Cruciferous vegetables guide

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Cruciferous vegetables and cancer

Cruciferous or Brassica vegetables are so named because they come from plants in the family known to botanists as Cruciferae or alternately, Brassicaceae. Many commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables come from the Brassica genus, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy and Chinese cabbage. Arugula, horse radish, radish, wasabi and watercress are also cruciferous vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are rich sources of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent aromas and spicy (some say bitter) taste. The hydrolysis (breakdown) of glucosinolates by a class of plant enzymes called myrosinase results in the formation of biologically active compounds, such as indoles and isothiocyanates. Myrosinase is physically separated from glucosinolates in intact plant cells. However, when cruciferous vegetables are chopped or chewed, myrosinase comes in contact with glucosinolates and catalyzes their hydrolysis. Scientists are currently interested in the potential for high intakes of cruciferous vegetables as well as several glucosinolate hydrolysis products to prevent cancer.

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