Way back before I was diagnosed with cancer I had three thoughts about the disease: 1) Kylie Minogue once had it. 2) There could be the possibility of being granted medical marijuana. 3) If you eat broccoli, you can prevent it.
The night following the day I was diagnosed, I went out for dinner with my family to a Thai restaurant. I’d never really eaten much broccoli before, but something in me told me that this was the perfect time to start. So I took the funny looking vegetable out of everyone’s dishes and added them to my Thai green chicken curry. If only reversing cancer was that simple!
Adding a few pieces of limp conventional broccoli to some take away food may not do much to kill off cancer cells, but I kind of had the right idea. Cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, are quite possibly your best culinary ally when it comes to preventing and reversing cancer – and heaps of other diseases.
Cruciferous vegetables include foods like …
- Bok choy
- Broccoli rabe
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Red cabbage
- Turnip greens
The label ‘cruciferous’ is derived from the flowers of these vegetables, having four equally spaced petals in the shape of a cross, from the Latin word ‘crucifer’ meaning ‘cross-bearer.’
All vegetables contain protective micronutrients and phytochemicals, but Dr. Joel Furhman, who is a member of PCRM and one of the star players in nutritional medicine says cruciferous veggies are unique because they contain compounds called glucosinolates. This is what gives them their pungent, bitter flavours.
“When cell walls are broken by blending or chopping, a chemical reaction occurs that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (ITCs) – compounds with proven anti-cancer activities,” Dr Furhman writes for The Kind Life. “The many ITCs work synergistically to remove carcinogens, kill cancer cells, and prevent tumors from growing. Some ITCs can even help the body excrete estrogen and other hormones, reducing the risk for hormonal cancers.”
Adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet can also help to lower oestrogen levels and increase insulin sensitivity – good news if you’re concerned about breast cancer or diabetes.
It’s beneficial to include a mixture of both cooked and raw cruciferous vegetables in the diet, with the balance tipped in favour of raw. Cooking destroys much of the anti-cancer properties, so add these veggies to your salads, juices and smoothies. Chopping, chewing, blending, or juicing cruciferous vegetables allows for production of ITCs.
There is no point in adding cruciferous vegetables to a poor, nutrient-void diet and expecting them to pick up the slack. To reap the most disease protection benefits, it’s important to add a large variety of these ITC-rich cruciferous vegetables to an already nutrient-dense diet.
Here are three ways to invite this family of veggies into your diet:
1. Green Juice
- 1 green apple
- 1 large handful of kale leaves
- 1 large handful of romaine lettuce
- ¼ green bell pepper
- 3 red cabbage leaves
Feed everything through a juicer and serve immediately.
2. Broccoli pesto
- 1 large broccoli (around 2 cups)
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ½ cup roasted chickpeas
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp water
- ½ cup olive oil (or flaxseed oil)
- A couple of stems fresh sage and coriander or basil
What to do:
1. Roast your fresh chickpeas (that have been soaked overnight or for eight hours) in an oven heated to 180°C for about 30-45mins. They should taste really nutty when they’re done.
2. Roughly chop broccoli to make it easier to blend.
3. Throw all of the in a blender or food processor and whiz up until combined. Add extra olive oil or water if it’s a little dry.
4. Serve with salad, pasta, on a sandwich or wrap.
3. Big Ass Salad (which will not give you a big ass)
- ½ green cabbage, chopped
- ½ red cabbage, chopped
- 2 large stalks of kale (use leaves only), chopped
- 1 cup broccoli
- 1 bell pepper, sliced or diced
- Handful of snow peas
- 1 small carrot, chopped or sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 small zucchini, chopped or sliced
- 1 cob corn, sliced off the cob
- ½ cup chickpeas
Combine all ingredients. Serve with a dressing made from flaxseed oil and apple cider vinegar.