Remember my t-shirt that says "Eat More Kale"? Yet another reason to eat more broccoli and all other brassica vegetables such as kale has been recently reported. While previous research has reported lower incidence of bladder, breast, and prostate cancer in those who consume higher amounts of these vegetables (such as 5 or more servings/week), other past research has shown a link with lower incidence of stroke and heart disease. Now comes research trying to hone in on the mechanism of how brassica plants may offer protection for people diagnosed with diabetes against damage to blood vessels that could lead to heart disease.
People with diabetes have an elevated risk of having a stroke or heart disease, thought to start by high blood glucose levels which increase free radical molecules that cause the damage to the blood vessels in the brain or heart. Recent research has shown that the oxidative molecules thought to do the damage are greatly reduced in an early experiment in which blood vessels were subject to damage by high glucose levels. Sulphoraphane does not provide the protection itself but activates a protein that stimulates other protective actions such as antioxidant activities and detoxifying enzymes.
I find it interesting to know that sulforaphane is not found in raw brassica plants but is formed in them from both chopping and chewing. The enzyme that transforms the parent molecule into sulforaphane is inactivated by heat, so as much as possible, it is preferable to eat these vegetables raw (and chew them very well!) and only lightly steam or microwave the brassicas when cooking is appropriate. Some sulforaphane can be made from cooked vegetables by our gut's bacterial enzymes, but higher levels of the sulforaphane molecule are available and absorbed when the vegetables are consumed raw.
Since nearly 24 million people in the US alone have diabetes (2007), with all of them at increased risk for heart disease and stroke plus at increased risk for many types of cancer due to being overweight or obese, it makes sense that vegetables from the brassica family be part of a daily diet, which is so much easier than remembering how many servings you might have had to eat this week!
I know I have written that I have these types of vegetables in my frig at all times. Right now I have several varieties of kale, bok choy, and horseradish root. For supper tonight I had a very large salad that had at least 1 cup of raw kale leaves in my portion. I ate it before I thought to take a photo to show you that I really really do this myself. In fact there is nothing, not one single thing I recommend as a health care professional, that I don't incorporate into my own action plan for optimizing my odds for long-term cancer survivorship, overall wellness, and enjoying my life. :-)
Here is a list of other brassica vegetables that are easily found in the US, most even at your local Farmers' Market at various times of the growing season:
broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard seeds and greens, radishes, daikon, rapini, arugula (rocket), watercress, turnip roots and greens, rutabaga (my husband's all-time favorite!), kohlrabi, collard greens, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, napa cabbage, tat soi, horseradish, wasabi, and I am sure I have overlooked at least one or two others.
You can just bet that companies will jump to promote sulforaphane (and other compounds from brassica plants) as dietary supplements if they have not already done so. I don't recommend spending your money on a pill (and just one compound) for hope, instead enjoy eating the wide variety of compounds that these veggies contain, which probably all enhance each others' helpful actions in a form of synergy in regards to how they promote our health. In fact, you really don't have to know the names of these molecules at all. Just enjoy the wide variety of these vegetables available, their wide variety of beauty, taste, appearance, and ways to eat them
Yesterday I planted our fall crop of kale, kale, and more kale, along with collard greens, and rutabagas at our community garden. As soon as we harvest the onions (soon), we'll have more space available for additional varieties of fall greens. Today I also planted a small bed of a variety of kale at our home kitchen garden. And thankfully it rained today for the first time in many weeks!
Are there some varieties on this list that you have not eaten? Why not give them a try? Incorporating some horseradish into my diet has been new for me this year. I also ate tat soi for the first time. What has been new for you?
With gratefulness for the rain that came today that will allow the plants still growing to mature plus nurture the tiny seeds just planted and ultimately be a part of me, I end with this blessing:
When we eat the good bread,
we are eating months of sunlight,
weeks of rain and snow from the sky,
richness out of the earth.
We should be great, each of us radiant,
full of music and ful or stories.
Able to run the way clouds do, able to
dance like the snow and the rain.
But nobody takes time to think that he eats all
these things and that sun, rain,
snow are all a part of himself.
~~ Monica Shannon (1905-1965)
Diana Dyer, MS, RD