What is cruciferous vegetables?

What do kale, arugula and Brussels sprouts have in common? Aside from being the basis for trend-setting vegetable recipes, they’re all delicious cruciferous vegetables and pack a nutritional and inflammation-fighting one-two punch.

Cruciferous veggies are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes. Fun fact: The name “cruciferous” is an informal classification for members of the mustard family and comes from the Latin cruciferae meaning “cross bearing,” because the four petals resemble a cross.

While these veggies grow in all different colors, shapes and sizes, they share several nutritional benefits. Most cruciferous veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin K. Dark green cruciferous veggies also are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They’re also rich in phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Cruciferous vegetables also are rich in fiber and low in calories, a combination that will help you feel full and satisfied without overeating.

It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits. Adults need at least 2½ cups of vegetables a day. One cup of raw and cooked veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, is equivalent to a 1-cup vegetable serving. Two cups of raw leafy vegetables, such as kale and bok choy, are the equivalent of a 1-cup vegetable serving.

Ready to add more cruciferous veggies into your diet? These tips will make packing in your vitamins and minerals easy and enjoyable.

This versatile veggie is delicious in many ways beyond steaming. Try roasting florets or “steaks” of cauliflower to release its pleasant flavor. When pureed, it’s a great substitute to cream sauce. Other creative cauliflower options? Mash into a pizza crust, grate into a substitute for rice or pickle for a low-calorie salty, crunchy snack.


Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts practically beg to be in the oven. For a melt-in-your-mouth side, roast and toss with something sweet, such as dried fruit or maple syrup, as well as something savory — anything from Parmesan cheese to sliced olives.


The almighty kale is a wonderful green for salads. Remove the tough stem, slice into thin ribbons and toss with toppings, dressing and all. Best of all, this hearty green will not wilt for days, making it a great option for packing ahead. To balance the bitter bite, pair it with something sweet such as roasted carrots, diced apple or dried fruit. Kale also is a great addition to smoothies and can even be baked into crisp chips.


Arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in your garden or in a planter. Enjoy this spicy leaf pureed into a pesto with a kick, tossed onto whole-wheat pizza once it emerges from the oven or used in a variety of tossed salads. For a classic combination try fresh arugula paired with feta cheese, cubed watermelon and a balsamic dressing.

By GreenMedInfo Research Group • Originally published on GreenMedInfo

Yes, cruciferous vegetables are a healthy choice. But you’ll be amazed at all the incredible cruciferous vegetables benefits.

Everyone knows that eating vegetables has profound health benefits. But, like all foods, not all vegetables are created the same. Some are better than others in terms of nutritional content, and overall contribution to vibrant health. If you look more closely at their phytochemical content, or the growing amount of research into their specific effects on the body and disease, a few vegetables appear to be downright “miracle” foods!

One such group of veggies are those of the Brassica family; commonly known as cruciferous. These include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, rutabaga, turnip and even arugula.

What makes this group of veggies so special? Sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is a phytochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables, and it’s been getting a ton of attention from researchers. But it all starts with glucoraphanin.

Sulforaphane is produced when the enzyme myrosinase converts glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate (a natural compound found in some plants), through a chemical reaction induced by damage to the plant, such as cutting or chewing. As such, glucoraphanin is known as the precursor to sulforaphane.

It just so happens that cruciferous vegetables contain a remarkable amount of glucoraphanin. Which makes them powerhouses of nature. Let me tell you why.

There is a growing body of research into the wide array of applications for sulforaphane across the gamut of diseases and health issues. In fact, hundreds of studies have been carried out across the globe, since the first scientist, esteemed John Hopkins researcher Paul Talalay, realized this chemical’s potential in 1992.

In this study, Talalay and his team explored and confirmed the anticarcinogenic properties of broccoli and sulforaphane.

Since then, Talalay has dedicated many more years to researching sulforaphane, going so far as to found The Brassica Chemoprotection Laboratory , no doubt helping inspire the continuing generations of scientists who want to know the truth about what plants and their compounds can do for the betterment of humanity.

With that in mind, here are the top ten reasons to eat your cruciferous vegetables.

1. Anti-Cancer Benefits

Sulforaphane is increasingly referred to as an anticancer compound. This reputuation is linked mainly to sulforaphane’s potent antioxidant and antiflammatory properties, not dissimilar to turmeric (curcumin). In fact, one promising, albeit preclinical study found that the combination of sulforaphane, aspirin and curcumin was effective for the chemoprevention of pancreatic cancer.

It doesn’t stop there, however. Sulforaphane has been studied for the prevention and treatment of several types of cancer, including stomach, bladder, breast, prostate, lung, colon and skin.

Specifically, research indicates sulforaphane “possesses the capacity to intervene in multistage carcinogenesis through the modulation and/or regulation of important cellular mechanisms” and “to be selectively toxic to malignant cells.”

Other notable findings:

  • Evidence supports high intakes of Brassica vegetables reduce prostate cancer risk
  • Potent doses of broccoli sprout extract activate a ‘detoxification’ gene and may help prevent cancer recurrence in survivors of head and neck cancer
  • Cruciferous vegetables contain extracts that are effective at inhibiting lung adenocarcinomas (a malignant tumor formed from glandular structures in epithelial tissue) colon polyps and skin cancer
  • In skin cancer research, the protection offered by sulforaphane “against a carcinogen in humans is catalytic and long lasting.”
  • Broccoli sprouts have been found to be as a rich source of antioxidants that improve the defensive system against oxidative stress in the human colon. In fact in a 2015 study, 57.33% reduction in oxidative DNA damage in NCM460 cells due to treatment with digested BS extract was observed.
  • Combined Sulforaphane and selenium treatment enhanced protection against free radical-mediated cell death provided by the cotreatment.

2. Depression Relief

Cruciferous vegetables and sulforaphane may also have significant benefit for depression. An animal study published in 2015 found sulforaphane “has antidepressant and anxiolytic-like activities in stressed mice model of depression, which likely occurs by inhibiting the hypothalamic.”

Inflammation has also been connected to depression, and a 2016 study found broccoli sprouts effective to “prevent or minimize the relapse by inflammation.”

This same study found that the extracts of broccoli sprouts were so effective, they acted as a prophylactic that could “prevent the onset of LPS-induced depression-like behaviors” in the juvenile and adolescent mice they were testing, all the way into adulthood. . More research is being done on the phytochemicals of cruciferous vegetables and depression.

3. Pain Relief

This is some evidence that sulforaphane may have significant value in pain, or pain management. A 2000 study on female fibromyalgia patients reported that the combination of ascorbigen (derived from Vitamin C) and broccoli powder “reduces pain sensitivity and improves quality of life” for patients suffering from this challenging condition.

A 2016 publication also investigated the potential for sulforaphane via broccoli sprout extract, noting “significant” antinociception results, that bode well for further study into the pain relieving benefits.

4. Cardioprotection

Cardiovascular problems remain a top health concern, especially in the United States. CVD, cardiovascular disease, is on the rise, with Ischemia-Reperfusion (I/R) injury (such as myocardial infarction (“heart attack”), stroke, and peripheral vascular disease) and hypertension being main components.

