The 5 Health Benefits of Consuming Cruciferous Vegetables
We’ve all heard it from a young age: “Eat your veggies!” I’ve had more success with this both personally and with patients when justifications are provided that go beyond the simplistic "because they’re good for you." In this blog post, I get a little more specific and provide how and why cruciferous vegetables in particular, improve health.
Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Brassicaceae family which include: kale, swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, turnip, radish, rapini, horseradish, watercress, maca, mustard seeds, rutabaga, and wasabi.
All your favourites right?
5 Health Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables:
1. Cruciferous vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which influences the metabolism of estrogen. Normally, estrogen breaks down into two metabolites, a ‘good’ one that has weaker estrogen activity, and a ‘bad’ one, that has stronger activity. I3C shifts the metabolism towards the ‘good’ estrogen metabolite, which helps to explain why it’s thought to be cancer protective, especially in hormone-dependent cancers. Overall, several epidemiological studies have all found that the more cruciferous vegetables consumed, rates of cancer were lower.
2. The high fibre found in cruciferous veggies is essential for stool bulking a.k.a creating the urge to go! Having regular bowel movements is a major form of detoxification, helping our body get rid of waste products. Infrequent bowel movements can be associated with bloating/abdominal discomfort, headaches, skin changes, and increases the risk for hemorrhoids and even colon cancer!
3. Cruciferous vegetables also contain the phytonutrient sulfurophane, which not only acts as an antioxidant (particularly in kidney and cardiovascular tissues), but increases Phase 2 enzymatic activity in the liver. Phase 2 enzymes are responsible for converting the body’s waste (environmental toxins, carcinogens, drugs, hormones, etc.) into water soluble molecules to be excreted and safely eliminated from the body. Fun fact: Broccoli sprouts are an especially rich source of sulfurophane!
4. Cruciferous vegetables are a major source of prebiotics, which are undigestible forms of fibre that act as a food source for our gut bacteria. Having well-fed, healthy gut bacteria can have a positive impact on our overall health, including energy levels, ability to lose weight, our mood, etc. (To read more on their effect on mood, click here).
5. Cruciferous vegetables (especially broccoli) are very rich in choline. This essential nutrient has many roles in the body, but one to note is it’s role as a methyl donor, which is necessary for optimizing brain function.
NOTE* High intake of cruciferous vegetables warrants caution in individuals with hypothyroidism due to the goitrogenic activity of these veggies. Stay tuned for next week’s article, as Tamara explores this controversial topic! As always, please consult your health care provider to discuss your individual case.
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