Whenever studies report about anti-cancer foods, fruits and mainly vegetables top their lists. These fibrous, plant-based foods are rich in chemical compounds that can prevent, halt the progression of, and even fight several diseases. After years of investigating, researchers have finally identified these valuable sources of cancer-fighting chemicals as cruciferous and allium vegetables. What’s even better is that both types of vegetables can easily be included in every meal.
The lowdown on allium and cruciferous vegetables
Allium vegetables are some of the most recognizable plants in the world. Aside from being common garden inclusions or crops, these famous vegetables share the same basic appearance: long, thin, grass-like leaves attached to either a thick stem or bulb. Allium vegetables are featured not only in different types of cuisine but also in many traditional medicines.
The word allium is the Latin word for garlic, so it’s no surprise that garlic belongs to this family. Other common vegetables that are considered to be alliums are onions, leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots. (Related: Taking aged garlic daily reduces your risk of cancer, researchers find.)
Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Brassica genus of plants and are members of the mustard family. They are a diverse group of plants that generally grow in cool weather, and whose leaves and flower buds are used for food. Like alliums, cruciferous vegetables are commonly found in kitchen gardens.
The group’s name comes from the Latin word for the crucifix. This is because their flowers consist of four petals, which resemble a cross. Besides mustard, other cruciferous vegetables include arugula, broccoli, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, radishes, turnips, and wasabi.
The health benefits of alliums and cruciferous vegetables
Alliums are rich in sulfur compounds that give them their strong smell, characteristic taste, and tear-inducing pungency. These sulfur compounds are also what makes allium vegetables medicinal. In particular, the organosulfur compounds in alliums are responsible for their anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-tumor, cholesterol-lowering, and blood sugar-reducing properties. Because of these benefits, alliums are highly recommended as medicinal foods for people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables are low-calorie plants that serve as good sources of important nutrients. Not only do they boast huge amounts of dietary fiber, they also contain high levels of essential vitamins, such as vitamins C, E, K, and folate (vitamin B9). Like alliums, cruciferous vegetables have sulfur-containing chemicals called glucosinolates, which are broken down during food preparation and digestion into active compounds like isothiocyanates and indoles. These compounds give cruciferous vegetables antibacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic (stops blood vessel formation), and DNA-protective properties.
Alliums and cruciferous vegetables can combat cancer
While it is common knowledge and a verified fact that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cancer, not all vegetables have the same ability to ward off this disease. According to a study published in Food Chemistry, this ability can only be found in alliums and cruciferous vegetables. Upon testing extracts from 34 different vegetables, researchers found that those obtained from alliums and cruciferous vegetables could stop the proliferation of eight different types of tumor cells more effectively than extracts from other vegetables. Hence the consumption of alliums and cruciferous vegetables is believed to not only prevent cancer development but also halt tumor progression.
In another study that looked at the anti-cancer effects of alliums, researchers found that eating large amounts of alliums, particularly garlic and scallions, reduced the risk of prostate cancer. The researchers also reported that this risk reduction was independent of the participants’ body size, calorie intake, and regular diet, and was more pronounced in those with localized (stage 1 and 2) than advanced prostate cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the indole and isothiocyanate content of cruciferous vegetables have proven anti-cancer activities. Indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane can stop the development of cancer by protecting DNA from damage, inactivating cancer-causing substances, inducing cancer cell death, and inhibiting the migration of tumor cells. Several studies have also associated daily consumption of cruciferous vegetables with lowered risks of prostate, breast, colorectal, cervical, and lung cancer.
Learn which vegetables help prevent diseases by visiting Veggie.news.