Research is showing that sulforaphane helps with inflammation of the arterial walls, inhibits obesity, relieves hypertension, and other conditions that are part of or lead to CVD.

With regard to hypertension, a 2012 study reported sulforaphane “decreases renal and vascular oxidative stress and inflammation as well as blood pressure”, thus assisting in hypertension. r. Similarly, but even more significantly, a 2006 study demonstrated the power of eating foods high in sulforaphane by observing significantly “lower blood pressure and less tissue inflammation in adulthood, regardless of their subsequent diet” in the offspring of pregnant rats fed foods rich in the compound.

Also of special note, a 2009 study in Iran in which rats were given an extract containing 2% of broccoli sprouts for ten days. “he results show that a relatively short dietary treatment with broccoli sprouts can strongly protect the heart against oxidative stress and cell death caused by ischemia-reperfusion.” R Which is promising, indeed!

Sulforaphane may also protect arteries from disease by boosting a natural defense mechanism in the body.

5. Antioxidants

It’s well known that cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli, are a superior source of antioxidants. There are almost 300 studies on PubMed alone, referring to these vegetables and antioxidants.

One particularly interesting study was carried out on young male smokers, in which 250g/day of broccoli was consumed, for a ten-day period. At the end of the treatment, of the many observations, decreases circulating CRP (C-reactive protein) concentrations were noted. This is significant because the measure of CRP indicates the level of inflammation in a body, and indirectly the oxidative stress status, with high levels of both being associated with long-term diseases.

In 2015 broccoli sprout extract was again found highly effective in reducing of oxidative stress, in this case being observed to assist with healthy liver function.

6. Protection From and Elimination of Toxins

There are so many toxic substances present in our lives. Too many! Cruciferous veggies and their sulforaphane rich tissues can help, as noted in several studies.

In 2014, a randomized clinical trial recruited 291 participants from a rural area of China, an area known for high levels of air-pollution. The non-placebo group consumed a broccoli sprout-derived beverage providing daily doses of 600µmol glucoraphanin and 40 µmol sulforaphane over a 12-week period. Urine testing found “rapid and sustained, statistically significant” increases elimination of toxic substances in those drinking the beverage, over the placebo group.

Studies have also shown sulforaphane assists in protection from and elimination of arsenic and pesticides. The detoxifying qualities of cruciferous vegetables is thought to be directly connected to sulforaphane’s role in activation of Nrf2, which is known to have a critical role in the metabolism and excretion of toxic substances.

7. Type II Diabetes and Insulin Resistance (IR) Support

It’s generally recognized that diet and exercise can profoundly assist with the prevention and treatment of Type II Diabetes. However, specific positive results have been seen with regard to sulforaphane and consuming cruciferous vegetables.

In particular, IR is an aspect of Type II that can cause havoc in a body. A 2016 study investigated the effects of broccoli sprout powder, containing high concentration of sulforaphane, on IR in Type II diabetic patients. In a randomized trial, 81 patients received either the high concentration of sulforaphane powder or a placebo, over four weeks. The end results gave clear indications of lowered levels of insulin resistance.

Other studies have demonstrated similar results, showing decreased oxidative stress and IR and that “ulforaphane could prevent nephropathy, diabetes-induced fibrosis, and vascular complications,” further empowering those with Type II Diabetes. X x

8. Helicobacter pylori Support

The bacteria Helicobacter pylori is most famously associated with stomach ulcers, and, in many cases, gastric cancer. Our sulforaphane-laden crucifer friends happen to offer distinct support in eliminating the colonization of this organism in our bodies. This is most clearly demonstrated in a 2009 study citing:

“Forty-eight H. pylori-infected patients were randomly assigned to feeding of broccoli sprouts (70 g/d; containing 420 micromol of SF precursor) for 8 weeks or to consumption of an equal weight of alfalfa sprouts (not containing SF) as placebo. Intervention with broccoli sprouts, but not with placebo, decreased the levels of urease measured by the urea breath test and H. pylori stool antigen (both biomarkers of H. pylori colonization) and serum pepsinogens I and II (biomarkers of gastric inflammation).”

While the sulforaphane had measurable, positive results during the testing, levels reverted to their original amounts at the end of the two months following cessation. This indicates that continued consumption of the broccoli sprouts would have continued benefits.

Other research with sulforaphane rich sprouts reported 78% of patients showing negative stool antigen results after therapy, with 67% remaining negative another 35 days after stopping. Research with human gastric xenografts on mice reported the Helicobacter pylori “completely eradicated” in 73% of the sulforaphane-treated grafts.

9. Alzheimer’s Applications

Studies suggest that sulforaphane might be a promising therapeutic agent for cognitive enhancement in Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2015, researchers looked at the effects of sulforaphane compounds via the administration of broccoli sprout juices of varying concentrations. They reported positive effects against the measures of two major factors implicated in the pathogenesis of AD, as well as upregulation in the intracellular glutathione content and the activity of antioxidant enzymes — both of which may contribute to improved tissue detoxification and function.

10. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Dysfunctional inflammation has increasingly become identified to be a driving factor at the root of most, if not all, chronic illness and disease. In some form or another, somewhere, a body that is unwell, is inflamed. Luckily, nature has provided us with several remedies for this scourge of our times.

As anti-inflammatories go, sulforaphane is right up there with that king of all spices, curcumin (turmeric) giving our cruciferous vegetables the upper hand in the list of healing foods. “he consumption of broccoli sprouts modulated the excretion of biomarkers linked to inflammation and vascular reactions,” according to a 2015 study.

A more recent cell-based study, published in 2016 reported, “clear evidence that pre-treatment with sulforaphane completely restored the antioxidant status and prevented inflammatory responses.” They went on to say, “the protection offered by sulforaphane against acrolein-induced damage in PBMC is attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential.”

More and more data suggests that sulforaphane may be useful as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of inflammatory conditions and diseases.

This is not, by far, an exhaustive list of the known benefits of eating your cruciferous vegetables. Studies are even showing sulforaphane has benefits for autism, which reportedly affects around 2% of Americans (mostly males) and costs the US around $100 billion, annually.

Still, cruciferous vegetables for autism?

A study at the ChemoProtection Center, home of the “Father” of sulforaphane, Paul Talalay, explains,

“The rationale for a clinical trial of sulforaphane in autism was based on evidence that autism is characterized by oxidative stress, depressed antioxidant capacity, and mitochondrial dysfunction. These pathological processes are antagonized by sulforaphane.”

Seems they were right because in the resulting randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial where they examined the effects of sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract on autistic patients, they saw ‘dramatic’ improvement in 65% of those receiving it. These improvements diminished in the four weeks following the dosing period, solidifying the observed benefits of continued consumption.

This just goes to show, the tremendous benefits of eating your sulforaphane-rich cruciferous vegetables should not be underestimated. Instead, take advantage of this bounty from nature by making them a regular part of your diet.

Looking to add more cruciferous veggies to your diet? Try this Smashed Kale Salad, made with a special technique “that makes everyone go back for seconds.”

