Current research has shown that a number of readily available foods such as cruciferous vegetables that make up a healthy diet, actually have a major impact on cancer prevention. The cabbage family of vegetables is known as crucifers and includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, turnips, cauliflower, radishes, bok choy and watercress. These cancer fighting foods seem to have the ability to interfere with the development of cancerous tumors. Cancer fighting foods all contain large amounts of certain phytochemicals. Phytochemicals were developed by nature to protect plants against damage caused by insects, disease and environmental stress. These phytochemical molecules are the ones that give fruits and vegetables their brilliant colors, provide the smell to garlic and the bitter taste to tea and dark chocolate. It is very likely that these phytochemicals, not the vitamins and minerals, are the source of the cancer prevention capabilities of these healthy foods.
The cabbage family contains some sulfur-based phytochemicals that seem to be effective in protecting against tumor development. While all members have phytochemical based cancer fighting capabilities, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts seem to be most effective. Cruciferous vegetables contain the greatest variety of phytochemicals of all fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in these vegetables offers protection against many types of cancers. Cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts either contain or create many phytochemicals such as polyphenols, glucosinolates and isothiocynates such as sulforaphane. Isothiocynates contain a sulfur atom which is responsible for the smell when members of the cabbage family are cooked too long. The isothiocynates sulforaphane in broccoli seems to enable our bodies to get rid of carcinogenic toxic compounds. These molecules also seem to act at the cellular level and reduce the frequency and size of tumors. Sulforaphane is also a compound with antibiotic properties that will act against the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers and should therefore provide protection against stomach cancer. Information that is becoming available on broccoli is showing us how important that this vegetable becomes a major component of our diet. Unfortunately not all broccolis are created equal and many will contain much less of the phytochemical sulforaphane. Apparently the more bitter the broccoli tastes, the more sulforaphane. New products such as broccoli sprouts seem to contain more phytochemicals than mature heads of broccoli.
It should be note that cooking cruciferous vegetables in water will reduce the quantity of phytochemicals that will be released when they are digested. Steaming or quickly stir frying would be a better approach to maximizing the available phytochemicals.
Eating a healthy balanced diet can provide our bodies with tens of thousands of different phytochemicals. However not all fruits, vegetables and other plant products provide the best anti-cancer phytochemicals. The ten best groups of anti-cancer foods are discussed in our website www.benefits-of-antioxidants.com They include: berries and citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions, green tea, omega-3 essential fatty acids, olive oil, tomatoes, soy products, red wine and dark chocolate.
Mark Ransome is a contributing editor and writer for the popular new website Benefits of Antioxidants. Visitors will have access to a new free diet and weight loss program: The Psychiatrist’s Weight Loss Program.