Foods are veritable sources of many phytochemicals with properties for protecting health as well as ameliorating disease conditions in human beings. If food industry is blamed to day for many of the disease conditions afflicting modern society it is mainly due to the changes in the type of food consumed and the way it is consumed. According to health experts the dramatic change in the eating habits has brought along with it many unanticipated problems affecting the lives of people, especially those with sparse time for making foods at home. Probably eating foods prepared at home from raw materials which have not undergone any appreciable processing can always be healthy because a house wife is not equipped to process them into ultra refined products with practically all healthy nutrients removed.
Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases and contracting any form of cancer is literally getting a death warrant though modern medical science has come up with many new innovations to retard and even cure some forms of cancer, especially if they are detected at early stages. Being a silent killer that visits its victims and show any tell tale symptoms only late in its development, prevention is always considered prudent through consuming a diet rich in vegetables. The richness of almost all vegetables in terms of minerals, vitamins, fiber and health protective phytochemicals is well documented. Cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts contain some phytochemicals that has anti carcinogenic and anti oxidant activities as brought about by hundreds of animal studies, cultured cell studies and some human trials. The group of chemicals coming under glucosinolates can have many beneficial effect in human body if consumed regularly in raw or semi cooked forms.
The enzyme Myrosinase which is present in cruciferous vegetables can convert the glucosinolales like glucobrassicin into metabolic products like Indole 3 Carbinol (I3C) and diindolyl methane which have anticancer activities. Sulforaphane and Selenium present in these plants have antioxidant activities to prevent damage to cell DNA, one of the causes for many metabolic disorders in human body. The effect of vegetables like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts on inhibiting breast cancer has received much attention during the last couple of years with increased interest evident lately. Statistical data on incidence of cancer amongst predominantly vegetarian population do indicate their relative freedom from this disease and this has been cited as one of the most compelling reasons for paying more attention to cruciferous vegetables as a potential warrior to fight the disease.
Many studies have cited the usefulness of a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables in protecting from many forms of cancers such as that affecting breast, uterine lining, lungs, colon, cervix, prostate glands etc though all these findings were made in laboratory experiments. I3C one of the enzymatic breakdown products from Myrosinase action, has been found to be capable of arresting the growth of G1 which is linked to early stages of human reproductive cancer cells. Besides these vegetables also were found to be rich in antioxidant activities and have good antiatherogenic effect. Though these are good sources of 1C3, the mode of consumption can make a difference to the formation of the active principle through enzyme action. Most consumers, especially in countries where salad eating is not very common, vegetables are invariably cooked before consumption destroying the enzyme and there fore do not derive full benefits from 1C3. If adequate clinical data confirm the role of 1C3, many of the cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts may move out of the dining table to the medicinal bowls of the pharmaceutical industry. Already IC3 preparations are being peddled as food supplements with many unproven claims and availability of extraction technology to get pure fractions of 1C3 may still entice the drug industry to come out with anti-cancer drugs based on it after carrying out necessary human trials.