© Friday, January 27th, 2017 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more fromGreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here http://www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter.


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Meet the Research Team









Yichong Wang, Christopher Dacosta, Wei Wang, Zhigang Zhou, Ming Liu, Yongping Bao. Synergy between sulforaphane and selenium in protection against oxidative damage in colonic CCD841 cells. Nutr Res. 2015 May 30. Epub 2015 May 30. PMID: 26094214

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Masahiro Kikuchi, Yusuke Ushida, Hirokazu Shiozawa, Rumiko Umeda, Kota Tsuruya, Yudai Aoki, Hiroyuki Suganuma, Yasuhiro Nishizaki. Sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract improves hepatic abnormalities in male subjects. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Nov 21 ;21(43):12457-67.

Alp H, Aytekin I, Hatipoglu NK, Alp A, Ogun M. Effects of sulforophane and curcumin on oxidative stress created by acute malathion toxicity in rats. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Jul;16 Suppl 3:144-8. PubMed PMID: 22957429.


Akinori Yanaka, Jed W Fahey, Atsushi Fukumoto, Mari Nakayama, Souta Inoue, Songhua Zhang, Masafumi Tauchi, Hideo Suzuki, Ichinosuke Hyodo, Masayuki Yamamoto. Dietary sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts reduce colonization and attenuate gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-infected mice and humans. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). 2009 Apr;2(4):353-60.


Ye Won An, Kyoung A Jhang, So-Youn Woo, Jihee Lee Kang, Young Hae Chong. Sulforaphane exerts its anti-inflammatory effect against amyloid-β peptide via STAT-1 dephosphorylation and activation of Nrf2/HO-1 cascade in human THP-1 macrophages. Neurobiol Aging. 2016 Feb ;38:1-10. Epub 2015 Oct 23. PMID: 26827637

Sonia Medina, Raúl Domínguez-Perles, Diego A Moreno, Cristina García-Viguera, Federico Ferreres, José Ignacio Gil, Ángel Gil-Izquierdo. The intake of broccoli sprouts modulates the inflammatory and vascular prostanoids but not the oxidative stress-related isoprostanes in healthy humans. Food Chem. 2015 Apr 15 ;173:1187-94. Epub 2014 Nov 7. PMID: 25466142


Health Dangers of Cruciferous Vegetables

In our look at the Health Dangers of a Plant-based Diet we turn to the cruciferous vegetables. You might be surprised to learn that broccoli and brussel sprouts have a dark side. I mean these are the vegetables that kill cancer, right? How can there possibly be health dangers of cruciferous vegetables?

Well just like other plants, these vegetables place a high priority on survival. And this means protecting themselves with phytochemicals. The cruciferous vegetables use a special chemical called glucosinolate to deter pests. Here we’ll look at glucosinolates and their role in the health dangers of cruciferous vegetables.

Health Dangers of Cruciferous Vegetables – What are they?

Last week as I was walking to perimeter of the grocery store (headed to the butcher) I realized how many vegetables are from the cruciferous family. It’s not just broccoli and brussel sprouts. But it also includes cabbage and cauliflower, kale and collards, radishes and arugula, mustard greens and mustard seeds, and the list goes on.

The crucifers are just like every single plant specie commonly eaten today; it’s vastly different from its pre-agriculture predecessor. We transformed these plants through artificial selection to get the biggest, most pest-resistant breeds possible.

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kale are all different cultivars of a single species, Brassica oleracea. But generation by generation, we engineered this one plant’s leaves, stems and flowers into new “foods.”

You may be familiar with these crucifers because of their pungent smell. It’s the sulfur. And it’s a part of their defense.

Health Dangers of Cruciferous Vegetables – “Broccoli Bomb”

The crucifers like broccoli have this chemical called glucosinolate. I like to think of this chemical as the main ingredient of the “bomb.” They also have another chemical called myrosinase. I think of this as the “matchstick” that lights the bomb.

While growing out in a field the bomb and the matchstick sit in separate compartments so that the broccoli doesn’t blow itself up.

But when a little hungry animal comes looking for a snack and bites into the broccoli the bomb gets lit by the match. The explosion that results are bioactive chemicals call isothiocyanates. One of the most well-studied isothiocyanate is call sulforaphane.


Sulforaphane is a pungent molecule (perhaps you’ve cooked broccoli and smelled it…) that can deter and kill insects, bacteria, and fungi. It causes cellular apoptosis (cell death). This happens in the cells of these small predators as well as human cells.

If you eat broccoli about 75% of the sulforaphane will be absorbed into the bloodstream and taken up by cells.

Once inside sulforaphane can damage important intracellular structures like mitochondria and enzymes.

The damage increases reactive oxygen species (ROS). And in an attempt to limit the damage, glutathione, our powerful endogenous antioxidant, binds with sulforaphane to get rid of it as quickly as possible (~2-3 hours after eating it). This depletes our glutathione (our most potent human antioxidant) leaving cells vulnerable to further oxidative damage.

Sulforaphane can even disrupt epithelial barriers providing yet another plant chemical that can contribute to “leaky gut.”

Sulforaphane and Cancer

It’s not surprising that this cell killer has been recognized as an anticancer chemical. It kills cells. Cancer cells and healthy cells.

Isothiocyanates like sulforaphane trigger the activation of Phase II enzymes. This is like turning up the dial on the human immune system.

For some reason, research paints this in a positive light. Sulforaphane is a hero. Isothiocyanates increase our natural antioxidants. They say it’s a hormetic response. If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.

I see it through another lense though.

When the body encounters something that is damaging, it wants to get rid of it. To do this it will upregulate an army to fight it. Some of these troops are antioxidants like our friend glutathione. While this is good in the context of fighting a cancerous cell or ridding the body of sulforaphane, I don’t think sending the troops to battle on a constant basis should be seen as a good thing.

The fact that the body puts such a vast importance on getting rid of sulforaphane as quickly as possible suggest to me that it’s more of a danger than a cancer-killing sidekick.

For me, a helpful analogy is to relate to chemotherapy treatment. It is very effective at killing cells. And while the intent is to kill cancerous cells, there is often a significant amount of “friendly fire” and the death of healthy cells as well.

Most people don’t take low dose chemotherapy as a cancer prevention strategy. There’s a reason for this.

Health Dangers of Cruciferous Vegetables – Thyroid Health

The isothiocyanates created by chewing up broccoli can have potent antithyroid effects and interfere with thyroid hormone production. They compete with iodine and thereby block its uptake by the thyroid. With inadequate iodine there is decreased production of thyroxine and potential for hypothyroidism.

The abnormal absorption of iodine also provokes hypertrophy of the thyroid and goiter.

And it’s not just humans, but animals too.

Oil meals, like rapeseed meal for example, are important protein supplements for livestock. And they are high in glucosinolates. Animals can tolerate up to 5-10% rapeseed meal in their diets before suffering from goiters, depressed growth, gastrointestinal irritation, anemia, perosis, poor egg production, and liver and kidney lesions.

The high sulfur diet can result in trace mineral deficiencies and polioencephalomalacia, a neurologic disease in ruminants.

