Doctor’s Tip: Cruciferous vegetables rock
Cruciferous vegetables have four-petaled flowers, suggestive of a cross, and the name comes from crux, the Latin word for cross. This family of vegetables includes kale, cabbage, arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, horseradish, mustard greens, radishes, turnip greens and water cress. In his book “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger (nutritionfacts.org) recommends one serving of cruciferous vegetables a day, serving sizes being 1/2 cup of chopped greens, 1/4 cup of sprouts, or one tablespoon of horseradish.
The reason cruciferous vegetables are so good for you is that they (especially broccoli and kale, which have been studied the most) have been shown to:
1. Prevent propagation of cancer cells in a petri dish in the lab.
2. Target breast cancer stem cells.
3. Reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.
4. Prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread.
5. Help fight infections.
6. Help protect us from environmental pollutants.
7. Decrease inflammation.
8. Decrease oxidation and thereby help prevent cardiovascular disease.
9. Protect our brain and eyesight, reduce nasal allergy inflammation, and manage type 2 diabetes.
Here’s something you need to know about eating cruciferous vegetables: Sulforaphane is one of the of the most health-promoting chemicals in cruciferous vegetables. It comes from a precursor compound, and in order to be converted into sulforaphane an enzyme called myrosinase is required, which is destroyed by heat. So to obtain the health benefits of sulforaphane, your options are:
1. Eat your cruciferous vegetables raw, as in salads, and chew well to enable the myrosinase to do its work.
2. Eat some raw cruciferous vegetables just before you eat cooked ones, so myrosinase is available.
3. Chop up the vegetables into small pieces and wait 40 minutes before cooking, so the myrosinase has time to convert the precursor to sulforaphane.
4. If you are making a smoothie, use raw rather than cooked cruciferous veggies or blend and wait 40 minutes before making soup.
5. Sprinkle mustard powder or add daikon, regular radishes, horseradish or wasabi to cooked cruciferous veggies to supply the myrosinase.
6. Commercially produced cruciferous veggies are flash-cooked before freezing, which destroys the myrosinase, so if you want to get the health benefits of the sulforaphanes you have to add the mustard or radish after thawing out the frozen veggies.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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