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Kale and Crucifers: Can They Fight Cancer?

Kale is incredibly popular. It's everywhere.
PUBLISHED June 20, 2017
Amanda Bontempo, MS RD CSO CDN is a registered dietitian and board certified in oncology nutrition, having received a bachelor's of science degree and master's of science degree from New York University. She has worked in oncology for over five years and consults with progressive health and technology companies in New York City. She's passionate about food and an equal lover of kale and chocolate. Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaBontempo and Instagram @amandabonbon.
Kale is incredibly popular and healthy. It's everywhere. It's even sometimes feels like it's coming out of my eyeballs. It's in salads, smoothies, groceries, restaurants. It's made its way into magazines and TV too. 
 
But what if you just don't like it? Patients who never got on the kale bandwagon often ask if there is another vegetable that is as good. Answer, yes, you bet. 
 
Kale is part of a veggie group called crucifers. This group also includes other leafy greens like arugula, watercress and collards; and more hearty cabbagey-like vegetables like cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. All of them are equally beneficial and have a great range of flavors and textures to choose from. 
 
Crucifers come loaded with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, magnesium and calcium. They contain unique disease-fighting compounds including glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, indoles and sulfurophane. You can usually identify a crucifer by their aromas because these naturally-occurring chemicals are contain sulfur, so they're naturally rather stinky.
 
These naturally-occurring chemicals are cancer-preventing compounds. A study in the Annals of Oncology, eating crucifers just once per week lowered the risk of breast, colon an coral cancer by 17 percent; esophageal cancer by 28 percent; and kidney cancer by 32 percent! A large analysis from China indicates that people who ate 6 ounces daily, lowered the risk of heart disease by about 20 percent. The phytochemical sulfurophane can also help the liver detox to help facilitate removal of carcinogens and metabolic end-products.
 
Avoid over-cooking broccoli and watercress to retain those powerful sulfur-containing compounds. Nutrients in cabbage and brussel sprouts actually preserved a bit more when they are cooked! 
 
I guess mom was right when she wouldn't let us finish dinner until we ate our broccoli. 

 
Amanda Bontempo, MS RD CSO CDN
Twitter @amandabontempo
Instagram @amandabonbon
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