I remember being a very little girl and looking up at my dad as he explained to my sisters and me about how we were all giants and it was our job to eat the small forest on our plate in order to help save to woodland creatures. I definitely preferred his story about me being a monstrous space creature eating planets in order to get me to eat my Brussels sprouts. Sometimes getting children to eat their broccoli and Brussels sprouts is about as difficult as… well… getting adults to eat their broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Luckily with adults, we can talk about something even better than imaginary reasons to eat our cruciferous vegetables – we can talk about the reality of breast and prostate cancer.
“Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races and Hispanic origin populations.”
“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. In the United States in 2009, 206,640 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 28,088 men died from it.”
What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are part of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family. Cruciferae is an older name and is Latin for “crossing-bearing”, which refers to the plant’s flowers as they are in the shape of a cross. Some cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes, turnips, rutabagas and various greens (e.g. arugula, kale and watercress). One of the easiest ways to remember which vegetable is in the cruciferous family is by simply knowing that they often tend to be the vegetables without seeds in them. This is just a general rule since vegetables like spinach, carrots, asparagus, and sweet potatoes are not in the cruciferous family.
There is a vast wealth of research that shows some of the chemical constituents of cruciferous vegetables may help reduce our risk for breast and prostate cancers, two of which include Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) and it’s metabolite Di-Indole Methane (DIM). These phytonutrients can help reduce the levels of cancer-promoting estrogen in our body while improving our cancer-protective estrogens.
“But I don’t like eating broccoli!
Be patient with your taste buds. Reintroducing foods to yourself should be done as gently as if you were feeding them to a child for the first time, which means you may have to start out with it cut into really small pieces in minute quantities (e.g. a bite or two per meal) or mixed into things like your mashed potatoes. I don’t think you can get any more cut up than when something is blended, so here is a great recipe for you to try tonight!
Cream of Broccoli Soup
- 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 to 3 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds fresh broccoli, stalks and tops, chopped
- 12 cups water or vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups packed blanched almond flour
- handful of fresh parsley
- handful or two of freshly harvested nettle leaves (optional)
- sea salt to taste
Heat an 8-quart pot over medium heat. Add olive oil then onions. Saute for about 10 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Add garlic, herbs, and pepper.
Then add broccoli, water or stock, blanched almond flour, parsley, and nettles if using. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.
Puree in a blender in batches and pour into another pot to keep warm. Taste and add salt as needed. The amount depends on how salty your stock is. Start with 2 teaspoons and add more as needed. Top each bowl with sauteed broccoli and fresh chives.
Kitchen Tip: Trim off the very bottom woody end of the broccoli stalk. You can even peel back, using a sharp knife, the thick outer layer of the stalk saving the tender inside for the soup.
“I still hate broccoli!” you shout.
Why not try a supplement? Along with a diet high in antioxidants, products like Metagenic’s Meta-I3C or Ortho Molecular’s CDG EstroDIM contain these cruciferous extracts and may help balance the ratio of good to bad estrogen metabolites within your body.