Cancer Prevention in Your Fridge? Yes, Really!

broccoli stalks

Our bodies are amazing! We are exposed to a wide array of toxins and poisons each day, and our body is designed to process and excrete them seamlessly. But our body’s detoxification burden is growing… Since World War II, more than 85,000 new synthetic chemicals have been released into our environment. Over 350 different pesticides are applied to our food (at the rate of over 4 billion pounds per year!). In fact, traces of over 400 chemicals can be found in the average human (and over 200 in a baby’s placenta). If this doesn’t concern you, I encourage you to consider it again. Our toxic exposure is increasingly outpacing our body’s natural ability to keep ourselves free of toxic build-up inside.  Between one-third and one-half of cancers are linked to dietary causes.  And researchers believe up to two-thirds of cancer cases are caused by environmental exposures (e.g. toxins, radiation, tobacco, etc.).  Contrary to common myth, only 2-5% of cancers are believed to have primarily genetic root causes.  Our choices can make a tremendous difference in our experience of illness or wellness.

Certainly we can work to reduce our exposure.  But we also know that, for the majority of us, living in the modern, western world today means we live in a toxic soup.  You may be interested in this example of what we might be exposed to each morning even before leaving home.  However, we can always support and increase our body’s ability to process toxins. We detox primarily Plastic containers #7through our liver, kidneys, and bowels and, to a lesser degree, skin. Today I want to focus on your liver health and an easy way to boost your detoxification capability: eat cruciferous vegetables.  Yes!  Eating matters. This family of vegetables includes cabbages, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and most heavy greens (e.g. watercress, arugula, kale, collard, turnip, mustard, bok choy, broccoli rabe).  The impact of these foods is not a small, token, sounds-nice-but-doesn’t-really-matter-diddly kind of benefit.  These veggies are powerful!

Eating watercress daily can significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells, which is considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.  In particular, reducing damage to cells of the immune system.

Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli, inhibits breast cancer stem cells.  Also, this powerful agent has been shown to regulate gene expression to prevent mutation in prostate cancer cells.  You may learn even more here about the breadth of research ongoing about these powerful foods.

All of these vegetables are rich in sulfur (here is a complete list of them). More specifically, they contain the precursors for creating a big dose of sulforaphane in your intestines when you eat them. Sulforaphane helps the body to convert chemical toxins from harmful free radicals to water-soluble waste that can be easily excreted from the body (technically this is phase 2 toxin conjugation). Otherwise, toxins get trapped in the body. And can be a major trigger for inflammation and oxidative stress; unfortunately I see this in my clients every day. This detoxing powerhouse also helps your cells to produce enzymes that naturally protect them from the molecular damage of cancer-causing chemicals. We emphasize high intake of cruciferous vegetables during our Ultimate Spring Cleanse, along with heavy intake of the key cofactors your liver needs to clear toxins from all six Phase II detoxification pathways.

Enjoy these vegetables daily and use a wide variety to keep it interesting. There are so many options: consider fresh salads, crispy stir-frys, marinated salads like cole slaw or broccoli slaw, steamed medleys, and raw cuts with dip. See this month’s recipe for a quick and delicious way to prepare any kind of heavy greens. If you join us for the spring cleanse, you’ll learn all sorts of new combinations and options; we have great fun sharing favorites too! To maximize your nutritional benefit, avoid microwaving these vegetables, or if you must, do so in glass and not in a plastic bag. Sprouts from this vegetable family (e.g. broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts) are a quick and easy salad topper. Blending them up into a smoothie or shake is a great way to concentrate nutrition from these vegetables. However you enjoy them, make a point of adding these detox building blocks to your diet every day. Today’s choices are literally planning your future wellness.