Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine once said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” In our fast-paced culture, we’ve largely forgotten this concept. With little time to eat, we often grab fast and processed foods notorious for their poor nutritional content.
If we are really interested in achieving and maintaining good health, we should be reaching primarily for plants instead. Plants, especially organically grown fruits, vegetables and whole grains are packed full of so many health-promoting and protecting nutrients that those who consume 7 or more servings of them every day generally enjoy the best health.
Certain plants have been found to powerfully protect our breast health and ward off breast cancer. One family of vegetables called the Cruciferous family, which includes broccoli, stands out. (Don’t despair if you don’t like broccoli—you have 14 other vegetables to choose from! See the table below.) There are several specialized chemicals that all of these vegetables contain—each with unique abilities to deter the growth of breast cancer. One of those chemicals is called sulforaphane.
- Bitter cress
- Bok choy
- Savoy cabbage
- Brussels sprouts
- Mustard seeds
*Note: Broccoli and cauliflower spouts contain 10-100 times more sulforaphane than the mature plants do!
According to a 2004 study published in the journal Drug Discovery Today, sulforaphane “can halt human breast cancer cells in their tracks.” There are three major ways that this plant chemical has been found to thwart breast cancer: It increases the activity of liver enzymes responsible for deactivating and destroying cancer-causing toxins and chemicals and getting them out of your body, directly kills breast cancer cells, and suppresses the ability of breast cancer cells to invade into surrounding tissues.
Cruciferous vegetables, as well as certain fruits (such as oranges, apples, and grapefruit) also have a high concentration of another phytochemical that’s effective in protecting against cancer, especially breast cancer—D-glucaric acid. The liver manufactures a substance called glucuronic acid, which binds to toxins (including the “bad” estrogen) in the liver and deactivates them. But the enzyme beta-glucuronidase can interfere with this effort. It splits the toxins off glucuronic acid and reactivates them. Researchers have found that people with a high amount of beta-glucuronidase in the blood have an increased risk of various cancers, particularly the hormone-dependent ones, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
Here is where the phytochemical D-glucaric acid comes to the rescue: It stops the activity of beta-glucuronidase, keeping the harmful estrogens and other toxins bound to glucuronic acid and deactivated. Simply put, D-glucaric acid strengthens the body’s natural defenses against toxins. The liver makes a small amount of D-glucaric acid, but not enough for you to reap the greatest benefits. You can significantly increase the level of this protective substance in your body by eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables and certain fruits or by taking a supplement that comes in the form of a calcium salt called calcium D-gluterate. Research shows that this supplement is just as effective as natural D-glucaric acid. Taking supplemental calcium D-gluterate may give some added protection against breast cancer, but long-term studies still need to be done.
The ability of cruciferous vegetables to fight cancer is so outstanding that you’ll want to make sure you invite one of them to your dinner table every day!
About Christine Horner, MD
Christine Horner, MD is a board certified and nationally recognized surgeon, author, expert in natural medicine, professional speaker and a relentless champion for women’s health. She is the author of Waking the Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against and Fight Breast Cancer, winner of the Independent Book Publishers Award 2006 for Best Book in Health, Medicine, and Nutrition. Visit www.drchristinehorner.com.