Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. The word cruciferous refers to a cross-shaped pattern found on the underside of the central stalk or core of these vegetables. Consuming cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a decreased risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer. The specific compounds in these vegetables that are thought to be of value are indoles. Indoles belong to a class of phytonutrients which have been scientifically shown to benefit the body in a number of important ways.
Like so many other nutrients, ancient physicians were well aware of the remarkable curative power of the indoles found in certain vegetables. Two thousand years ago, Roman practitioners prescribed cabbage leaves to cure an ulcerated breast. Today, science has confirmed that certain phytochemicals contained in cabbage are considered breast cancer preventative agents. Indole-3 carbinol can actually help decrease C16 estrogen and increase C2 estrogen, which is believed to decrease a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. Indole-3 carbinol also assists in detoxifying human tissues, promotes hormone balance, and provides excellent cellular nourishment.
Indoles are part of a large class of plant-based compounds called phytonutrients. They include allyl sulfides found in onions and garlic, indoles found in vegetables belonging to the cabbage family, and dithiolthinones found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. New phytochemicals are currently emerging and we are beginning to glimpse their extraordinary therapeutic potential as health protectants. These remarkable nutrients can boost the production of certain enzymes which inhibit the formation of malignant tissue, they can block carcinogens from mutating DNA, they can neutralize the effects of bad estrogen, and they work hand in hand with antioxidants to prevent free radical damage.
Unfortunately only 9 percent of the American population eats an adequate amount of vegetables and fruits. Typically only one in five Americans eats a fibrous or cruciferous vegetable in a day, and only 28 percent eat a fruit or vegetable at all. Remember that to keep C2 estrogen levels elevated consistently, phytonutrientsùincluding indole-3 carbinolùmust be continually consumed. Clearly, supplementation of phytonutrients is warranted and can enhance longevity and improve the quality of life. It is important to remember that if you can't eat broccoli and cabbage every day, there are other options. Taking cruciferous vegetable extracts as part of a balanced supplement can provide as many indoles as several servings of raw cruciferous vegetables.
Isoflavones found in some cruciferous vegetables have some extraordinary health benefits. In particular, they have the ability to act as a phytoestrogens to protect against the development of hormonally linked cancers. One specific isoflavone called genistein actually acts to reduce the growth of breast cells. A 1993 study demonstrated its ability to limit blood supply to tumors. These are impressive credentials and more than adequately support the use of phytonutrients in supplement form. The nutritional and antioxidant properties of indoles greatly contribute to sustained health and cellular nourishment.
The Case for Cruciferous Supplementation
I have found that even patients who are convinced of the necessity of increasing their intake of cruciferous vegetables frequently find it difficult to consistently eat these foods. While I admit that initially I was not particularly enthusiastic about the notion of vegetables in a capsule, I believe that cruciferous supplements can be valuable for people who fail to eat enough of these vital, health-promoting foods. Ideally, vegetables of all varieties should be consumed in their whole state, either raw or slightly steamed. However, vegetable supplements in the form of capsules or green
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