Cancer Alert: Your Best Defense - Go Cruciferous

We may not have eaten so healthfully our entire lives. We may have a family history of breast, prostate or colon cancer. What should we do? Just wait until cancer is found?

Getting medical screenings is certainly a personal decision, but if you want to know what you can really do to protect yourself—eat lots of colorful vegetables, specifically including lots of green cruciferous vegetables. Eating a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables is your best defense for fighting and preventing cancer.

If we really want to win the war against cancer, we must improve the nutritional quality of our diet. We have all heard about the antioxidant effects our bodies derive from the phytochemicals in plant foods. However, the unique phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables offer superior benefits. Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals that have unique abilities to modify human hormones, detoxify compounds, and prevent toxic compounds from binding to human DNA, preventing toxins from causing DNA damage that could lead to cancer. Studies have even shown that genetic defects that may lead to cancer are suppressed by the consumption of green cruciferous vegetables.

Certainly, many studies have shown that eating fresh fruits, beans, vegetables, seeds, and nuts reduces the occurrence of cancer. I plotted cancer incidence in 25 countries against unrefined plant food intake and found that as vegetables, beans, and fruit consumption goes up 20% in a population, cancer rates typically drop 20%. But cruciferous vegetables are different; they have been shown to be twice as effective. As cruciferous vegetable intake goes up 20%, in a population, cancer rates drop 40%.

Great choices include: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brocollina, brussels sprouts cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, red cabbage, rutabaga, turnips, turnip greens and watercress.

Include them in both raw and cooked forms and eat a variety of them. These benefits cannot be duplicated by taking any one pre-formed compound or supplement.

The evidence is now overwhelming that cruciferous vegetables play a major and unique role in the widely recognized protective effects of natural plant foods against cancer—and are the most important players in this arena. The biologically active compounds from raw and conservatively cooked green vegetables enhance the natural defenses of the human body against DNA damage and they even fuel the body's ability to block growth and replication of cells that are already damaged. For those in the know, these foods are the most important nutritional factors to prevent common human cancers.

Read more about Cruciferous Vegetables—what they are and how they benefit us along with the studies that support these claims—in the July 2007 Healthy Times Newsletter plus get great-tasting cruciferous-rich recipes!

Selected References

Michaud DS, Spiegelman D, Clinton SK. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of bladder cancer in a male prospective cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999; 91(7):605-13.

Link LB, Potter JD. Raw versus cooked vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13(9):1422-35.

Miller AB. Nutritional aspects of human carcinogenesis. IARC Sci Publ 1982;(39):177-92.

Higdon JV, Delage B, Williams DE, Dashwood RH. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007; 55(3):224-36.

Steinmetz KA, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review. J Am Diet Assoc 1996 Oct;96(10):1027-1039.

Lee SA, Fowke JH, Lu W. Cruciferous vegetables, the GSTP1 Ile105Val genetic polymorphism, and breast cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008; 87(3):753-60.

Rose P, Huang Q, Ong CN, Whiteman M. Broccoli and watercress suppress matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity and invasiveness of human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2005(10);S0041-008X.

Johnston N. Sulforaphane halts breast cancer cell growth. Drug Discov Today 2004;9(21):908.

Srivastava SK, Xiao D, Lew KL, et al. Allyl isothiocyanate, a constituent of cruciferous vegetables, inhibits growth of PC-3 human prostate cancer xenografts in vivo. Carcinogenesis 2003 Oct;24(10):1665-1670.

Finley JW. The antioxidant responsive element (ARE) may explain the protective effects of cruciferous vegetables on cancer. Nutr Rev 2003 Jul;61(7):250-254.

Seow A, Yuan JM, Sun CL, et al. Dietary isothiocyanates, glutathione S-transferase polymorphisms and colorectal cancer risk in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Carcinogenesis 2002 Dec;23(12):2055-206.

Image credit: jennconspiracy

Go Get Some Root Veggies!

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, a practicing nutritionist in upstate New York, loves root vegetables, stuff like carrots, turnips, jicama, beets and radishes. She likes that they’re cheap, perfect for these economic tough times. They’ve got a long self life, some as long as 3 weeks! And veggies, like parsnips and rutabagas are high in potassium, which helps to control blood pressure; via CalorieLab.

Root vegetables, such as beets and carrots, are packed with fiber and powerful antioxidants, like cartonoids and betacyanin, which protect against cancer by inhibiting cell mutations. And these anti-cancer properties are also found in other fruits and veggies, like nuts, beans, peppers, tomatoes, oranges and especially leafy greens, such as broccoli and watercress.

Now, beets are great for making healthy desserts and you can totally find them on the cheap. I once found a pile of beets and turnips for under a buck!

Image credit: Lisa Norwood