Can Eating More Cruciferous Vegetables Enhance Your Immune System?

Have you known that the key to boosting your body’s defenses and be disease free is eating more cruciferous vegetables? Simply experience living without the costly sick days and annoying trips to clinics, by just eating more cruciferous vegetables. If you want to be on top of your health, then focus on boosting your immune system with the right nutrition. For someone without a well-functioning immune system, a mild infection can hang on for weeks, worse yet, it can develop into serious consequences, such as a heart damage or a nerve paralysis, or it can blossom into a difficult to treat bacterial infection, such as life threatening pneumonia.


Of course, no one in this crazy world would want to deal with an autoimmune disorder. Don’t wait for your body to attack and damage your own tissues. When your body starts to produce antibodies instead of fighting infections, you will become vulnerable to infections.


The immune system is like an angel watching over us and protecting us, so you can have a healthier, happier life with more comfort and productivity. Scientists suggest that environmental, social and nutritional changes have helped trigger an unprecedented explosion of infection. Indeed, there were over 35 new infectious diseases in the past 30 years!



An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system, which defends your body against diseases, decides your healthy cells are foreign. As a result, your immune system attacks healthy cells. Immunodeficiency disorders makes it easier for you to catch bacterial infections and viruses.



Examples of autoimmune diseases are the rheumatoid arthritis (attacks the lining of the joints), systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease (attacks the lining of the intestines), multiple sclerosis (attacks nerve cells), Type 1 diabetes mellitus (destroy insulin producing cells), psoriasis, grave’s disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and vasculitis.


The cause of the autoimmune disease is unknown. However, most studies suspect the bacteria or virus, drugs, chemical irritants, and environmental irritants can trigger it. If you have a family member that already has it, you may be more susceptible to developing the disease also.


The immune system protects us against a variety of diseases. Any foreign invader that breaches the physical barrier of the skin or mucosa is greeted by the innate immune system, which is our second line of defense. Almost all get along fine with this.


The third level of defense is the adaptive immune system that actually protects and adapts against almost any invader. The adaptive immune system is very effective in protecting us against viruses, unlike the innate immune system.


One of the hallmarks of the adaptive immune system is to defend us against specific invaders. The immunity is defined as the body’s resistance to disease, especially the infectious diseases.


The most important physiologic function of the immune system is to prevent infections and to eradicate established infections. The major function of the immune system is to preserve the integrity of the human body.


We all know that the immune system fails in its duties with aging, which makes the elderly susceptible to infection. Its progressive failure is quite complicated. While fulfilling its role, the immune system is influenced by several factors, both internal and external, including genetics, age, nutrition, environment, and resident microbiota.


Of all the factors that shape as well as influence the immune system response, only nutrition provides both the building blocks and the energy that are essential for its function. The role of nutrition is to provide sustenance for the immune system. It also significantly influenced the immune system.



Why is the immune health such a big deal for us?

The immune system or the lack thereof, has profound metabolic consequences and can affect several body systems, which include cognition and brain aging. When the immune system is compromised, the pathogens and all types of bacteria invade, causing disease.


However, a repeated immune activation to combat infection, such as the generation of T cells and antibodies that specifically target the pathogen, can cause a significant drain on the metabolic resources that it will unfavorably compete with energy demanding functions, such as reproduction, lactation, and growth, because evolutionarily, protection has always been its top priority. Secondary consequences can be an increased oxidative stress and other collateral damage.


Clearly, the immune system has implications that go well beyond mere disease prevention. In the absence of disease, age and stress are other important factors influencing the immune system. Stress, in particular has been shown to have a significant negative impact on the immune system irrespective of the age.


Aging is also characterized by low level chronic inflammation that contributes to the declining ability of the immune system to respond and regulate the immune response. With age, the immune system loses plasticity, resulting in lowered response.  Immune plasticity is the ability of the immune system to remodel itself to respond appropriately to danger signals that include pathogens, tissue damage, and oxidative stress.



Chronic metabolic stress, what about it?

Our world today is faced with excessive psychological stress, as well as an epidemic of overeating, and the two together have synergistic effects. Chronic stress can lead to overeating, and the suppression of certain anabolic hormones, which results in abdominal adiposity. Both the direct stress and the accumulation of visceral fat can promote a milieu of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress.


The immune cell telomere shortness has been linked with many chronic diseases and earlier mortality. Thus, the environmental influences, such as the chronic stress, behavioral and metabolic disturbances, dietary deficiency, and infection have now emerged as contributors to the development of metabolic disease.


The hallmark of age related metabolic diseases, such as obesity, insulin resistance and atherosclerosis is nutrition. One of the first body functions affected by an impaired nutritional status is the immune system. When the metabolic stress develops, hormonal and metabolic changes subdue the immune system’s ability to protect the body.



Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur compounds that converts into isothiocyanates (ITCs). The ITCs have infinite proven immune boosting capabilities that can prevent and even knock out cancer.


Part of the vitality and energy you are enjoying now comes from a well-nourished functioning of your body systems. The ITCs have been shown to provide protection against the environmental carcinogen exposure by inducing detoxification pathways.


