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Reduce Your Risk of Cancer With Cruciferous Vegetables

Eating Broccoli and Other Cruciferous Vegetables May Reduce Your Cancer Risk


Updated July 01, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Remember when your mom nagged you at the dinner table to eat those Brussels sprouts or broccoli when you were growing up? It turns out that Mom just may have been onto something, as we now know that Brussels sprouts and broccoli can reduce our risk of cancer and other diseases. Studies have shown that eating these cruciferous vegetables greatly benefit our overall health.

What are Cruciferous Vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables, or "crucifers", belong to the Crucifae family. Their four-flowered petals resemble a crucifix, hence the name cruciferous. They are packed with many vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that can help reduce your risk of many health conditions, including cancer.

There are many types of cruciferous vegetables. The most common varieties are bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, rhutabaga, and watercress.

How Do Cruciferous Vegetables Fight Cancer?

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with phytochemicals, which are chemicals and substances found in plants. Notably, crucifers contain isothiocyanates, chemical compounds that combat carcinogens by inhibiting their activity, repairing damage made by them, and also speeding up apoptosis (cell death). Research is underway that studies isothiocyanates as chemopreventative agents for certain cancer types. Other compounds found in cruciferous veggies, such as indoles and crambene, also help by detoxifying enzymes and preventing cell damage.

Incorporating Cruciferous Vegetables Into Your Diet

Cruciferous vegetables pack more of anti-cancer punch when eaten raw or lightly steamed. Cooking can cause veggies to lose some of their vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds. If you have an aversion to eating raw vegetables, don't think you have to miss out on all those cancer-fighting properties! These types of vegetables are delicious in casseroles, soups, and other recipes. While they may lose some of their nutritional value during the cooking process, you can still reap the health benefits by eating them cooked.

Check out these delicious recipes containing cruciferous vegetables:


Keck AS, Finley JW. Cruciferous vegetables: cancer protective mechanisms of glucosinolate hydrolysis products and selenium. Integr Cancer Ther 2004; 3: 5–12.

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