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Cruciferous Veggies, the Vegetables That Bear the Cross

Dr. Bob August 30


Cruciferous veggies AKA brassica veggies are a part of the mustard family of veggies. The name cruciferous means “bears the cross” as there are 4 petals on the plants resembling a cross and being associated with reduced rates of disease.

Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, brussels sprout, cabbage, rutabaga, radish, turnip and mustard. 

The species started with hybridization of a few mustard types during the Victorian era which further accentuated the name meaning “bears the cross” and was commonly grown exclusively for the kings and queens of that era.

They are well known for their healthy aspects, disease fighting and even associated with reduced rates of cancer. Cruciferous veggies help our liver detoxify by donating a methyl group and have many other healthy vitamins too.

However, there is a dark side of this well known healthy vegetable.

Cruciferous veggies contain a hormone like compound called goitrogens. Goitrogens interfere with the uptake of iodine in the thyroid and cause problems. However, these same goitrogens are what is thought to fight off cancer too. Research is ongoing so there is much to learn yet. Overall, studies show that Cruciferous veggies reduce cancers. You can also take a bit more iodine to balance the amount stopped by the goitrogens.

It is thought that goitrogens effect people the most with liver issues, ongoing hormone issues such as adrenal problems or other hormone problems and especially issues with the HPA axis. (Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) and of course, those with low iodine intake. During pregnancy, one should avoid cruciferous veggies because the goitrogens also pass into breast milk.

That being said, I also just learned that Cruciferous veggie leaves have a defense mechanism that the plant uses to fight off bugs especially when the plant is young…cyanide…OH MY!

What happens is that the young plant has cyanide in an inactive form in the leaves that can’t hurt anything, but when something begins to chew the leaves, an enzyme activates the cyanide in various forms and nitriles to stop the bugs from eating the leaves. In addition, it is thought that organic Cruciferous veggie leaves may have even more cyanide/nitrile capability. The reason is there are no pesticides to protect the plant from bugs, so more bugs eat on the leaves. The leaves then develop more of its protective cyanide/nitriles especially during is immature stage of growth. If you don’t already know, cyanide/nitriles are bad for you too, not just the bugs!

People with low glutathione however, seem to benefit from eating cruciferous veggies as it up regulates their glutathione production and helps to detoxify their system. Like I said, ongoing research is currently looking at these phenomenon and trying to find out just how it works.

So don’t give up on the Cruciferous veggies, they are very nutritious but there are a few recommendations especially for the leafy ones:

1. Eat mature veggies instead of the “young” as the young have more capabilities of making cyanide/nitriles

2. Soak Cruciferous veggies for at least 4 hours or more and brussels sprouts (since they are a bunch of leaves) much longer as they have some of the most capability to make cyanide/nitriles

3. Cook for a long time, which will denature the goitergens and the cyanide/nitriles and the enzymes that activate them

Cooking with a light coating of good oils (olive/coconut), cut into cubes or smaller so the oil can coat many surfaces, cover pan, low heat and cook for 45 min to 1 hour. The oil will help the heat get into the vegetable, seal in the juices and help preserve the fat soluble vitamins. Plus it tastes great! Laurie has a wonderful beet recipe. Stop by and ask for it. You will wonder why you haven’t eaten beets for so long.  I even love them!

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