Health Dangers of Cruciferous Vegetables – What to do

If you decide to eat cruciferous vegetables, it’s a good idea to take some protective measures.

  • Adding extra iodine to counteract the thiocyanates is helpful. However, additional iodine consumption cannot counteract other glucosinolate byproducts like oxazolidine-2-thiones which also blocks iodine preventing thyroxine production.
  • Avoid sprouts and seeds as they can have orders of magnitude more glucosinolate than matured plants. Plants protect their babies. Eat them with caution.
  • Freezing as well as boiling them can help reduce the glucosinolate concentration (~50%).

Heat actually destroys the myrosinase (the matchstick that lights the bomb); however, the bacteria in our gut can act as the lighter, so sulforaphane will still be produced.

As with other plant chemicals, the poison is in the dose, and an individual’s ability (or lack thereof) to disarm the plant poisons.

An elimination diet (like “Level 3” in the “30 Day Guide to Going Full Carnivore“) is a very effective way to determine your ability to handle certain plant foods, which (if any…) are ok, and in what quantity.

The Ultimate Cruciferous Vegetables List: Recipes Round-up


Cruciferous vegetables are some of the healthiest vegetables that you can eat. In my opinion, they are also some of the most delicious! I eat them almost every day in some form. I love to write about the healing powers of food and that is why I decided to curate this cruciferous vegetables list: recipe round up! I want to make it as easy as possible to make and eat these wonderful foods.

I don’t care if you are the president…

‘I’m President of the United States, and I’m Not Going to Eat Any More Broccoli’ – George Bush

…now you have no excuses not to eat them!

What are cruciferous vegetables?

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Daikon radish
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Land cress
  • Mustard greens
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

In terms of conventional nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, and fats), we cannot find another vegetable group that is as high in vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber as the cruciferous vegetables. As a group, the cruciferous vegetables are simply superstars in these conventional nutrient areas. (source)

Health benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables:

  • One of the big reasons to eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables is that they may help to lower your risk of getting cancer!
  • They reduce oxidative damage to the body caused by stress
  • They give you increased detoxification abilities due to the sulfur component actually enhancing our livers detoxification abilities
  • The high levels of Vitamin A are great for the health of your skin and vision
  • The high levels of Vitamin C help keep the immune system in good working order
  • They help the body fight free radical damage

Just look at this nutritional profile!: (source)

And now for the Cruciferous Vegetables List: Recipe Round-Up

But first, before you dive it…make sure you have these handy tools to make these recipes even easier!:

  • My favorite steamer
  • My bamboo steamer
  • Stainless colander
  • My favorite stir fry tool


  • Braised Broccoli with Orange and Parmesan Recipe by 101 Cookbooks
  • Roasted Broccoli & Bacon Recipe by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Asian Ground Beef, Mushroom, and Broccoli Slaw Lettuce Cups by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese Recipe (using gluten-free pasta, of course) by 101 Cookbooks
  • Broccoli Fritters by Paleo OMG
  • Chilled broccoli soup by Sassy Radish
  • Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry by Wellness Mama
  • Curry Broccoli Fritters by Empowered Sustenance
  • Cream of Broccoli Soup by Granny’s Vittles
  • Broccoli Bites by Food Renegade
  • Sautéed Broccoli Greens by The Food Lover’s Kitchen
  • Paleo Broccoli Salad by Health Bent
  • Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Broccoli Cheese Casserole by Simply Recipes
  • Garlic Marinated Broccoli with Olives and Red Pepper by Mark’s Daily Apple
  • Fiesta Broccoli Dip by Kath Eats Real Food
  • Kid-Friendly Broccoli Cheese Bites by Our Nourishing Roots
  • Broccoli Cole Slaw by Wellness Mama
  • Grilled Cheese and Broccoli Sandwich by Food Renegade
  • Spiced Roasted Broccoli (From the Freezer!) by Empowered Sustenance
  • Broccoli-Banana Muffins (with chocolate chips) by The Paleo Mom
  • Broccoli Grape Slaw – Veggies Your Kids Will Actually Eat by The Mommypotamus
  • Chicken Broccoli Casserole by Wellness Mama
  • Better than Take-Out Beef and Broccoli by Mark’s Daily Apple


  • Best Make Ahead Side: Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Roasted Cauliflower by Simply Recipes
  • Pizzeria Delfina’s Spicy Cauliflower by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Cauliflower, Carrot, and Parsnip Puree by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Quinoa Cauliflower Patties by Sprouted Kitchen
  • Primal Cauliflower Casserole by Paleo OMG
  • Simple Creamy Cauliflower and Artichoke Soup by Paleo OMG
  • Cauliflower Wraps (SCD, GAPS, Paleo) by Empowered Sustenance
  • Cauliflower Tater Tots by I Breath I’m Hungry
  • Slow Cooker Mexican Cauliflower Rice (no ricing required) by Paleo Pot
  • Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce by Food Wishes
  • Cauliflower Hummus by Our Fifth House
  • Cauliflower Pizza Crust by Real Food RN (Hey, that’s me!)]
  • Golden Cauliflower Soup by The Clothes Make the Girl
  • Cauliflower Biscuits by Delighted Momma
  • Asian Cauliflower Fried Rice by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Cauliflower “Couscous” by Simply Recipes
  • Caramelized Cauliflower Soup by Sprouted Kitchen
  • Cauliflower Paella by Wellness Mama
  • Primal, Gaps, and Low Carb Cauliflower Mac and Cheese by Grass Fed Girl
  • Cauliflower Soup with Gorgonzola by 101 Cookbooks
  • Roasted Cauliflower and Red Pepper Soup by Fresh Bites Daily
  • Roasted Nacho Cauliflower by Health Starts in the Kitchen
  • Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers by Food Lover’s Writing
  • Cauliflower Leek Soup by Good Girl Gone Green
  • Cauliflower Dumplings with Creamy Chicken Soup by Paleo Parent’s
  • Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Crust by Holistic Squid
  • Lemon Parsley Cauliflower “Rice” by The Paleo Mom


  • Red Cabbage Slaw with Tangy Carrot Ginger Dressing by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Blanched Cabbage with Butter and Caraway by Simply Recipes
  • Grain-Free Cabbage Pizza Skillet by Food Renegade
  • Corned Beef & Cabbage by Wellness Mama
  • Stir Fried Napa Cabbage with Mushrooms and Bacon by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Sautéed Red Cabbage with Onions, Garlic, and Anchovy by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Beer Braised Cabbage by Kath Eats Real Food
  • Unrolled Cabbage Casserole by Health Bent
  • Roasted Cabbage Slices by Wellness Mama
  • Cider-braised Cabbage and Apples by Nourished Kitchen
  • Healing Quinoa Cabbage Soup by The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
  • Red cabbage paleo coleslaw by The Real Food Guide
  • Sausage N’ Cabbage “Noodles” with Fried Apples by Everyday Paleo
  • Braised Red Cabbage with Chestnuts by Simply Recipes
  • Fermented Cabbage Juice by Real Food Forager
  • Paleo Tacos with Purple Cabbage Slaw by Everyday Paleo
  • Apple-Carrot (& cabbage) Coleslaw by The Nourishing Home
  • Napa Cabbage Salad by Food Loves Writing
  • Crockpot Braised Cabbage by Divine Health From the Inside Out
  • Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut by Actual Organics
  • Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls by Simply Recipes
  • Asian Cabbage Salad by The Nourishing Gourmet
  • Killer Cabbage Juice by So Let’s Hang Out
  • Bacon-Braised Cabbage by The Paleo Mom
  • Cabbage Rolls – Reuben Style by Primally Inspired
  • Slow-Cooked Cabbage, Tomatoes and Meatballs by Mark’s Daily Apple
  • Russian cabbage soup by Sassy Radish
  • Crispy Sweet Potato Chips & Sautéed Cabbage by Ditch the Wheat

