Cruciferous Vegetables: Natural Cancer Prevention

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Cruciferous vegetables are great for your health A special group of vegetables called cruciferous vegetables have excellent cancer fighting properties. Research suggests that these cruciferous vegetables contain a kind of phytochemical known as isothiocyanates, which stimulate our bodies to break down potential carcinogens. They work by preventing the transformation of normal healthy cells into cancerous cells.

Examples of Cruciferous Vegetables

  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Daikon
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard greens
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Watercress

An excellent example from this group of vegetables is broccoli. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, which is a natural chemical that stimulate our bodies to produce enzymes and destroy carcinogens. This substance is particularly rich in broccoli sprouts and about 20 to 50 times richer in mature broccoli.

At the Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, a study was conducted to document the effects of eating broccoli among men and women aged 50 to 74. The results showed that those who consumed more broccoli (average: 3.7 half-cup cooked servings weekly) were 50 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who never ate broccoli.

At the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, scientists also tested the effects of broccoli sprouts on rats. The rats were first fed broccoli sprouts. A few days later, they were injected with carcinogen. The results showed that the rats that ate broccoli sprouts developed smaller, fewer and slower-growing tumors than the rats that were on a regular diet.

At the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, researchers discovered that men who consumed three or more half-cup servings of cruciferous vegetables a week were 41 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. These men were between the ages of 40 and 64.

Indole-3-Carbinol and Cruciferous Vegetables

Many cruciferous vegetables also contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol. This compound is said to reduce the risk of hormone dependent cancers such as prostate, breast and ovarian cancer. Not only do they aid in the prevention of these cancers, but cruciferous vegetables also have been shown in studies to have additional anti-estrogenic effects which provide greater levels of protection for women.

Changing Your Approach

We all know that it is important to incorporate more vegetables into our daily routines. This is not new information for most readers. However, it may not be enough just to include more vegetables, though it can’t hurt. We must begin to pay attention to the types of vegetables that we are consuming to ensure that we’re obtaining the maximum benefit for our efforts.

NEM Stress Response Overview

There is a natural mechanism, an inner circuitry of sorts, which controls our response to external stressors. This built-in regulatory system is known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic NEM Stress Response. It is vital to know the basics of how this system works in order to properly maintain consistency in our approach to health and how we care for our bodies.

The NEM Stress Response begins at the base of our brains at the hypothalamus. After information is generated, signals are sent to the pituitary gland, which concurrently dispenses signals to the adrenal glands. From the point where the adrenal glands are involved, there are direct physical responses which take place. One of the integral and potentially most destructive components is the secretion of cortisol which causes blood vessel contraction, spikes blood sugar levels, and even suppresses immune responses.

This all may seem a bit complicated but those basic functions are important to understand in order to ascertain whether or not your personal NEM Stress Response system is operating well or not. When the body is depleted or deprived of proper nutrients, it can quickly lead to systemic problems with our natural reactions to stress. Once the adrenal glands are depleted of the components which they need to produce the necessary levels of hormones during stress responses, it can lead to what is known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

AFS Recovery with Proper Diet

Kohlrabi is a member of the cruciferous vegetablesA cyclical issue at its core, AFS sufferers have a multi-faceted set of problems. Once the adrenal glands have reached the point of exhaustion, there is no longer proper signaling to ensure that levels of inflammation and even blood sugar can return to normal. This leads to increased levels of exhaustion and often results in a further decline in well-being.

There is something that everyone can do without much difficulty to help our bodies respond and recover from AFS. Cruciferous vegetables are very high in vitamin K, almost to astonishing levels. This has a huge impact on inflammation levels and helps reduce the need for the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and thus allows them to rest.

Not only are these cruciferous vegetables high in vitamin K, but they are also rich in vitamin A and C which can also boost antioxidant levels. This is where these vegetables tie back into their cancer fighting properties because antioxidants help to fight free radicals throughout the body.

Managing our diets with care is a very important step to AFS recovery. When we are running on depleted and inefficient energy stores, malnourishing ourselves with junk food, and ignoring what nature has provided us, we are unable to balance our internal processes. Next time you are at the supermarket, take a second look at those cruciferous vegetables, they may be just what you need.

Cruciferous vegetables
5 -
I am writing to let you know how very much I am enjoying your weekly newsletter. I find it most interesting and informative and look forward to reading it every week. It is so refreshing to read the excellent articles on nutrition by professionals who really know their subject. The abysmal lack of nutritional knowledge possessed by the average GP is most frustrating, especially when one seeks answers to health problems that could be helped by dietetic information and intervention.

I am a Registered Dietitian. I am writing to compliment you on your fantastic write-up on Estrogen Dominance. I am sending you an abstract that I thought you would appreciate below. I also, am much involved in educating doctors that wish to incorporate more nutrition into their practices.

Your knowledge is very impressive. I am trying to get more doctors up to speed like you are, especially in the area of causes of disease and natural treatments.


  • Michelle says:

    Can cruciferous vegetables lead to estrogen dominance?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      yes it can

      • Jennifer P says:

        If cruciferous vegetables lead to estrogen dominance should I stop eating them? Im 54 female and I eat a lot of broccoli I thought I was protecting myself from cancer.

        How much is safe to eat?

        • Dr.Lam says:

          If you are not at risk, then 1-2 times week is fine. If you are at risk , such as history of estrogen related issue, then you should refrain.

          Dr Lam