Recent studies have shown the cellular repair and detoxification mechanisms are most powerfully induced when you eat a mixture of both raw and cooked cruciferous vegetables.


You feel best when your healthy diet meal plan optimally supports your metabolism and your immune system. Researchers found one good reason to eat your green vegetables, although it may or may not win any argument with the kids at the dinner table.


It turns that green vegetables are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. Eating more cruciferous and leafy green vegetables is a great way to boost your gut immune system and improve your overall immune function.


The glucosinate nutrient component of the cruciferous vegetables has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. The green vegetables make sure that the immune cells in the gut and the skin known as the intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly. The IELs act as the first line of defense and in wound repair.


What is striking about the cruciferous vegetables is their ability to provide nutrient support for all five (immune system, inflammatory system, hormonal system, detoxification system, and the antioxidant system) of the body systems. No other food groups have a better track record in cancer prevention than the cruciferous vegetables.


Your liver loves fruits and vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, watercress and cabbage, are especially potent and provide the much needed antioxidants, B Vitamins, and minerals. They are potent detox boosters and like the rest of the cruciferous vegetables, are especially important for the estrogen metabolism pathway.


Clearly, eating immune boosting foods is the best choice for you and your family. Tapping into the immune properties of superfoods is one of the most amazing tools you can use to improve your health. However, living an immune boosting lifestyle may go beyond food.


Don’t you know that the pursuit of good health ultimately leads to the pursuit of a healthy immune system? Understand why your system went wrong, so you can set it right again, because everything rises and falls on your immune system.




Glucosinolates are not exclusive in the cruciferous group, but they are not found in most of the other food groups. They are sugar based molecules that contain a modified form of sugar. They are a group of naturally occurring plant metabolites.


The myrosinase enzymes convert the glucosinolates into anti-cancer compounds. The myrosinase activity was effectively lost after 2 minutes of microwave cooking the cabbage and after 7 minutes of steaming. Here is a good idea of how you can cook your vegetables.


When the plants are alive, the myrosinase is active and functioning. It still continues to function in freshly harvested plants, but decreases over time.


Cooking your vegetables over 10 minutes ends all myrosinase functions. With each increase of cooking temperature and additional minute of heating, there is a gradual loss of the myrosinase activity.


Understand that the glucosinates provide a substantial cancer protective benefit. But to become properly activated, the glucosinates need to be mixed with the plant enzyme myrosinase. This mixing happens when you bite into your broccoli and crush the cellulose walls that keep them separated.


Inasmuch as cooking has the possibility to destroy myrosinase, scientists found that steaming up to a maximum of 5 minutes can retain the myrosinase. In addition, another study published that lightly steaming broccoli can increase its total glucosinates by 30% compared to raw. Boiling and frying can result in substantial losses.


You need to cook them right to reap their maximum nutritional benefits. Water is the enemy when it comes to nutrient losses during cooking, which is one reason steaming is considered as one of the best methods that helps preserve easily damaged nutrients. No contact with cooking water, more vitamins are retained.


Dry cooking methods, such as grilling, roasting, and stir frying also retain a greater amount of nutrients than boiling. Cooking vegetables breaks down the plant’s cell walls, which releases more of the nutrients.


The only problem is that the myrosinase is easily destroyed by heat. Eat your vegetables roasted, grilled, or steamed for about 3 to 4 minutes. It can be tricky to know how you should store and prepare fresh foods to get the most nutrients.



What cruciferous vegetables to eat?

Nutrition therapy is the best method to treat any disease. A healthy diet meal plan can even retard the progression of a kidney disease and minimize uremic activity.


Cruciferous vegetables help inactivate carcinogens, protect cells from DNA damage, have antiviral and antibacterial effect, have anti-inflammatory effects, induce cell death, and they inhibit tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration.


The chemical reaction converts these sulfur containing compounds into isothiocyanates (ITCs). The sulfur containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent odors go through a chemical reaction when they are broken down by biting, blending, or chopping.


When you blend, chop, or chew these vegetables, you allow the myrosinase to contact and initiate a chemical reaction that produces isothiocyanates (ITC). The ITCs detoxify and remove the carcinogens, kill cancer cells, and prevent tumors from growing.


The ITCs prevent and knock out cancer and have infinite proven immune boosting capabilities. The cruciferous vegetables contain calcium, iron, folate, fiber, potassium, selenium, beta-carotene and a whole lot more of phytochemicals and antioxidants.


You can either cook them or eat raw with your favorite dressing. Cooking them until they are just tender crisp prevents the loss of folate and its cancer fighting glucosinates.


The biologically active isothiocyanates and indoles are formed after the glucosinates are broken down. They decrease the activity of the enzymes that stimulate carcinogens and protect the cells from becoming cancerous cells.


They have the ability to cause some cancer cells to self-destruct. The Linus Pauling Institute and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that a regular consumption could lower your risk of the following

  • Lung cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Constipation
  • Diverticulosis
  • Diabetes



What are the cruciferous vegetables you should eat to boost your immune system?

  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Horseradish
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Malunggay
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Pechay
  • Spinach



The flavor of these vegetables is enhanced if they are eaten raw or cooked soon after purchase. One of the most important steps you can take to maintain good health is to eat a healthy diet loaded with nutrients that will fortify your immune system.