Bok choy

  • Recipe: Miso-glazed Bok Choy by Nourished Kitchen
  • Red Curry with Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Baby Bok Choy by Healthy Green Kitchen
  • Baby Bok Choy with Sherry and Prosciutto by Simply Recipes
  • Baby Bok Choy with Ginger and Scallion by Real Food Forager
  • Steamed Pumpkin and Baby Bok Choy with Ginger Sesame Sauce by Gourmande in the Kitchen
  • Coconut Bok Choy Smoothie by Good Girl Gone Green
  • Spicy Shrimp with Bok Choy by Oh Lardy!
  • Korean BBQ slow cooker short ribs & oxtail with Bok Choy and Rice by Homemade Mommy
  • Raw Kale and Bok Choy Slaw by Small Footprint Family
  • Nutrient Dense ‘Nonton’ Soup by Holistic Squid
  • Vegetable Stir Fry by Paleo Fondu
  • PlaNeung Manao by Paleo Parent’s
  • Asian Chicken Salad by The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

Brussel Sprouts

  • Bacon, onion & brussel slaw by Real Food RN (Another one of my favorite’s that we make every week!)
  • How to Roast Brussel Sprouts by Real Food RN
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Brussels Sprouts Chips by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts Recipe by 101 Cookbooks
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon by Food Renegade
  • Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts by Simply Recipes
  • Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon by Simply Recipes
  • Holiday Brussels Sprouts and Garlic Roasted Sweet Potatoes by Everyday Paleo
  • Warm Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Asian Citrus Dressing by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Crispy Brussels Sprouts by The Clothes Make the Girl
  • Golden Roasted Brussel Sprouts With Sausage & Garlic by Italian Food Forever
  • Lemon Garlic Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze by Healy Real Food Vegetarian
  • Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Dates by Food Loves Writing
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears & Thyme by Nourishing Days
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter Sauce by Oh Lardy!
  • Brussels Sprout and Sweet Potato Hash by The Organic Kitchen
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Honey and Currants by Homemade Mommy
  • Bacon & Cranberry Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Honey Dijon Dressing by So Let’s Hang Out
  • Brine Pickled Brussels Sprouts by Pickle Me too
  • Roasted Rosemary Brussels and Rutabaga by Paleo OMG


  • Pressure Cooker Braised Kale and Carrots by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Massage Your Kale Salad by Real Food RN (hey, another one of my recipes!)
  • Kale Chips by Kath Eats Real Food
  • Quick and Simple Stir-Fried Kale and Bacon by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Scrambled Eggs with Kale and Mozzarella by Simply Recipes
  • Kale Banana-Berry Smoothie by Tasty Yummies
  • Nutty Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Soup by Kath Eats Real Food
  • Wilted Organic Kale & Bacon by Whole Lifestyle Nutrition
  • Pizza Kale Chips by Food Lovers Kitchen
  • Oven-Braised Beef Stew with Carrot, Parsnip, and Lacinato Kale by Nom Nom Paleo
  • Taco Bowl with Crispy Kale Chips by Mark’s Daily Apple
  • Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Kale by Deliciously Organic
  • Creamed Kale (Dairy-Free) by The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
  • Lemon Kale Salad with Seared Salmon by Sprouted Kitchen
  • Garlicky Greens by 101 Cookbooks
  • Kale, Mushroom, and Sausage Stuffing by Live Simply
  • Curry Kale Chips by Tasty Yummies
  • Sweet & Salty Kale Chips by Food Renegade
  • Blanched Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Green Apple Dressing by The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
  • Cinnamon Sugar Kale Chips by Healthy Green Kitchen
  • Sprouted Quinoa with Garlicky Kale, Tomatoes and Toasted Pine Nuts by Tasty Yummies
  • Nacho Kale Chips by Health Starts in the Kitchen
  • Kale, Spinach & Artichoke Dip With Greek Yogurt by So Let’s Hang Out
  • Kale and white bean soup by Sassy Radish
  • Spiced Kale Scramble by Healy Real Food Vegetarian
  • The Organic Kitchen Spinach and Kale Quiche with Four Crust Options by The Organic Kitchen

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Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention

Researchers have investigated possible associations between intake of cruciferous vegetables and the risk of cancer. The evidence has been reviewed by various experts. Key studies regarding four common forms of cancer are described briefly below.

  • Prostate cancer: Cohort studies in the Netherlands (4), United States (5), and Europe (6) have examined a wide range of daily cruciferous vegetable intakes and found little or no association with prostate cancer risk. However, some case-control studies have found that people who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables had a lower risk of prostate cancer (7, 8).
  • Colorectal cancer: Cohort studies in the United States and the Netherlands have generally found no association between cruciferous vegetable intake and colorectal cancer risk (9-11). The exception is one study in the Netherlands—the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer—in which women (but not men) who had a high intake of cruciferous vegetables had a reduced risk of colon (but not rectal) cancer (12).
  • Lung cancer: Cohort studies in Europe, the Netherlands, and the United States have had varying results (13-15). Most studies have reported little association, but one U.S. analysis—using data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study—showed that women who ate more than 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables per week had a lower risk of lung cancer (16).
  • Breast cancer: One case-control study found that women who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables had a lower risk of breast cancer (17). A meta-analysis of studies conducted in the United States, Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands found no association between cruciferous vegetable intake and breast cancer risk (18). An additional cohort study of women in the United States similarly showed only a weak association with breast cancer risk (19).

A few studies have shown that the bioactive components of cruciferous vegetables can have beneficial effects on biomarkers of cancer-related processes in people. For example, one study found that indole-3-carbinol was more effective than placebo in reducing the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix (20).

In addition, several case-control studies have shown that specific forms of the gene that encodes glutathione S-transferase, which is the enzyme that metabolizes and helps eliminate isothiocyanates from the body, may influence the association between cruciferous vegetable intake and human lung and colorectal cancer risk (21-23).

Cruciferous Vegetables List

A cruciferous vegetables list may be helpful to eliminate the gas and bloating they may cause, but only in a very small percentage of people (about 5%). Cruciferous vegetables contain a specific sugar that may be hard to digest for this small part of the population.

A cruciferous vegetables list is necessary for some people who have problems with symptoms they can cause. Cruciferous vegetables aren’t well known gas-causing foods for everyone. And many people avoid them as they mistakenly believe if others complain about cruciferous vegetables, then they also will have a problem with them. No need to avoid them unless you have proven to yourself they are problematic for you.

