By Dr Harold Gunatillake
FRCS, FACS (US), FIACS (US),
AM (SING), MBBS (Cey)
Crucifers are vegetables crammed with anti-cancer power. It is known that eating these vegetables help prevent and fight cancer.
Slice a crucifer and you will see a fascinating pattern of leaves, buds and stems that form a cross shape, hence called crucifers. Packed within these dark green, white and sometimes red vegetables are cancer fighting surprises. These vegetables are low in calories, and high in fibre, calcium, iron, vitamin A and C and beneficial enzymes.
Broccoli provides a high amount of vitamin C, which aids iron absorption in the body, prevents development of cataracts, and also eases the symptoms of the common cold.
Folic acid in broccoli helps women sustain normal tissue growth and is often used as a supplement when taking birth control pills and during pregnancies.
The potassium in broccoli aids those battling high blood pressure, while a large amount of calcium helps combat osteoporosis.
Some of the crucifers are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Some are root vegetables like radish, daikon, turnip and cress…
Fresh, frozen and cooked crucifers are a good source of dietary fibre. These fibres help reduce constipation and other digestive problems. Also, gives a feeling of fullness that helps you avoid overeating. The high fibre reduces blood cholesterol levels.
Boosts the Immune System
There are two important compounds in crucifers, Indoles and the Isothiocyanates. These chemicals boost the immune system and help against colon, stomach and respiratory cancers. Indole-3-carbinol occurs naturally in crucifers and is considered a very powerful antioxidants protecting damage to the cells by free radicals. They have captured the attention of those looking to prevent hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. Iso-thiocyanates are most common in broccoli and sprouts, supposed to disrupt the division of cancer cells.
13C found in Broccoli promotes ‘good’ hormones, while working against destructive ones. The sulforaphane in broccoli also helps to increase the level of enzymes that block cancer.
Eating broccoli could reverse the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels, a research paper from the University of Warwick team suggests. They believe that sulforaphanes is the key compound found in vegetables that would be responsible.
The researchers also found that sulforaphane activated a protein in the body called nrf2, which protects cells and tissues from damage by activating protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes.
Additionally, the health benefits of broccoli have been linked to preventing and controlling Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, calcium deficiencies, stomach and colon cancer, malignant tumours, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, arthritis and even the aging process.
Beta-carotene is prevalent in carrots, tomatoes and many other coloured vegetables. Beta-carotenes are abundant in crucifers and they lower your risk for cancer.
Crambene is another compound found in crucifers, when combined with Indole-3-carbinol, activates your body’s detoxification enzymes.
Out of the vitamins crucifers are rich in Vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is good for your eye sight, especially in night driving.
Most crucifers can be eaten raw: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage after well washing to get rid of the dirt, sand and possibly maggots. Condi’s crystals or betadine may have to be added to the washing, as an antiseptic.
Unlike cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other crucifers are not popular in Sri Lanka and are not available in most markets, other than the supermarkets. They are very small in size, too. They also need to be washed thoroughly before cooking.
You could steam them and enjoyed with pepper and salt added. Nutrition is maintained when steamed or boiled.
You could slice them and added into salads, or strip them as used as finger foods.
In a healthy person, angiogenesis is finely regulated; it starts when new blood vessels are needed and stop when that new growth is complete.
Cancer can be thought of as angiogenesis gone wild. All cancers begin as a single abnormal cell, and we all harbour these microscopic cancers, but most of them remain dormant – they cannot grow unless they have a blood supply to bring them oxygen and nutrients
Scientists like Dr William Li, a researcher who heads the Angiogenesis Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are looking at the power of certain foods to block angiogenesis.
These foods include crucifers, bok choy, tomatoes, pumpkins, maitake mushrooms, legumes, spices, and herbs like turmeric, garlic and parsley, among many others.
The plant chemicals in these foods seem to be able to inhibit angiogenesis so that a single cancer cell or cluster of cancer cells is never able to grow enough to cause any mischief. Some plants also contain tumour-suppressor proteins, which help to curb the growth of cancer cells.
The faster you cook your vegetables, including the crucifers, the more nutritious they are, because too much heat can destroy the nutrients.
You could peel the outer stems of broccoli, slice them into small pieces, or cook them with a little teriyaki sauce.
Broccoli is used to make delicious soups, including Broccoli Cheese and Cream of Broccoli options commonly served at high end restaurants.
(Some ref: Pam Stephan, About.com Guide)
Crucifers are ‘God given vegetables’ and eating them daily, must be stressed for health, and longevity.