The cruciferous vegetables have a phytonutrient that is transformed by the stomach acid into the key that fits into the Ah receptor and stimulates the intraepithelial lymphocytes. In other words, leading into the activation of the immune system soldiers.



Can foods rich in phytonutrients cure cancer cells?

Phytonutrients work on different levels against cancer. During apoptosis, some phytonutrients speed the process of regulating damaged cells while others serve to boost the immune system.


Phytonutrients also protect the genetic material of the cells against damage. The apoptosis is important in the treatment and prevention of cancer.


The link between developing a healthy diet meal plan and cancer is quite complicated and difficult to unravel. You should understand there are specific foods that may reduce and potentially raise the risk of cancer.


One study focused on diet and cancer is the European Prospective Study Into Cancer or the EPIC. The study is still ongoing and following about 500,000 people from 10 European countries.


If you have cancer, you need to rethink your lifestyle and plan your diet. This includes choosing foods and supplements that could help boost the body’s immune system to ensure optimum cellular functioning.


Remove foods high in fat from your diet, such as the trans fat, hydrogenated fat, and those that contain artificial colors and additives. Below is a listing of foods with natural compounds known to fight and potentially cure cancer cells

  • Alpha-carotene
  • Astaxanthin
  • Beta-sisterol
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Cryptoxanthin
  • Curcumin
  • Ellagic acid
  • Ferulic acid
  • Hesperetin
  • Indole-3-carbinol
  • Isoflavones
  • Lycopene
  • Naringin
  • Perrillyl alcohol
  • Proanthocyanidin
  • Quercetin
  • Resveratrol
  • Saponins
  • Silymarin
  • Sulforaphane
  • Tangeretin
  • Terpene limonoids
  • Zeaxanthin



Phytochemicals may be in the forms of antioxidants, flavonoids, flavanols, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanins, carotenoids, polyphenols, and many other names.


The term phytonutrients or phytochemicals mainly refer to the compounds made by plants that could affect the human health. They may not be essential in keeping you alive, but they are absolutely good in preventing diseases.


Several studies suggest cruciferous vegetables help regulate the complex system of bodily enzymes with highlights on several components, such as the glucosinolates, crambene, indole-3-carbinol and, especially, isothiocyanates (which are derived from glucosinolates).



Is there evidence that cruciferous vegetables can help reduce cancer risk in people?

Researchers have investigated possible associations between intake of cruciferous vegetables and the risk of cancer. The evidence has been reviewed by various experts.


Key studies regarding four common forms of cancer are described briefly below

  • Prostate cancer: Cohort studies in the Netherlands (4), United States (5), and Europe (6) have examined a wide range of daily cruciferous vegetable intakes and found little or no association with prostate cancer risk. However, some case-control studies have found that people who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables had a lower risk of prostate cancer.


  • Colorectal cancer: Cohort studies in the United States and the Netherlands have generally found no association between cruciferous vegetable intake and colorectal cancer risk. The exception is one study in the Netherlands, the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer, in which women (but not men) who had a high intake of cruciferous vegetables had a reduced risk of colon (but not rectal) cancer.


  • Lung cancer: Cohort studies in Europe, the Netherlands, and the United States have had varying results. Most studies have reported a little association, but one U.S. analysis, using data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study, showed that women who ate more than 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables per week had a lower risk of lung cancer.


  • Breast cancer: One case-control study found that women who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables had a lower risk of breast cancer. A meta-analysis of studies conducted in the United States, Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands found no association between cruciferous vegetable intake and breast cancer risk. An additional cohort study of women in the United States similarly showed only a weak association with breast cancer risk.



A few studies have shown that the bioactive components of cruciferous vegetables can have beneficial effects on biomarkers of cancer-related processes in people.


Of the 94 research trials evaluated, 70% of cabbage studies showed a decreased relationship with cancer risk. Cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts studies reported 67%, 56%, and 29% relationship with decreased cancer risk, respectively.


In addition, several case-control studies have shown that specific forms of the gene that encodes glutathione S-transferase, which is the enzyme that metabolizes and helps eliminate isothiocyanates from the body, may influence the association between cruciferous vegetable intake and human lung and colorectal cancer risk.




Abbas, A.K., Lichtman, A. H. H. & Pillai, S. (2014). Basic immunology: Functions and disorders of the immune system. PA: Elsevier.

Batra, S. List of cruciferous vegetables. SFGate.

NIH. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. NIH Cancer.Gov.

Cook, M. S. (2010). The phytozyme cure. Ontario, Canada: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.

Dr. Fuhrman. Anti-cancer foods: cruciferous vegetables.

Orey, C. (2000). The healing powers of vinegar: A complete guide to nature’s most remarkable remedy. New York: Kensington Books.

Pami, M., Vallejo, J. G., & Abrams, S. A. (2015). Nutrition-infection interactions and impacts on human health. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Sompayrac, L. M. (2012). How the immune system works. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

The National Kidney and Transplant Institute. Services.

WHFoods. Feeling great with cruciferous vegetables.

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