The reason cruciferous vegetables cause a small percentage of people gastrointestinal problems is because of a specific sugar called raffinose. Raffinose is also found in beans (legumes) and we all know that for many, beans can also cause gas and bloating.

In people who have trouble digesting raffinose in the small intestine, this sugar travels to the large intestine where the bacteria that live there ferment the sugar and this process is what causes the gas, bloating and other discomfort. The fermentation should have been accomplished by other bacteria living in the small intestine, not the large intestine.

Cruciferous vegetables list includes:

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Daikon
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard greens
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Wasabi
  • Watercress

This cruciferous vegetables list provides the information for you to test to see if cruciferous vegetables cause you any problems. Most people know if this is the case and do not need to test this. Do not avoid foods on the cruciferous vegetables list just because you have heard that it causes other people problems, as they are the healthiest vegetables to eat for your health.

If you suffer from any gastrointestinal condition like IBS, Crohn’s Disease or any type of colitis, please fill out the form below to receive a copy of Dr. Dahlman’s free report on how you can conquer it with his all natural treatment utilizing his step-by-step process, temporary dietary eliminations and an all natural supplement program.

To find the costs of his program, please click here: “Do It Yourself Program” and solve gas and bloating or other gastrointestinal condition on your own or “Phone Consultation Program” to learn about how he can guide you through the step-by-step process to help you conquer this condition.

Looking for a list of all the cruciferous vegetables? You’ve come to the right place. If your acquaintance with them is limited to broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, it’s time to expand your repertoire and broaden your palate. Over 10 members of the Brassica family are commonly available in markets and all of them have health benefits worth pursuing.

Cruciferous vegetables are so-named because their flowers resemble a crucifix, or cross. They thrive in moist, cool conditions, making them an ideal crop for the spring or fall garden. Best of all cruciferous vegetables are packed with antioxidants and other compounds known to reduce inflammation, prevent cell damage and even protect against certain types of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables also have antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Full List of Cruciferous Vegetables

This spicy, slightly bitter salad green was all the rage in the 1990s. On its own, arugula packs quite a punch. Combine it with other mild salad greens to tone it down.

Bok Choy

This vegetable is lovely to look at and delicious to eat. It has white slender ribs and dark green leaves. Sauté bok choy briefly in oil or broth or add it to stir-fries or salads. It’s traditionally used in Asian cuisine.

This common Brassica vegetable has a mild flavor even picky eaters usually like. Broccoli can be tossed raw in salads, but steam it lightly and it’s even more nutritious. Research has found that steamed broccoli can combat high cholesterol.

Brussels sprouts

At only 70 calories for a 1 cup serving, Brussels sprouts pack a nutritional whollop while trimming your waistline. These tiny vegetables grow on a long stalk and look like miniature cabbages. One serving contains almost 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K and 124 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin C. Read more about the health benefits of brussels sprouts.

If you avoid cabbage because you don’t like its cooked smell, here’s some good news: raw or lightly cooked cabbage contains more cancer-fighting compounds than cooked cabbage. Use it raw in coleslaw or Asian-inspired salads. Learn more about the health benefits of cabbage.

One cup of cauliflower has only 27 calories, while providing ample amounts of vitamin C, folate, fiber and vitamin K. Like all cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is known to reduce inflammation, improve digestion and lower your risk of cancer. Learn more about the health benefits of cauliflower.

Collard Greens

Of all the cruciferous vegetables, collard greens have the most powerful ability to lower cholesterol levels. With over 1045 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K, they’re also packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, folate and vitamin A. Sauté collard greens lightly with a bit of bacon to make their nutrients easier to absorb.


This root vegetable is typically processed into a paste or powder for use as a condiment. Historically, though, horseradish was used medicinally to treat colds and other illnesses.

Similar to collard greens, kale is high in antioxidants and fiber. Use it within 3 days of purchase because older plants become bitter. Sauté or roast it for best flavor, but don’t overcook it.


Spicy, crisp radishes are often planted as a child’s first vegetable crop, because they are easy to grow and quick to harvest. Plant spring or fall radish varieties and use them fresh in salads. Learn more of the health benefits of radishes.


Humble, farm food, rutabagas have fallen out of favor in recent years. They deserve a renaissance though. Steamed, boiled or mashed with a pat of butter and salt and pepper, rutabagas are an inexpensive, satisfying alternative to potatoes.


Not quite as sweet as rutabagas, turnips have a bit more bite. Rutabagas need a long growing season, while turnips are harvested in the spring. Mash the roots and steam or roast the greens. Learn more of the health benefits of turnips.


This Japanese root vegetable has a hot, spicy flavor commonly used in Asian cooking. It’s difficult to cultivate, which makes it expensive.

Did we miss any of your favorite cruciferous vegetables? Leave a comment and let us know!

Growing Brassicas

Cruciferous vegetables are widely available at the grocery store and are reasonably priced, but if you have even a bit of garden space, consider growing your own. Vegetables fresh from the garden contain the most nutrients. Broccoli is an especially rewarding cruciferous vegetable because it takes up little space, matures quickly and can be harvested multiple times. Brussels sprouts and most of the cabbages need a long, cool growing season. Although radishes are root vegetables, they are also members of the Brassica family and are among the simplest garden vegetables to grow.

All cruciferous vegetables have similar growing needs. They thrive in deep, sandy soil and need consistent moisture. They prefer cool temperatures and bolt (go to seed) when temperatures rise above 75 degrees. They grow best in full sun, but if you live in a hot climate partial shade will slow bolting. Depending on where you live, brassicas can be plagued by flea beetles. These small jumping insects leave lacy holes in the plants and can destroy your crop in a matter of days. Install floating row covers when you plant Brassicas to thwart these pests.

Using Cruciferous Vegetables

Served raw, most cruciferous vegetables have a slight spicy flavor. When cooked, the flavor mellows to a pleasant nuttiness. Serve cruciferous vegetables in soups, stir-fries or sautéed with a bit of garlic and a splash of vinegar. Don’t overcook them though or they’ll become a pile of flavorless mush. Try roasting greens, such as kale, just until crisp and slightly browned for a smoky, mild taste.

Want to learn more about the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables?

See these helpful resources:
Cruciferous Vegetables from the National Cancer Institute

Cruciferous Vegetables Help Fight Cancer from the University of California Davis

Recipes Using Cruciferous Vegetables from Dr. Vittoria Repetto

Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.

Many people are familiar with the term “cruciferous vegetables” and can even identify a vegetable like broccoli as belonging to this group. But because research on cruciferous vegetables has skyrocketed over the past three to seven years, many people are not familiar with the latest science on this age-old group of vegetables.

The name “cruciferous vegetables” is itself undergoing change! This group of vegetables was originally named for the four equal-sized petals in its flowers that could be viewed as forming a cross-like or crucifix shape. But many scientists are starting to favor the term “brassica vegetables” over “cruciferous vegetables” and the traditional name of this plant family in Latin, Cruciferae, is now being largely replaced by the Latin name Brassicaceae. (In Latin, the word “brassica” simply translates as “cabbage,” and cabbage is definitely a featured member of this vegetable group.)

