#019 Prevent Cancer with Cruciferous Vegetables

Prevent Cancer with Cruciferous Vegetables

Let’s face it, cancer scares all of us.  Who would ever want to spend all of their time at the doctor’s office or in the hospital undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment only to feel horrible, potentially lose your hair, and know that in the end you might not even make it.  Even though the number one health risk women face is heart disease, studies show that what they fear the most is breast cancer.

Is there a way to help prevent cancer with food?  

Yes, welcome to the cruciferous vegetables.  The cruciferous vegetables are one of the best cancer prevention medicines we have.  Not only are these some of the healthiest veggies by nutritional content, but many studies have shown that they can also prevent cancer.  The time to start preventing cancer with food is now.

Which are the cruciferous vegetables?  

Before we go any further, you may be wondering what exactly are the cruciferous vegetables?  These are broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, and cabbage.

What makes cruciferous vegetables so effective in preventing cancer?  

While fruits and veggies in general are very potent anti-cancer agents, the cruciferous vegetables seem to be even stronger than the standard fruit or vegetable in preventing cancer.  These cruciferous veggies have very potent sulfur-containing phytochemicals which can knock out carcinogens before they even start to turn cells cancerous.

The time to start eating the cruciferous vegetables is before you get diagnosed with cancer.  Thus, if you are worried about all of the toxins in our environment and the potential risk of cancer, make sure you get enough cruciferous vegetables to allow your liver a chance to detoxify them.

While the cruciferous vegetables seem to contain special “cancer prevention” properties, I do not want to minimize the cancer prevention effects of all of the other fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are critically important to maintaining health and energy.  Eat them with every meal.

The American Heart Association now recommends nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If you do the math that works out to be 3 servings with each meal.  Of these nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, I recommend to my patients that at least six of the nine are vegetables.

What cancers do cruciferous vegetables prevent? 

Studies show that a healthy diet, including regularly eating cruciferous vegetables, can decrease your risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer by 60-70%!  And it is not just these cancers.  Most cancers seem to be reduced with cruciferous veggies.  In fact, even in smokers who have very high cancer risks, cruciferous vegetables can help to prevent a lot of these cancers as well.

How often should I eat cruciferous vegetables? 

I recommend that my patients have at least one to servings of these veggies each day to help detoxify your body and to help prevent cancer.  Fortunately for me, broccoli is one of my most favorite foods.  I just find that my day is incomplete if I cannot find at least one to two servings of my favorite vegetable.

My nurses and colleagues at the hospital, as well as my friends, all tease me about broccoli.  They always make sure there is some broccoli at every event they invite me to, including a child’s birthday party.

Broccoli is also very high in vitamin C which can help you not to come down with the common cold.  I am learning to branch out and try other cruciferous vegetables as well.  For example, I now eat cauliflower several times a week. When I am traveling in Asia I routinely eat bok choy.

At a dinner with other physicians this past weekend, one of the doctors said “the person who eats kale regularly does not need to see the physician”.  While I would never take this statement literally as it is important to always stay in contact with your physician, these real foods do have the power to heal our bodies and our minds.

How should I eat my cruciferous vegetables?  

To get the most out of these veggies, it is best to eat them as fresh as possible.  Studies show that you start to lose some of the nutrients after three days of picking.

The “farm to plate” time is very important for all fruits and vegetables.  If it is “out of season” or the “farm to plate” time is much longer than three days, consider buying the “flash frozen” organic frozen vegetables for maximum nutrition.

Also, eat them raw or lightly cooked.  If you cook these veggies until they are soggy you will lose much of the nutritional and anti-cancer benefits and they just won’t taste very good this way.  For me, I absolutely love dipping raw broccoli into hummus for an afternoon or morning snack.  Also, broccoli for me is an absolute must in any stir-fry.

Should I buy organic?

Our family made the switch to organic several years ago.  For us, organic food just tastes so much better knowing that there is no pesticide residue.  Fortunately, the organic cruciferous vegetables are not that much more expensive than the non-organic variety.

It seems a shame that we have to worry about pesticide residue on our produce.  This is something our ancestors never had to worry about 100 years ago.

Studies show that pesticides may cause Parkinson’s Disease or Autism. Personally, getting Parkinson’s Disease scares me just about as much as getting cancer.  Newer studies are even showing that organics may be more nutritious as well.

Do cruciferous vegetables cause thyroid goiters? 

For those of you who may not know what a thyroid goiter is, it is simply an enlargement of the thyroid. If you look on the internet, there is a lot of misinformation about this. This is really a shame because these are such incredibly healthy vegetables.

Yes, it is true that if you isolate certain cruciferous vegetable molecules and give them to animals in mega doses you can interfere with their thyroid function.  Based on my review of the published medical data, I could not find any studies linking cruciferous vegetables, as part of a healthy diet which includes getting enough iodine, in causing thyroid problems. Personally, I have never seen a goiter in my patients that was felt due to cruciferous vegetables. If this is something that worries you or you have a history of thyroid disease, get enough iodine in your diet, cook your cruciferous vegetables, and discuss this with your doctor.

One last point. If you have cancer or think you may have cancer always work very closely with your physician.

What do you think?  Do you get your one to two servings of cruciferous vegetables each day?  Do you feel organic produce is worth the price?  How do you like to prepare your cruciferous vegetables? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. I am enjoying all the information, it is so appropriate to my needs. I am 84, quite healthy, work two days a week in a library. I find portion size is an issue, as I cannot take the normal portion size of several years ago. I need to lose 30 lbs.