You caught us - cruciferous vegetables aren't really all powerful, but they are about as close as a vegetable can get. Cruciferous Vegetables have been regarded as extremely healthy, nutrient-dense vegetables for years - and for good reason. These veggies offer a variety of unique health benefits, and should make a regular appearance in everyone’s diet. We’re offering some insight into what cruciferous vegetables are, what sets them apart from other veggies, and what benefits they can provide. Plus, don’t miss out on our favorite recipe links at the end of the blog!
What Are Cruciferous Vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are members of the “Brassicaceae” plant family. This family is unique because all the vegetables therein contain a phytochemical called Sulforaphane (1), a unique phytochemical that has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic, anti inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Interestingly, these phytochemical compounds become biologically active (meaning they change to a form the body can process) in the chewing process. There’s a wide variety of cruciferous vegetables, but we’ve listed out the most common ones below.
Benefits of Eating Cruciferous Veggies
The sulforaphane found in cruciferous vegetables have a wide variety of positive health benefits. Perhaps the most well-known benefit of eating cruciferous veggies are the anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer, in layman's terms) properties. These anti-carcinogenic effects
have been studied in rats and other animals. Sulforaphane and other phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer cells in numerous organs (2). While research into the efficacy in humans continues, there is evidence supporting the impact of regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables reducing cancer risk.
In the world of nutritional psychology, a field that focuses on the impact of foods on mood and mental health, cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to play a key role. In a 2018 study, cruciferous vegetables were among the top-ranked foods shown to help prevent and promote reduction in symptoms of depressive disorders (3). Reducing symptoms of depressive disorders and anxiety through nutrition is a powerful tool that is easily accessible for patients, and can have a big impact on their mental health.
So many of our patients suffer from chronic inflammation and/or cardiovascular disease, which makes eating cruciferous veggies incredibly important for them. Cruciferous vegetables have been shown to promote cardiovascular health by relieving hypertension, helping to prevent obesity, and reduce arterial inflammation (4). Furthermore, these vegetables work similarly to turmeric/curcumin in reducing inflammation, making them a dietary requirement for anyone with chronic inflammatory conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus.
At SageMED, we talk a LOT about the importance of hormone optimization. Believe it or not, cruciferous vegetables play a role in balancing hormones on top of all of the other amazing benefits they provide. Cruciferous veggies help to remove excess estrogen from the body, something that is important for men and women alike. The phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables help the body transform estrogen into a weaker form, allowing the body to metabolize estrogen more effectively and preventing the buildup of excess estrogen (5). By eating cruciferous vegetables, patients can help fuel their body effectively and provide their body with the necessary phytochemicals to help keep hormone levels balanced and stable.
Cruciferous vegetables play a huge role in the overall health and functioning of the body, and are an essential part of any diet. Sometimes it can be a struggle to eat the recommended 5-6 servings of vegetables per day, so we’ve listed some of our favorite recipes below to help get you started!
While not a recipe, here’s a pro tip for making brussel sprouts - if you soak the brussel sprouts overnight, it pulls the sharp bitterness out, leaving an enhanced flavor without the bitter edge once you cook them!
Higdon, J., Delage, B., Williams, D., & Dashwood, R. (2007). Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological Research, 55(3), 224–236. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.009
Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved February 8, 2020, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet
Lachance, L. R., & Ramsey, D. (2018). Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World Journal of Psychiatry, 8(3), 97–104. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97
Higdon, J. (2020, January 1). Cruciferous Vegetables. Retrieved from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/cruciferous-vegetables
Hassal, L. (2018, July 15). Cruciferous Vegetables and Estrogen Detoxification. Retrieved from http://www.sageclinic.com/cruciferous-vegetables-estrogen-detoxification/