If you’ve eaten cauliflower, cabbage, cress, kale, bok choy, or broccoli then you’ve eaten cruciferous vegetables. They’ve been touted as super-veggies due to their unique combination of vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Kale usually gets all the praise these days, but the truth is is that all the vegetables in its family have similar properties and thus very similar health benefits. What exactly are these health benefits?
Lower Cancer Risk
A review of research published in the October 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that 70% or more of the studies found a link between cruciferous vegetables and protection against cancer. The various components in cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower cancer risks as well. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, some have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining, lung, colon, liver, and cervix. Additionally, studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.
Another way cruciferous vegetables help lower cancer risks is by lowering oxidative stress in our bodies. Oxidative stress is the buildup of oxygen-free radicals which our bodies naturally produce. Reducing these free radicals may reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers. The National Cancer Institute funded a study which revealed those who ate these vegetables over a three week period versus those who did not had 22% less oxygen-free radicals in their bodies.
Cruciferous vegetables may also help to protect against cardiovascular disease. A recent study found that a diet heavy in cruciferous vegetables was linked to lower levels of markers of inflammation in the body, markers which may signal an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In another recent study, diets low in cruciferous and yellow vegetables, wine, and coffee but high in sugar-sweetened soft drinks, refined grains, and processed meat were identified as possibly increasing chronic inflammation and raising the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that you’re most likely already eating cruciferous vegetables. They’re common items found in most dishes and could easily be incorporated into even more dishes. Health agencies recommend that we eat several servings per week of cruciferous vegetables. Take a stand for your body and add a few more of these healthy vegetables into your diet.