You’ll also hear farmers referring to foods in this vegetable group as “cole crops.” The word “cole” (which is easy to spot in the word “coleslaw,” a dish usually made from cabbage but also from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli) once again takes us back to the Latin language; it comes from the word “caulis” that refers to the stalks of plants, especially to the stalk of the cabbage plant. (Interestingly, you can find this Latin root not in the cabbages that so commonly represent the broader family of cruciferous vegetables, but in cauliflower, which is another important member of this vegetable group.) Cruciferous vegetables are also sometimes referred to as the mustard family vegetables, since the widely popular mustard greens — and mustard seeds and mustard oils — also belong to this vegetable group.

The table below contains a comprehensive list of cruciferous vegetables that are commonly consumed as a part of cuisines worldwide:

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Daikon radish
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Land cress
  • Mustard greens
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

The above list makes it clear that we should also be thinking about spices like brown mustard seed, yellow mustard seed, and horseradish as cruciferous vegetables, because they are! Health-supportive molecules like glucosinolates are concentrated in these spices in the same way that they are concentrated in the leaves of the plants (like mustard greens or horseradish greens).

Two especially common scientific groupings of cruciferous vegetables are the Brassica oleracea (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi) and the Brassica rapa (Chinese cabbage and turnips). Brassica campestris is another name for the genus-species grouping called Brassica rapa.

Conventional Nutrients in Cruciferous Vegetables

In terms of conventional nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, and fats), we cannot find another vegetable group that is as high in vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber as the cruciferous vegetables. As a group, the cruciferous vegetables are simply superstars in these conventional nutrient areas.

The vitamin K content of cruciferous vegetables — especially kale and collards — is fascinating to think about in light of intensive research over the past five years on cancer, inflammation, and cruciferous vegetables. Vitamin K is a conventional nutrient that clearly helps regulate our inflammatory response, including chronic, excessive inflammatory responses that can increase our risk of certain cancers. Studies on cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention have not typically focused on vitamin K per se, but we suspect that the amazing K content of cruciferous vegetables is definitely related to their cancer-preventive properties through mechanisms involving better control of inflammation.

The astonishing concentration of vitamin A carotenoids in cruciferous vegetables and their unusually high content of vitamin C and manganese are clearly key components in their growing reputation as an antioxidant vegetable group. Scientific interest in the antioxidant function of the cruciferous vegetables has been sufficient to trigger funding of isotope studies on cruciferous vegetables that document the uptake of antioxidants in these foods from our digestive tract into our bloodstream. We’ve seen studies on 13C-labeled kale that show impressive bioavailability of beta-carotene, lutein, and retinol from this cruciferous vegetable. Significant increases in the blood levels of these key antioxidant nutrients have been seen very quickly in subjects who consume generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables in research studies. (“Generous” in one such study meant consumption of 3 cups of blanched, chopped broccoli during a meal.) The antioxidant richness of cruciferous vegetables has also been explicitly mentioned in several recent studies as one of the strong contributors to the risk-lowering impact of cruciferous vegetables on numerous forms of cancer.

One hundred calories’ worth of cruciferous vegetables (about 5-6% of a daily diet) provides about 25-40% of your daily fiber requirement! That fact shows what an incredible bargain cruciferous vegetable are when it comes to fiber. We suspect that it’s one of the reasons these vegetables have become increasingly prominent in research studies on diet and digestive support. We may not typically think about cruciferous vegetables when considering digestive disorders or risk of digestive tract cancers, but we should.

Two additional macronutrients — proteins and fats — also deserve special mention with respect to recent research on cruciferous vegetables. We tend to think about legumes, nuts, seeds, meats, dairy, and fish as the diet’s pre-eminent protein sources — as they are. But cruciferous vegetables can contribute a surprising amount of protein to the diet — over 25% of the Daily Value in 3 cups — and at a very low calorie cost. Two hundred calories of steamed broccoli will provide you with 20 grams of protein — not as much as the 30 grams in two hundred calories of roasted chicken breast — but still a very substantial amount. We suspect that the substantial protein content of cruciferous vegetables may contribute to their risk-lowering impact on certain cancers, partially due to their support of detoxification. (Especially during Phase 2 detoxification, certain amino acids found in protein are known to play a critical role.)

We are no more likely to think about cruciferous vegetables as pre-eminent sources of fat in the diet than we are to think about them as pre-eminent sources of protein. In particular, cruciferous vegetables don’t make many popular lists of omega-3 fats and their most important food sources. However, 100 calories’ worth of cruciferous vegetables typically gives us somewhere between one-third and one-half of a gram of omega-3 fat (333-500 milligrams). This omega-3 fat is primarily in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which serves as the basic building block for all other forms of omega-3 fats in the body. There is actually far more ALA in 100 calories of cabbage than there is in 100 calories of salmon. While fish like salmon do contain most of their omega-3s in the form of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) rather than ALA, the amount of total omega-3s in 100 calories of cabbage (520 milligrams) is still substantial in comparison to the amount of total omega-3s in 100 calories of salmon (798 milligrams). The past 5 years of greatly expanded research on cruciferous vegetables and inflammation points to the omega-3 content of cruciferous vegetables as a potentially critical component of their unique health benefits.

The chart below summarizes the conventional nutrient richness of some widely consumed cruciferous vegetables:

Cruciferous Vegetables Nutrient Content

(Amount for each vegetable = 100 calories)

Cruciferous Vegetable Phytonutrients

As impressive as they are in terms of their conventional nutrient content, cruciferous vegetables are even more renowned for their phytonutrients. During the past five years, cruciferous vegetables have largely taken over the world of research in the area of glucosinolates, phytonutrients that clearly have their headquarters in the cruciferous vegetable group. Thanks to research on cruciferous vegetables, scientists have now identified over 100 different glucosinolates in food, and without cruciferous vegetables in our diet, we simply cannot get optimal intake of the glucosinolates. What’s so special about glucosinolates is their potential for cancer prevention. Once converted into other molecules called isothiocyanates, the glucosinolates have an eye-opening track record in lowering the risk of certain cancers. The list below summarizes key glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables:

Glucosinolates in Cruciferous Vegetables with Known Health Benefits

  • Erucin
  • Glucoallyn
  • Glucobrassicanapin
  • Gluconapin
  • Gluconasturtin
  • Glucophanin
  • Iberin
  • Progoitrin
  • Sinigrin
  • 4-methoxyglucobrassicin

In our article, “Feeling Great with Cruciferous Vegetables,” we talk in detail about glucosinolates and explain exactly how they accomplish their cancer-preventive effects.

