Scientists have confirmed that cruciferous veggies can protect us from diseases such as cancer. Their nutrients support our liver’s detox capacity so well that they cause a boost in detoxifying enzymes that may last for weeks!

The important role our liver plays in ridding our body of unwanted substances, such as pesticides that can cause cancer and other diseases, can get a significant boost from the humble broccoli and cabbage family, known as cruciferous vegetables.

The cuciferous vegetable family includes broccoli and broccolini as well as cauliflower, all types of cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, turnips, daikon radish, rocket, broccoli sprouts, collard greens, chinese broccoli and watercress.

These veggies are amongst some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. They contain sulforaphanes, are rich in folate and vitamins K and C, high in vitamin B6 and potassium, and low in kilojoules.

It’s the sulforaphanes in cruciferous veggies that act on our DNA, turning on the gene that produces liver detoxification enzymes that destroy cancer-causing substances. Studies have convincingly shown that sulforaphanes inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Chopping or chewing well can enhance this effect because the myrosin compound needed to produce the sulforaphane is released when the plant is damaged. Gut bacteria can also carry out this conversion.

What if brussels sprouts aren’t your kind of food?

If you haven't tried brussels sprouts for years you may be pleasantly surprised by the varieties grown these days. We know that about 70% of people are more sensitive than others to the bitter taste in some cruciferous vegetables. So, to solve this problem, plant breeders have produced better tasting varieties.

Here are some good ways to increase your intake of cruciferous veggies:

  • Roast cauliflower or brussels sprouts with olive oil, garlic, parmesan and thyme.
  • Lightly steam these veggies and serve with herbs, a drizzle of lime or lemon, cayenne or a honey tahini sauce.
  • Add broccoli, cauliflower and choy sum to stir-fries and flavour with soy or fish or oyster sauce.
  • Make rainbow salads that include finely shredded purple cabbage, kale or brussels sprouts together with red capsicum and diced orange or mango. For extra flavour, add chopped walnuts or almonds, celery, shallots or parsley and a simple dressing. These salads keep well so can be made in advance.
  • Include rocket and sliced radish in leafy salads for an extra tang.                    
  • Serve meats on a bed of rocket or steamed shredded cabbage with broccoli sprouts as a garnish.
  • Try one of Jamie Oliver’s delicious “8 new ways with brussels sprouts” .

If you have a thyroid problem, it’s best to consume veggies that have been cooked and limit your intake to 1-2 servings per day . This is because cruciferous veggies contain a nutrient that may cause goitres or thyroid problems when taken in excess.

Let’s help our livers detox and promote our longevity by including cruciferous vegetables as part of a balanced diet.

Dr Helen Hudson, Retire & Flourish

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