Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy are all categorized as cruciferous vegetables. Other lists also include arugula, collard greens, horseradish, radishes, turnips, watercress, rutabaga and mustard greens. Cruciferous vegetables are so named because these vegetables typically have flowers with four petals that resemble a cross.
Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fibers that are beneficial for maintaining health. Eating these vegetables may help lower the risk of cancer and, in some cases, slow the growth of tumors in certain parts of the body. Lab studies have shown that sulforaphane, one of the phytochemicals found in these vegetables, stimulates enzymes that detoxify carcinogens before cells are damaged, states WebMd. In some studies, these vegetables have also shown to reduce free radicals produced by the body. Reducing these may reduce the risk of colon, prostate, breast and other cancers.
This group of vegetables contain beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins C, E and K and folate. They also contain glucosinolates, which are responsible for the strong odor and bitter taste. Animal studies have shown that these vegetables can inhibit cancer and tumor development in several organs of rats and mice, including bladder, ovaries, liver, lung and stomach, though human testing has had mixed results.