By Dr Janey
We would do well to remember the words of Hippocrates stated over 2000 years ago……“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
Unfortunately for the most part, we have lost touch with this wisdom as many of us reach out for quick-fix pharmaceutical medicines for every minor ailment and discomfort. However, the above quote remains as true now as it did back in 400BC.
As we reach an era in which we begin to comprehend that modern medicines’ mechanistic approach of suppressing symptoms with drugs will never be able to solve the current health crisis, we are forced to travel ‘full circle’ and revisit the wisdom of past ages such as is referred to above.
While all natural foods have their inimitable role in keeping us healthy, here we discuss cruciferous vegetables because of the vital role they play particularly with respect to cancer and most notably to breast cancer.
So which are the cruciferous vegetables? The following is a list of some of the most common….
- bok choi
- brussel sprouts
- nasturtiums and others
Numerous studies have demonstrated that as our intake of natural foods increase, so our incidence of cancer decreases. In fact, as Dr Fuhrman MD and author of numerous health books points out, when you plot the incidence of cancer across 25 countries against diet, you notice that as the intake of fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds increase by 20%, the incidence of cancer reduces in turn by 20%. Interestingly however, when you compare intake of cruciferous vegetables in the diet to cancer incidence, for every 20% increase in cruciferous vegetables, there is a 40% decrease in cancer incidence!
Why is this so? These ‘humble’ vegetables are not only great sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre which are all crucial to health, but they also contain unique phytochemicals (chemicals found naturally in plants). One of these phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables is of the group called isothiocyanates, and is called sulforaphane. It has been shown to inhibit cancer formation (carcinogenesis) in a number of ways.
In addition, with respect to breast cancer, there is another vital phytochemical called Indole-3-carbinol which is formed during crushing or cooking of these vegetables. This compound acts in the following ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer: 1) it promotes break down of oestrogen, 2) it makes oestrogen receptor cells in the breasts less sensitive to oestrogen 3) it shuts down a key enzyme and in doing so stops breast cancer cells from growing and 4) it ‘turns on’ a tumour suppression gene which inhibits tumorgenesis (tumour formation).
As you may have learned from some of our other articles such as ‘The crucial role of oestrogen on breast cancer”, the levels of oestrogen that we are exposed to during our life time are proportional to our risk of breast cancer. Therefore, by simply incorporating these vegetables that speed up the break down and removal of oestrogen, our breast cancer risks are reduced by a massive 40%!
Another important way that these vegetables promote our health and prevent cancer is in their ability to reduce free oxygen radicals. A study was conducted in which 20 participants ate 1-2 cups of cruciferous vegetables daily for 3 weeks. Then there was a ‘wash-out’ period followed by the same participants consuming a multivitamin and fibre supplement for 3 weeks. The oxidative stress to the body was tested after both these trial periods. After consuming the vegetables, the oxidative levels of the participants was reduced by a considerable 22%, while after taking the multivitamin and fibre supplement they reduced by a negligible 0.2%. As oxidative damage is directly linked to the development of most diseases and the ageing process, once again the consumption of cruciferous vegetables proved considerably more beneficial.
And cruciferous vegetables are not just potentially life-saving when it comes to breast cancer, but have been shown to have numerous other health benefits including…
- protection from prostate cancer
- helps prevent colon cancer
- stops cancer cell growth in the cervix, uterine lining, liver and lungs
- has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
- balances blood cholesterol and normalises blood pressure
So how can we start getting more of these vital veggies in our diet?
Get creative with these super-veggies so you can be sure you are eating them daily or at least several times a week. Add them raw to salads (broccoli sprouts are especially potent when it comes to these cancer-protecting compounds), include them in your fresh vegetable juices, cook them lightly or steam them and add them to soups, casseroles,stir-fries etc.