Alarming statistics now suggest that more than half of all adult cancers, for example in western regions, can be caused by poor diet. What these alarming numbers mean is that much of the death and misery caused by cancer is preventable. Fortunately, scientific evidence has established that cruciferous vegetables contain vital cancer-fighting components as they offer powerful protection against carcinogens.
Compounds found in certain vegetables support the body's natural detoxification process and help eliminate cancer-causing agents in our food, water, and environment.
Broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables contain only health-promoting phytonutrients that have been shown to help prevent the onset and slow the progression of colon, breast, prostate, thyroid, cervical, and other cancers.
These natural compounds also promote healthy estrogen metabolism in the body, a critical component in any disease prevention strategy, while countering the daily onslaught of cancer-causing chemicals.
In this article, we examine the extraordinary disease-preventing compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, how they exert their multifaceted cancer-fighting effects, and how you can harness these nutrients to protect against a multitude of cancer-inducing agents.
List of cruciferous vegetables
While you may not have heard of the term cruciferous vegetables before, chances are you've even grown a lot of them in your garden. They include:
Arugula, Bok choi, Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe, Romanesco Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Cabbage, Green Cabbages, Daikon, Garden Cress, Horseradish, Kale, Tusk, Rutabaga, Tatsoi, Mizuna, Mustard, Mizuna, Mustard - seeds and leaves, Pak choi, Turnips - root and greens Wasabi, Watercress.
Does cancer represent a cruciferous vegetable deficiency?
Scientists now believe that a major reason so many people get deadly cancers is that they don't eat enough healthy fruits and vegetables. Only a small percentage of the population consumes the five daily servings of fruits and vegetables that are recommended for good health.
Even more distressing, our daily diet is surprisingly deficient in some of the most potent cancer-fighting foods available: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which undoubtedly contribute to their healthy effects. However, scientists have identified other bioactive compounds in these vegetables that are specifically responsible for their cancer-preventing effects. These compounds, called glucosinolates, are converted to indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM) in the body.
Cruciferous Nutrient Deficiency May Contribute to Cancer
A dietary deficiency of phytonutrients found in cruciferous vegetables can contribute to cancer in many ways. Every day, we are exposed to cancer-inducing compounds in our environment.
Cruciferous vegetables dramatically improve the body's ability to neutralize these carcinogens, thus providing essential support in preventing cancer.
Another major cause of cancer comes from the body itself. When estrogens are metabolized through certain biochemical pathways, they become more likely to trigger cancer. Older adults suffer from a high prevalence of cancers associated with an imbalance in estrogen metabolism.
Crucifers contain compounds that promote a healthier route to break down estrogen in the body, thus protecting against cancer. The plant compounds in crucifers work through many other mechanisms in the body to protect against the growth and spread of existing cancers.
Neutralization of dietary and environmental toxins
Cruciferous vegetables help protect us from cancer by protecting against the toxic compounds found every day in our food, air, water, and environment.
Estrogen-like compounds in the environment are called xenoestrogens. We ingest and absorb xenoestrogens from plastics used in beverage bottles and food containers, industrial chemicals, and pesticides. In the body, these xenoestrogens are toxic compounds that can potentially trigger the onset or progression of cancer.
By mimicking estrogens, xenoestrogens influence hormone-regulated processes and induce changes in growth factors, which can lay the foundation for cancer.
An example of particularly toxic xenoestrogens are environmental pollutants known as PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. Dangerous levels of PCBs have been found in adults and children living in areas where these chemicals have contaminated the soil, water, and air.
It is alarming that, despite the prohibition of their production and use in certain places, they made their way up the food chain, particularly in certain types of seafood such as Atlantic salmon. Numerous studies show that PCBs have a multitude of adverse effects on human health.
Cruciferous neutralized environmental toxins
For example, one study found that urban men who eat fish not only have the highest levels of PCBs and related toxins, but also have the highest incidence of indicators of male infertility, such as low ejaculation volume, low sperm count and poor sperm motility.
Some scientists believe that PCBs are responsible for the increased incidence of allergies, autoimmune diseases, and hormone-dependent cancers, such as certain types of breast and prostate cancer. Other researchers report that exposure to these airborne toxins can negatively affect the brain, altering mood and concentration.
Exposure to PCBs has been linked to increased rates of endometriosis in women, a chronic disease associated with pelvic pain and infertility.
Although it is almost impossible to completely avoid these contaminants, research shows that it may be possible to increase protection against them by consuming optimal amounts of healthy phytochemicals from cruciferous vegetables.
