Cruciferous Vegetable: Cruciferous Definition And The List Of Cruciferous Vegetables
The word “crucifers” comes from the Latin word “crusum”, which means cross or point. So, when we say that a plant has a high concentration of cruciferous compounds, it’s referring to its ability to produce chemicals called glucosinolates (from the Greek words meaning ‘glucose’ and ‘soluble’). These are the same type of compound found in broccoli sprouts, onions, garlic and many other cruciferous plants.
These compounds have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, fight inflammation and promote healthy liver function. They may even help prevent heart disease.
What Are Glucosinolates?
Glucosinolates are a class of naturally occurring organic acids that occur in several cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, mustard greens and turnips. These compounds are known to inhibit enzymes involved with the breakdown of carbohydrates and lipids (fat). They also have anti-cancer properties.
These organic acids can be transformed into isothiocyanates, which are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
While not yet well researched, it is believed that the consumption of isothiocyantes reduces the risk of certain types of cancer. For example, sulforaphane, a type of isothiocyanate, has been studied for its ability to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Another isothiocyanate called phenylbutaonin has been seen to slow the development of precancerous cells in the urinary tract.
So, if you’re wondering how many types of cruciferous vegetables are out there, we can assure you that there are a lot! But, there are 15 that are considered to be true “crucifers” (so named for their cross-shaped flowers). Check out the image below to learn what they are and be sure to add a few to your diet.
Are All Cruciferous Vegetables The Same?
While all of the plants in the image above contain glucosinolates or isothiocyanates, they do not all contain the same amount. In fact, sulforaphane, the chemical that has been most studied for its potential role in preventing and treating cancer, is found mostly in cooked broccoli. This is why eating your broccoli isn’t a bad thing.
The glucosinolates in raw cruciferous vegetables, while still important for maintaining good health, simply aren’t as bioavailable as those in cooked broccoli. This is particularly true when it comes to the sulforaphane. For this reason, it’s best to cook or prepare cruciferous vegetables in a way that increases their bioavailability of these nutrients.
Sources & references used in this article:
Vegetables, fruits, legumes and prostate cancer: a multiethnic case-control study by LN Kolonel, JH Hankin, AS Whittemore, AH Wu… – Cancer Epidemiology …, 2000 – AACR
Cruciferous vegetables, genetic polymorphisms in glutathione S-transferases M1 and T1, and prostate cancer risk by MA Joseph, KB Moysich, JL Freudenheim… – Nutrition and …, 2004 – Taylor & Francis
Interplay between dietary inducers of GST and the GSTM‐1 genotype in colon cancer by ML Slattery, E Kampman, W Samowitz… – … journal of cancer, 2000 – Wiley Online Library
Consumption of cruciferous vegetables and glucosinolates in a Spanish adult population by A Agudo, R Ibanez, P Amiano, E Ardanaz… – European journal of …, 2008 – nature.com
Urinary total isothiocyanate (ITC) in a population-based sample of middle-aged and older Chinese in Singapore: relationship with dietary total ITC and glutathione S … by A Seow, CY Shi, FL Chung, D Jiao, JH Hankin… – Cancer Epidemiology …, 1998 – AACR
Brassica, biotransformation and cancer risk: genetic polymorphisms alter the preventive effects of cruciferous vegetables by JW Lampe, S Peterson – The Journal of nutrition, 2002 – academic.oup.com
Cruciferous vegetable intake questionnaire improves cruciferous vegetable intake estimates by CA Thomson, TR Newton, EJ Graver… – Journal of the American …, 2007 – Elsevier
Phytochemicals from cruciferous plants protect against cancer by modulating carcinogen metabolism by P Talalay, JW Fahey – The Journal of nutrition, 2001 – academic.oup.com