Many of us know that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, or kale are excellent for our health. But did you know that peppery greens like arugula and watercress are also a part of the cruciferous family? Horseradish and wasabi, both pungent roots that pack powerful notes of spice and mustard, are cruciferous. While it makes sense that arugula, watercress, and horseradish are all related, few of us realize that they are actually a part of the cruciferous family, a family of vegetables that boasts excellent health properties!
Cruciferous vegetables are in the Brassicaceae family of plants. Especially recently, this family, full of edible veggies, has received a great deal of attention. Most cruciferous vegetables can be identified by their pungent or slightly spicy aroma, which develops from their content of sulfur-containing compounds. These sulfur-containing compounds are what give cruciferous vegetables their outstanding health value.
Greens: The Key to Longevity!
This is especially true when they are fermented. The traditional process of fermentation is one of the oldest methods of food preparation, and it has served us well over the centuries. It wasn't until recently, especially in the last 100 years and with the advent of modern convenience foods, that we have forgotten about the value of traditionally fermented foods. Fermentation actually increases the nutrient value of your food while also preserving it. It’s a win-win!
- Introduces beneficial bacteria to the digestive system.
- Supplies the body with active enzymes. As we age, our natural enzyme stores can diminish.
- Supports one of our key detoxification pathways, the colon. A body without a heavy toxic load never seems to age.
- Assists in pulling out toxic heavy metals from the body and neutralizing harmful chemicals. How? Good bacteria are experts in this field.
- Is more effective and powerful than a probiotic supplement.
When you ferment a powerful, sulfur-rich vegetable, the nutritional benefits skyrocket.
Clearly, good bacteria are beneficial to the body for a number of reasons. When good bacteria are introduced to a cruciferous vegetable matrix, they enhance each other and produce what many people would call a superfood. Superfoods are foods with multiple health benefits.
When eaten raw or very lightly steamed, the sulfur-containing compounds remain active. When you cook your veggies anything beyond a light steam, the enzymes that activate these important sulfur-rich phytochemicals are destroyed.
- These plant enzymes are called myrosinase.
- Myrosinase helps to form isothiocyanates, a cancer-protective phytochemical.
- Heat diminishes the amount of isothiocyanates that a vegetable delivers.
- Isothiocyanates regulate the immune function and have been linked to the prevention of cancer.
The good news is that friendly bacteria already present in the digestive tract are able to help form isothiocyanates from the sulfur-containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables - even when enzymes like myrosinase have been destroyed.
These veggies and roots typically go uncooked. Most people enjoy arugula and watercress raw in salads. This is great! Not only are the enzymes preserved, but watercress also contains some of the highest amounts of these sulfur-containing phytochemicals.
Sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound, has recently become popular for a number of reasons:
- It specifically protects cellular enzyme activity.
- It has been shown to heal the blood brain barrier.
- It inhibits messenger chemicals that are responsible for chronic inflammation.
- It induces cancer cell destruction.
- It has the ability to target cancer stem cells.
Even if your diet is perfect, stress can cause a kind of toxicity similar to a poor diet.
We all know how toxic stress can be to the body. Every time we feel stressed or go into a panic or aggressive mode, we can feel the impending exhaustion. What is fantastic about certain foods, like cruciferous vegetables, is their ability to turn down the messenger chemicals that result from stress. These messenger chemicals lead to inflammation and can quickly age the body and break down tissue.
Cruciferous Vegetables and the Thyroid
A significant body of evidence and research points out that cruciferous vegetables can inhibit the thyroid, causing hypothyroidism.
- This has been shown to be the case when cruciferous vegetables are eaten in excessive quantities.
- Cruciferous vegetables can affect the thyroid when the consumer is iodine-deficient.
- If your thyroid is sensitive, cruciferous vegetables can cool the body down too much, which can reduce your energy levels.
The best way to avoid this is to eat moderate amounts of cruciferous vegetables in their raw state or, better yet, ferment your cruciferous vegetables with seaweed. Seaweed supplies important minerals to the body, especially iodine. Hijiki seaweed works very well in a cultured veggie blend; it tastes incredible and is aesthetically pleasing to look at.