What Are Cruciferous Vegetables?

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Cruciferous vegetables are those vegetables in the cabbage family including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy. Other lists also include arugula, collard greens, horseradish, radishes, turnips, watercress, rutabaga and mustard greens. Cruciferous vegetables contain fiber and important phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.

WebMD reveals that there is a link between eating cruciferous vegetables and protection against cancer. Some components in cruciferous vegetables stop cancer cell growth in tumors of the breast, uterine lining, lung, colon, liver and cervix. Diets high in cruciferous vegetables are also associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. To retain the phytochemicals responsible for these health benefits, it is best to eat cruciferous vegetables raw or lightly steamed.

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.