Vegetables You May Not Be Eating but Should
Many of us know that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, or kale are excellent for our health. But did you know that peppery greens like arugula and watercress are also a part of the cruciferous family? Horseradish and wasabi, both pungent roots that pack powerful notes of spice and mustard, are cruciferous. While it makes sense that arugula, watercress, and horseradish are all related, few of us realize that they are actually a part of the cruciferous family.
Cruciferous vegetables are in the Brassicaceae family of plants. Especially recently, this family, full of edible veggies, has received a great deal of attention. Most cruciferous vegetables can be identified by their pungent or slightly spicy aroma, which develops from the content of sulfur-containing compounds. These sulfur-containing compounds are what give cruciferous vegetables their outstanding health value.
Other plants in the cruciferous family are Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and radish.
When a powerful cruciferous vegetable like arugula is fermented, it will improve digestion, aid in detoxification, and is even more effective than a probiotic supplement!
Greens: The Key to Longevity!
This is especially true when they are fermented. The traditional process of fermentation is one of the oldest methods of food preparation, and it has served us well over the centuries. It has not been until recently, especially in the last 100 years and with the advent of modern convenience foods, that we have forgotten the value of traditionally fermented foods. Fermentation actually increases the nutrient value of your food while also preserving it. It’s a win-win!
- Introduces beneficial bacteria to the digestive system.
- Supplies the body with active enzymes. As we age, our natural enzyme stores can diminish.
- Supports one of our key detoxification pathways, the colon. A body without a heavy toxic load never seems to age.
- Assists in pulling out toxic heavy metals from the body and neutralizing harmful chemicals. How? Good bacteria are experts in this field.
- Is more effective and powerful than a probiotic supplement.
Clearly, good bacteria are beneficial to the body for a number of reasons. When good bacteria are introduced to a cruciferous vegetable matrix, they enhance each other and produce what many people would call a superfood. Superfoods are foods with multiple health benefits. This is why Body Ecology Vitality SuperGreens powder contains fermented kale.
When eaten raw or very lightly steamed, the sulfur-containing compounds remain active. When you cook your veggies anything beyond a light steam, the enzymes that activate these important sulfur-rich phytochemicals are destroyed.
- These plant enzymes are called myrosinase.
- Myrosinase helps to form isothiocyanates, a cancer-protective phytochemical.
- Heat diminishes the amount of isothiocyanates that a vegetable delivers.
- Isothiocyanates regulate the immune function and have been linked to the prevention of cancer. (1)
The good news is that friendly bacteria already present in the digestive tract are able to help form isothiocyanates from the sulfur-containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables - even when enzymes like myrosinase have been destroyed.
These veggies and roots typically go uncooked. Most people enjoy arugula and watercress raw in salads. This is great! Not only are the enzymes preserved, but watercress also contains some of the highest amounts of these sulfur-containing phytochemicals.
Sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound, has recently become popular for a number of reasons:
- It specifically protects cellular enzyme activity.
- It induces cancer cell destruction.
- It has the ability to target cancer stem cells. (2)
- It has been shown to heal the blood brain barrier. (3)
- It inhibits messenger chemicals that are responsible for chronic inflammation. (4)
We all know how toxic stress can be to the body. Every time we feel stressed or go into a panic or aggressive mode, we can feel the impending exhaustion. What is fantastic about certain foods, like cruciferous vegetables, is their ability to turn down the messenger chemicals that result from stress. These messenger chemicals lead to inflammation and can quickly age the body and break down tissue.
Cruciferous Vegetables and the Thyroid
A significant body of evidence and research points out that cruciferous vegetables can inhibit the thyroid, causing hypothyroidism.
- This has been shown to be the case when cruciferous vegetables are eaten in excessive quantities.
- Cruciferous vegetables can affect the thyroid when the consumer is iodine-deficient.
- If your thyroid is sensitive, cruciferous vegetables can cool the body down too much, which can reduce your energy levels.
The best way to avoid this is to eat moderate amounts of cruciferous vegetables in their raw state or, better yet, ferment your cruciferous vegetables with seaweed. Seaweed supplies important minerals to the body, especially iodine. Hijiki seaweed works very well in a cultured veggie blend; it tastes incredible and is aesthetically pleasing to look at. Be sure and inoculate fermented vegetables with specific good bacteria, like those found in the Body Ecology Veggie Culture Starter.
If you want the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables but would rather take a supplement…
Body Ecology’s LivAmend contains 50 mg of wasabi powder and 12,000 ppm of isothiocyanates. Remember, wasabi is in the cruciferous family. Isothiocyanates are the crucial element in cruciferous vegetables that make them so healthy! This is because isothiocyanates regulate the immune function and have been shown to actively contribute to the prevention of cancer.
LivAmend also has extracts of artichoke, sarsaparilla, and milk thistle. Sarsaparilla is a potent blood purifier, while both artichoke and milk thistle are largely researched and used for their ability to both protect and detoxify the liver.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Cruciferous vegetables can benefit our health, but many people don't realize that watercress, arugula, wasabi, and horseradish are also part of the cruciferous family. Cruciferous vegetables are full of sulfur-containing compounds that provide impressive anti-cancer protection.
You can receive even greater nutritional value and health protection by fermenting your cruciferous vegetables. Fermentation will boost the digestive tract with good bacteria, support the body with active enzymes, and even aid in detoxification. Fermenting cruciferous vegetables actually makes them a superfood with even more health benefits to destroy cancer cells, protect brain health, and reduce chronic inflammation.
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/cruciferous/.
- Gamet-Payrastre L, Lumeau S, Gasc N, Cassar G, Rollin P, Tulliez J. Selective cytostatic and cytotoxic effects of glucosinolates hydrolysis products on human colon cancer cells in vitro. Anticancer Drugs. 1998 Feb;9(2):141-8.
- LePine, Todd. “The Gut-Brain Connection: An Inside Look at Depression.” http://www.slideshare.net/metametrix/the-gutbrain-connection-an-inside-look-at-depression.
- Sulforaphane inhibits constitutive and interleukin-6-induced activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 in prostate cancer cells. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2010 Apr;3(4):484-94. Epub 2010 Mar 16.