Part of the vitality that we feel when we are fully healthy and well-nourished comes from
the functioning of our body systems at their full capacity and the successful balancing and
integration of all metabolic processes within our cells. We feel our best only
when our diet optimally supports our physiology and our metabolism, and it is this same
physiological and metabolic support that allows our diet to lower our risk of chronic disease.
All natural food groups provide outstanding support for multiple body systems, and regular
intake of foods in each group can definitely help us feel our best. But it would be hard to
find a single food group that offers broader ‘all systems’ support than the cruciferous vegetables.
This food group shines not only in terms of conventional nutrients (including vitamins,
minerals, proteins carbohydrates and fats) that support optional functioning of most body
systems, but also in terms of phytonutrients (including carotenoids and flavonoids) that play
a subtler but equally important role in our vitality. Also present in this food group is one
group of phytonutrients – the glucosinolates – that is virtually exclusive to this group. When
combined with their extremely low – calories, nutrient rich nature, these features of
cruciferous vegetables make them a uniquely “whole body” support food group.
The whole-body impact of the cruciferous vegetables as a group has its parallel in the
disease prevention category for which cruciferous vegetables have become most famous.
No area of chronic disease is more dependent on a breakdown in our whole body
functioning than cancer. In order for cells to become cancerous, a variety of interconnected
body functions become compromised. While it is true that metabolic ‘errors’ typically build
up inside the genetic machinery of “pre-cancerous” cells and play a primary role in the
development of cancer, it is also true that dysfunction in our immune system, inflammatory
system, hormonal system, detoxification system and antioxidant system – and problematic
interactions between these five systems – can significantly increase the risk of cells
becoming cancerous. What is particularly striking about cruciferous vegetables as a group is
their ability to provide nutrient support for all five of the body systems listed above. So, this
unique ability of cruciferous vegetables as a group gives it a track record when it comes to
cancer prevention, that is unmatched.
Next week we will discuss how cruciferous vegetables support basic physiological systems in the body.