activity. Some have been shown to act directly by blocking cancer-causing compounds. Other chemicals present increase the body’s antioxidant enzyme glutathione, and thus protect and detoxify in multiple pathways. The body’s primary detoxification system through the liver is composed of three steps, or phases. Phase I, II and III are a system of proteins and enzymes that requires balance. Various combinations of phytonutrients in crucifers both increase and balance the activity of Phase I, II and III enzymes. In short, these vegetables provide a “mini-detox” with their consumption. We will go into depth looking at two cruciferous cancer-fighting and antioxidant nutrients.
This is a compound not actually stored in crucifers, but rather formed in the digestive system from other compounds after ingestion. Accelerated breakdown and the production of cancer-preventing compounds
can enhance the elimination of carcinogens before they have chance to
damage DNA and halt the process of normal cells becoming transformed
into cancer cells.
Numerous studies have been conducted on
sulphoraphane with regard to reduced risk of many types of cancers. One of the first studies split rats into two groups, one of which was treated with the compound. All of the animals were then exposed to a powerful cancer-inducing chemical. The sulphoraphane-treated rats developed 39% fewer tumors than the untreated group. Also the tumors that did develop progressed at a slower rate. Other studies concluded similar findings, showing that sulphoraphane kills cancer stem cells, slows the growth of tumors, and promotes the death of cancer cells. In various studies, the compound has been shown to reduce the risk of many types of cancer: breast, bladder, lung, prostate, cervix, and blood (leukemia). It also has been shown to suppress inflammation and inhibit angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth feeding tumors).
Supplements are available of this phytonutrient, and Evergreen carries several.
DIM Supreme from Solaray supplies 10 mg of sulphoraphane from broccoli extract. Breast Gard supplies 10 mg along with other cruciferous nutrients for detoxification.
Dindolymethane (DIM) has been shown to help the body keep a healthy balance between “good estrogen” (2 hydroxy-estrone) and “bad estrogen” (16-alpha,hydroxy-estrone). As well, it has been shown to slow or halt cancer cells from growing. In one famous study, women with a cervical cancer precursor (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia) were treated with DIM. After three to six months, 100% of the women receiving 200 mg of DIM daily had their neoplasia completely resolved. Certain estrogens stimulate existing breast and prostate cancers. DIM’s ability to shift the balance between the two estrogen metabolites can prevent estrogen-induced stimulation of prostate cancer, since estrogen and testosterone are closely related. Men taking testosterone boosters may help retain their hormone levels by taking DIM which will prevent the conversion of some of that hormone into estrogen. Xeno-estrogens (hormone-mimickers) found in the environment wreak havoc on healthy sex hormone balance. DIM helps the liver to detoxify these “false” estrogens, particularly in men for whom excess estrogen is undesirable and unhealthy.
DIM is widely available in supplement form. Evergreen stocks the above-mentioned DIM Supreme and Breast Gard. Life Extension offers its Optimized Broccoli and Cruciferous Blend which supplies 100 mg of DIM.
If consuming the vegetables themselves, remember to choose organically grown. Plants concentrate these phytonutrients as protection against environmental stressors. Thus pesticide-laden plants will not have these optimal levels.
Be sure to check out Part 2 for more information on protecting and detoxifying with crucifers.
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