Understanding Differences between Raw and Cooked Cruciferous Vegetables

Recent research shows a definite dietary place for cruciferous vegetables in both raw and cooked form. Studies in this area have expanded in recent years, and scientists understand better than ever about the different paths taken by cruciferous vegetables when prepared in different ways. When consumed in raw form, it appears especially helpful for us to have freshly picked cruciferous vegetables. The greater potential benefits here involve enzymes. When cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are freshly picked (for example, within the previous 48 hours), their enzymes are much more likely to remain active. This better chance of enzyme activity — including activity of the enzyme myrosinase — gives us a better chance of having phytonutrients like glucosinolates converted into uniquely health-supportive molecules (like isothiocyanates). When consumed in fresh, raw, uncooked form, nutrients from the cruciferous vegetables that we eat are also more likely to be absorbed in the upper digestive tract, transported to the liver, and made available to other tissues in the body that might benefit from their presence.

When cruciferous vegetables are consumed in cooked form, and especially if they have not been allowed to sit chopped for several minutes prior to cooking, there is unlikely to be much enzyme activity (including myrosinase activity), and the digestive products of the cruciferous vegetables are more likely to pass through the upper digestive tract unabsorbed and continue down into the lower digestive tract (colon). At that point in the digestive process, the cruciferous vegetable nutrients are very likely to be further metabolized by bacteria. Some of the risk reduction seen for colon cancer following intake of cruciferous vegetables may be related to this passage of cooked cruciferous vegetable nutrient down through the digestive tract all the way to the colon without being absorbed. One way to increase availability of enzyme breakdown products in the upper digestive tract, however, is to chop raw cruciferous vegetables and let them sit in chopped form for several minutes prior to cooking. This process will allow myrosinase enzymes to go to work prior to their deactivation by cooking heats.

Eventually, researchers may be able to tell us the exact advantages and disadvantages for each consumption form of cruciferous vegetables (raw and cooked). In addition, researchers predict that we may one day understand how to match individual genetic tendencies with the best mix of cruciferous vegetables and the best balance of raw-versus-cooked consumption. At present, however, we can only conclude that both raw and cooked forms of cruciferous vegetables are very likely to have a place in optimal nourishment.

If we look exclusively at cooked cruciferous vegetables, however, and compare different cooking methods and their pros and cons, we will definitely find new information in the research that is well worth noting. First is the preference of steaming over microwaving. In a study that compared steaming versus microwaving of raw cabbage, researchers found that it took 7 minutes of steaming to result in the same about of enzyme (myrosinase) destruction that occurred with only 2 minutes of microwaving. In other words, short steaming was much better than microwaving for preserving some myrosinase activity in the cabbage. Researchers in this study also found higher concentrations of one particular isothiocyanate (AITC, or allyl-isothiocyanate) in lightly steamed cabbage, and for this reason they concluded that light steaming of cabbage might provide some unique health benefits. Steaming, of course, cooks foods at 212°F/100°C — a relatively low heat. We’re convinced that this relatively low level of heat was important in providing steamed cabbage with its higher AITC content. Along this same line of thinking, we’ve seen another cruciferous vegetable study showing successful delivery of glucosinolates in broccoli to a group of study participants in the form of broccoli soup. Like steamed cabbage, broccoli soup is likely to expose this cruciferous vegetable to a relatively low cooking temperature and help preserve desirable nutrients for this reason.

We’d like to make one final comment about preparation of foods in this cruciferous vegetable food group. Especially within the average U.S. diet, it’s difficult to find another food group in which as many different parts of the food are consumed. Within the cruciferous vegetable group, we commonly eat the flowers of the plant (for example, the broccoli florets), the leaves (for example, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, and kale), the stems and stalks (for example, broccoli stems and stalks), the roots (for example, turnips or rutabagas or radishes), and the seeds (for example, mustard seeds). The unique benefits of this cruciferous vegetables food group may be partly related to inclusion of so many different plant parts in a cruciferous foods-including diet. Particularly when it comes to phytonutrients, plants distribute nutrients differently in their different anatomical parts. The fact that we commonly include so many different parts of cruciferous plants in our diet may help us broaden the diversity of phytonutrients that we get from this food group. Given this diversity of cruciferous plant parts, it’s also important to remember that different parts may require different cooking times for optimal nutrient retention.

Bitterness of Taste of Cruciferous Vegetables

From a chemistry standpoint, the taste of all foods is complicated. A wide variety of different substances contribute to the taste of any particular food. In addition, our individual biochemistry causes us to perceive taste differently, and the exact same food containing the exact same substances can taste extremely different to different people. In the case of cruciferous vegetables, however, a large percentage of individuals describe a certain bitterness of taste, and in research, this taste has been linked to a wide variety of phytonutrients, including glucosinolates, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Recent research has also linked the bitterness of taste in cruciferous vegetables with calcium content. Turnip greens, for example, which taste far more bitter to many people than cabbage, contain about 4 times more calcium than their fellow cruciferous vegetable. Although the commercial food industry has sometimes attempted to breed out bitter-tasting constituents from cruciferous vegetables (including sinigrin, one of the glucosinolates especially plentiful in cabbage), that practice does not make sense if we want to optimize our nourishment from this vegetable group. A much healthier approach would involve the blending of cruciferous vegetables with differently flavored foods in such a way that the cruciferous vegetables retain some of their natural and noticeable bitterness but within a blended-flavor context that makes the dish delicious!

Unique Nourishment from Cruciferous Vegetables: A Practical Summary

We are not aware of any food group that matches cruciferous vegetables for what we would call integrated nourishment across such a wide variety of nutritional categories. There are important amounts of macronutrients including fiber, protein, and omega-3s in this group. There are showcase amounts of many antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detox-related nutrients. Many B-complex vitamins are unusually concentrated in cruciferous vegetables, as are certain minerals. This food group also contains its own unique set of phytonutrients — the glucosinolates — that are simply unavailable to the same extent in any other food group. By commonly consuming all parts of plants from this group, including flowers, leaves, stems, stalks, roots and seeds, we allow this cruciferous vegetable group to integrate together an unusually wide range of nutrients that is broader than any other single food group subdivision in the average U.S. diet. For all of these reasons, and based on the latest research evidence, we cannot say enough about the healthiness of this food group for most every individual diet plan.

Cruciferous Vegetables

The more commonly known cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, but there are many others in this family, such as collard greens, watercress, bok choy, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, arugula, radishes (including horseradish), wasabi, and all types of cabbage.

Cruciferous vegetables can potentially prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread, activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants, help to prevent lymphoma, boost your liver detox enzymes, target breast cancer stem cells, and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression. The component responsible for these benefits is thought to be sulforaphane, which is formed almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables.

Beyond being a promising anticancer agent, sulforaphane may also help protect your brain and your eyesight, reduce nasal allergy inflammation, manage type 2 diabetes, and was recently found to successfully help treat autism. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of boys with autism found that about two to three cruciferous vegetable servings’ worth of sulforaphane a day improves social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication within a matter of weeks. The researchers, primarily from Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University, suggest that the effect might be due to sulforaphane’s role as a “detoxicant.”

For all these reasons, cruciferous vegetables get their own spot on my Daily Dozen, which recommends at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables and at least two additional servings of other vegetables a day, cruciferous or otherwise.

Indeed, if you were to add only one thing to your diet, consider cruciferous vegetables. Less than a single serving a day of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, or kale may cut the risk of cancer progression by more than half.

Image Credit: . This image has been modified.

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