Your Mom knew how to prevent aging long before you did
Nutrition #1: Cruciferous Vegetables to the rescue!
Doug: Hey Molly, trays of white rice, potatoes and sugar cakes in college ha? So you weren’t after all born with the gene for eating healthy food?
Molly: I guess my friends have a lot of dirty scoop on my past life. Well, firstly, I wish that gene existed! And yes, my friends weren’t lying when they told you that my college life entailed a lot of unhealthy carbs, starch and sugar.
Doug: And now if someone watched you eat, they wouldn’t believe that college you was the same person!
Molly: Am I the same person though? If my thoughts are different and even parts of my DNA have changed, especially my epigenetic DNA, would philosophers call me the same person?
Doug: Uhh Molly, is there something I need to know about the philosopher in you now?
Molly: Perhaps. Anyway, my eating in college was so poor that I even developed fatty liver disease, which is something that’s on the rise due to the consumption of copious amounts of unhealthy food.
Doug: Oh boy, that sounds terrible. What did you do to fix it?
Molly: Crucified my fatty liver disease.
Doug: You what?
Molly: I ate a ton of cruciferous vegetables which quite literally helped crucify my fatty liver disease.
Doug: Umm Molly your jokes are either nerdy or just bad, I guess I can’t tell..So what in the world are cruciferous vegetables and how did they help?
Molly: Cruciferous vegetables belong to the cabbage family and include vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, brussel sprouts, arugula etc. They have several benefits, one of them being that they are high in indole which is a compound that helps control fatty liver disease1.
Doug: Ah, I see. And what are some of the other benefits?
Molly: So, cruciferous vegetables are high in sulforaphane which has immense benefits. Firstly, sulforaphane is the most potent activator of the NRF2 pathway which affects the expression of over 200 genes including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes and genes that inactivate harmful compounds that we may be exposed to on a daily basis.
Doug: Woah, tell me more about the importance of the NRF2 pathway please!
Molly: Aha, now I’ve got you geeking out too. NRF2 can help prevent cancer, protects against aging and depression, and is also the body’s strongest defense mechanism against oxidative stress. And listen to this. NRF2 is activated every 129 minutes under normal conditions. But when stimulated by sulforaphane, it is activated every 80 minutes which is a whopping 61% increase!2
Doug: Molly, I’m quite amazed there is so much science behind the nutrients and food we consume. Thanks for explaining it to me, it makes me more likely to eat better. Okay, now back to geeking out, what are the other benefits of sulforaphane, which is present in these cruciferous vegetables?
Molly: Haha, I love it! Yes! Several studies will show that cruciferous vegetables have cancer preventative effects34 and they also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease5. And one more benefit - they cross the blood-brain barrier and have anti-inflammatory effects. Our dear friend and foe inflammation is back in the picture!
Doug: Aah yes thanks for explaining the concept of Inflammaging to me - aging makes a lot more sense now at the cellular level.
Molly: Of course! Also, these are only some of the benefits of cruciferous vegetables. This is by no means a comprehensive list so you can imagine how great they are for your health. For example, one other point is that they are high in fiber which makes them good for your gut. And oh boy, gut health is so critical - I’ll explain it some other time.
Doug: Wohoo I love roasted broccoli and cauliflower! Who knew they had so many benefits! I’ll make sure to eat them on a regular basis from now on.
Molly: Yes, they really can be quite tasty too! I like them roasted with olive oil and Italian seasoning on top.
Doug: Yumm..wanna go make some?
Molly: In a heartbeat!
Pro Tip: For those who don’t like to cook, you can buy frozen (contrary to popular opinion, fresh is not necessarily better than frozen) organic chopped broccoli and cauliflower and heat it in a microwave or stove top when ready to eat. It requires no preparation and if you season it with salt, garlic, and oregano, it can be very tasty! This is how I typically consume my cruciferous veggies!
If you do decide to microwave, please empty the contents in a bowl first instead of putting the bag in the microwave - plastic bags in the microwave are not good at all - more on this later in another post! I like to leave the veggies in the microwave for ~9 minutes since I like them to be on the softer side, but you can experiment with the timing depending on your crunchy vs soft scale :)
Dr. Rhonda Patrick has done some incredible research on the benefits of sulforaphane and cruciferous vegetables. If you are interested in going deep into the scientific literature, please watch this.
Several studies show reductions in prostate, bladder, breast cancer risk, and lung cancer risk in smokers with intake of cruciferous vegetables. What if you already had cancer? Intake of raw cruciferous vegetables was associated with reduced disease-specific bladder cancer (57% reduction) and overall mortality (43% reduction), a result largely driven by raw broccoli intake. Reduction observed with consumption of at least one serving raw broccoli per month (average intake 3.9 servings / month). Reference here.
Cruciferous vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. Top 20% of consumers of cruciferous vegetables reduced their all-cause mortality by 22%.