These phytochemicals, which include I3C and other compounds, enhance the efficiency of the body's primary detoxification system - the liver's phase I and II enzyme systems. These enzymes help transform harmful toxins and carcinogens into harmless compounds that the body can safely eliminate.
Promote a healthy estrogen metabolism
As noted above, an imbalance of estrogens in the body can set the stage for cancer, and older adults are particularly susceptible to cancers associated with aberrant estrogen metabolism. Fortunately, cruciferous plant compounds like I3C and DIM can provide powerful protection against cancer by promoting optimal estrogen metabolism.
Estradiol is the primary circulating estrogen in the body, as well as one of the most active. The body metabolizes estradiol through two separate pathways.
One pathway results in the conversion of estradiol to a less potent form of estrogen (2-hydroxyestrone), while the other pathway increases the production of a more toxic estrogen metabolite (16 alpha-hydroxyestrone). Researchers believe that women who primarily metabolize estradiol to the toxic metabolite may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
This delicate balance of estrogens is also crucial for men's health. In a study that examined the ratio of estrogen metabolites to prostate cancer risk, elevated levels of the more active metabolite were associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
These important findings suggest that a man's ratio of estrogen metabolites may offer an important perspective on his risk for prostate cancer.
Fortunately, the cruciferous plant compounds I3C and DIM are effective in shifting estradiol metabolism to the most beneficial pathway, thereby reducing levels of toxic 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone and increasing levels of protective 2-hydroxyestrone. This beneficial modulation of estrogen metabolism has been correlated with a lower risk of breast cancer and other types of cancer, including cervical, prostate, and even head and neck cancers.
Cruciferous plant compounds I3C and DIM may therefore play an important role in the fight against cancer by promoting a healthy metabolism of estrogen.
How to get the benefits of cruciferous vegetables
While the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables are indisputable, it can be difficult to get optimal amounts of these potent cancer fighters from diet alone. Studies have shown that even if these vegetables are eaten every day, their beneficial glucosinolates can be lost during food storage, or degraded or leached during food processing.
Additionally, cooking cruciferous vegetables tends to inhibit the conversion of much of their glucosinolate content into beneficial cancer-fighting compounds.
To help everyone benefit from the cancer-fighting power of cruciferous vegetables, scientists have identified and isolated their most bioactive compounds and made them available as low-cost concentrated dietary supplements. These cancer-fighting phytonutrients may be most beneficial when consumed with meals, as they help neutralize carcinogens in the diet.
As incredible as it may sound, the vegetables and herbs that are easily found in the aisle of any supermarket contain some of the most powerful cancer-fighting compounds found in all of nature.
Natural phytonutrients derived from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and watercress, along with powerful antioxidant polyphenols like carnosic acid and rosemary carnosol, offer broad and powerful support to maintain healthy estrogen metabolism and protect against the ubiquitous and cancer-provoking. Agents found every day in our environment.
Incorporating these extraordinarily potent plant-based compounds into a daily supplementation program is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to protect against many of today's most common and deadly cancers.
Charred meats raise the risk of cancer
Meat that has been cooked at high temperatures is one of the most common sources of carcinogens in the diet. When cooked to a "well done" state, meats contain dangerous compounds, including heterocyclic amines. These compounds are known to cause DNA mutations and cancer in animals. Scientists have recently confirmed that eating well-cooked meat also poses a risk to human health.
Epidemiological studies have linked the consumption of well-cooked meat to colon, breast and stomach cancers in adults. In men, higher consumption of well-cooked meat has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Importantly, eating whole meat, red, or white did not increase the risk of prostate cancer, leading scientists to conclude that it is the heterocyclic amines produced by high-temperature cooking, rather than the meat itself., which increases the risk of prostate cancer.
Although heterocyclic amines themselves are not carcinogenic, they are transformed in the body into chemically reactive compounds that can interact with DNA to trigger cancer initiation. Scientists believe that it is possible to reduce the risks of these potential carcinogens through the use of nutrients and diets.
Protective compounds derived from vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, can help decrease the dangers of potent carcinogens derived from meat by preventing their activation or increasing your detoxification.
Scientists have found that cruciferous vegetables help protect against DNA damage and the precancerous changes that heterocyclic amines can induce. Therefore, ensuring a regular intake of cruciferous plant compounds (and supplementation) can help protect against one of the most frequent sources of carcinogens in the diet.
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