Ask Dr. Lo

Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

What Are Cruciferous Vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family of plants. These plants get their name from the New Latin word “Cruciferae,” which means cross-bearing, due to the cross-like shape of their flowers.

These vegetables are native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and the temperate regions of Asia, and now cultivated around the world.

Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and packed with nutrients. Although the individual nutrition profiles can vary, cruciferous vegetables tend to be high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, as well as dietary fiber.  

Which Vegetables Are Considered Cruciferous?

Here are some common cruciferous vegetables you may want to try: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, garden cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, mustard, and watercress. 

Reasons to Eat Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with cancer-fighting properties. Not only are they high in antioxidants that can help neutralize cancer-causing free radicals, but they also contain compounds like glucosinolates and indole-3-carbinol, which have been shown to ward off cancer.

Multiple studies have shown an association between consumption of cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. For example, one review comprised of 94 studies reported that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was linked to a lower risk of lung, stomach, colon, and rectal cancer.

Inflammation is a normal immune response, designed to protect the body against illness and infection. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is believed to contribute to conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Cruciferous vegetables top the charts as one of the best foods when it comes to relieving inflammation. One study in 2014 published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with up to a 25 percent reduction in markers of inflammation among 1,005 women.

Reducing inflammation can also benefit inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and asthma.

Cruciferous vegetables supply a good amount of dietary fiber in each serving. A half cup of cooked brussels sprouts, for example, contains two grams of fiber, knocking out up to nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber needs with just one serving.

Fiber slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar. A 2016 study out of China found that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with a significantly decreased risk of type 2 diabetes among 306,723 participants.

Cruciferous vegetables help promote weight loss, so load up your plate with them.

Since these vegetables are low in calories but high in fiber, they move slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, promoting satiety and warding off cravings. One 2009 study conducted at the Brigham Young University College of Health and Human Performance followed 252 women over a 20-month period and found that each gram of fiber consumed reduced body weight by half a pound and dropped body fat by 0.25 percent.

Another study published in PLOS ONE found that each serving of cruciferous vegetables was associated with 0.68 pounds of weight loss over a two-year period. It takes more than just adding a serving of cruciferous vegetables to your diet each day to reach your weight-loss goals. In addition, eat plenty of varieties of fresh fruits and veggies, minimize your intake of ultra-processed foods, and get in some exercise each week.

Cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to combat heart disease. Upping your intake is an easy way to help keep your heart stay healthy and strong.

Some studies have found that increasing your consumption of vegetables, in general, could decrease your risk of heart disease and heart problems. A massive study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 134,796 adults over an average period of 10 years and found that a higher intake of vegetables—and especially cruciferous vegetables—was associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease.

Cruciferous vegetables may also improve your immunity against disease. In addition, their nutritional content is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show these vegetables have antimicrobial properties that give your immune defenses a boost against sickness-causing pathogens. 

Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system. However, too much estrogen can disrupt your balance of hormones and cause symptoms like bloating, irregular menstrual periods, a decreased sex drive, and headaches.

Researchers have found that there may be an association between cruciferous vegetables and estrogen levels. This is thanks to the presence of indole-3-carbinol, a compound, found in cruciferous vegetables, that helps regulate estrogen activity and metabolism. Because of this compound, filling up on cruciferous veggies may be able to help regulate estrogen levels to prevent adverse side effects.

Another way to help balance hormones is by eating enough healthy fats and making sure you get enough sleep at night.

Be Mindful

Despite the many health benefits of cruciferous vegetables, keep in mind a few possible side effects.

One common concern is the association between cruciferous vegetables and gas. The fiber found in these vegetables undergoes fermentation in the large intestine, which can cause excess flatulence. For this reason, it is best to increase fiber intake slowly, chew food thoroughly and pair with higher fluid intake.

There is also some concern about the relationship between cruciferous vegetables and thyroid problems. When eaten raw, the digestion of cruciferous vegetables in the intestines releases goitrogens, which can increase the need for iodine and can cause damage to the thyroid gland.

However, research shows that it would take a large amount of raw cruciferous vegetables to cause thyroid damage. If you do have thyroid issues, it is best to eat your cruciferous vegetables cooked and limit your intake to about one to two servings per day.

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at

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