Eat your broccoli, cabbage

In my last article I talked about phytonutrients, and their positive effects on our health.

Cruciferous vegetables are a rich source of isothiocyanate, and contain unique phytonutrients called glucosinolates, which cause them to give off a sulfur like odor. When we eat them, specific digestive enzymes help promote the genetic expression of our detoxification enzyme systems.

What this really means is that cruciferous vegetables can help reduce our risk of cancer, strengthen our immune system, reduce inflammation, protect our brain, balance blood sugar, balance estrogen, and support detox.

So what are they?

Examples of cruciferous vegetables include arugula, bok choi, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, kale, horseradish, watercress, turnips, rutabaga, broccoli, collard greens, brussels sprouts and wasabi.

They are rich in nutrients, including carotenoids, vitamins C, K and E, folate, and minerals. They are also rich in fiber.

If you want to get the full benefits from them, and the activated enzymes, then you need to eat them chopped, chewed and crushed. The enzymes are inactivated from long boiling or high heat, so you need to eat them either raw, or just steam them for 3 to 4 minutes.

Dietary guidelines recommend consuming 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Different vegetables are rich in different nutrients. Think, just for a moment, what would happen if you were to add an extra 2 or 3 servings of vegetables to your diet each day. Can you imagine the positive effects this would have on your health?

The benefits of cruciferous vegetables have been known for a long time — so why do medical practitioners not give their patients a prescription for eating more fruits and vegetables? The Roman senator Cato the Elder (234 BC – 149 BC) did much work on agriculture, and is quoted as saying “If a cancerous ulcer appears upon the breast, apply a crushed cabbage leaf and it will make it well.” He knew almost 2,200 years ago about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables! Cabbage will actually also promote digestion, and is an excellent laxative.

As I mentioned before, all vegetables have their own unique nutrients, so it is important to consume a variety of them. Being healthy is not a mystery, we just need to take our own responsibility. So instead of looking for an answer to our health problems in drugs, why not first try to look at our diet?

Try and improve your diet with more nutrient-dense foods — this is the easiest way to make your diet healthier, to just gradually replace the non-nutritious foods with slight more nutritious ones.

Remember, what we eat does matter!


Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at, or (808) 276-6892


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