Cruciferous vegetables are a type a vegetables that reside in the family of plants known as Brassicacea. These vegetable get their name from the cross-like flower shape of the plant. Cruciferous vegetables are grown all over the world, and many of these types of vegetables are mass produced due to their popularity. Some of these vegetable include cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli.

When looking at cruciferous vegetables from a nutritional standpoint, you really could not find a healthier vegetable to consume. Many dieticians and health specialist suggest that we as humans consume several servings of this vegetable per week. Cruciferous vegetables contain many helpful and essential antioxidants, particularly beta carotene, for us humans. These vegetables also offer an excellent source of fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals. However, cruciferous vegetables do have one drawback if not cooked or prepared properly. Large amount of raw cruciferous vegetables can lead to goiter. These raw vegetables contain goitrogens, which lead to difficulties in hormone production in the thyroid gland. This, however, can be avoided by one simple act; steaming your cruciferous vegetables. This is some of the most popular cruciferous vegetables have been steamed. We do not steam our broccoli to enhance its flavor, but to reduce the number of harmful goiter-causing substances found in them.

Prevent Cancer, Eat Your Veggies.

So what is so special about cruciferous vegetables that they earn titles like super veggies? Well, they are high in vitamins, fiber and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They are the whole packaged deal! There has been massive research in the prevention of cancer, including the diet. They know that many risks of cancer are prevented by high intake of some vitamins, like vitamin C, which helps reduce cancer of the mouth, larynx and esophagus. They also know that the risk of lung cancer and colorectal cancer is reduced with the inclusion of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

Despite the goiter causing chemicals, the benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables far outweigh this single flaw in the plants. In recent studies, it has been found that this family of vegetables may provide protection from a multitude of different cancers and cancer causing agents. These vegetables contain an element that alters the metabolism of estrogen in females, leading to the prevention of many estrogen driven cancers in women. However, these vegetables also contain a chemical that stimulates our bodies to fight off and break down many carcinogens, or cancer causing agents.

So, mommy and daddy knew best all along. Although vegetable may not be the best tasting, they are certainly extremely healthy.

Researchers observed that people who ate vegetables from the cruciferous family showed a lower incidence of certain cancers. They then went to work finding out what the uniqueness was with these vegetables and how they worked.

What they came up with was more than they expected. The cruciferous family is rich in glucosinolates, sulfer-containg compounds. Sulforaphane, a component of the sulfur-containing compounds, was shown to interfere with the cancer process at many levels of development. It showed not only did it fight cancer cells, it also attacked benign cells that were hyperplastic (showing early signs of abnormality), while not affecting healthy cells. Cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, prostate, breast, and lungs benefited greatly with the realization of the importance of adding cruciferous vegetables to a diet, along with medication in the treatment of these diseases.

Histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes are known for helping cancer cells develop in the body. Now the researchers know that sulforaphane protects against the development of these enzymes. With this information, it shows that sulforaphane is a potentially strong cancer treatment by stopping the action of HDAC enzymes and one-half of the cancer process.

The highest amount of sulforaphane is found in vegetables that are stored only for a short period and chewing them raw. You can lightly steam them or if you prefer, include them in soups and stews. Although the cooking of these vegetables does break down the myrosinase enzyme needed to help convert the sulforaphane to a usable form, the bacteria in the gut will help it form and be readily absorbed in the body.

There are no official recommendations for the amount of cruciferous vegetables that should be consumed each day, but any amount that you can increase them is better than none.

So What Vegetables Should I Eat?

Some of the more well-known vegetables in the cruciferous family are:

Brussels sprouts
Cabbage (red or green)
Collard greens
Turnip greens
Bok choy
Chinese cabbage (Napa)

Other lesser-known vegetables in the cruciferous family are:

Radish sprouts
Broccoli sprouts
Broccoli rabe

Most kids love broccoli and this is an ideal time to start them on other cruciferous vegetables. We know that some foods are an acquired taste, so start early with your kids. Keep introducing new vegetables from the list into their diets and they will thank you later in life.