If you set out to invent and breed a vegetable that could fight cancer, you probably couldn’t improve on broccoli. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, a family of plants that contain compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs). ITCs attack proteins in cells that promote cancer while leaving the cell’s healthy proteins alone.
So it’s no surprise that researchers studying women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer find that those who eat the most cruciferous vegetables — items like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli — have the best survival rate.
“Breast cancer survivors can follow the general nutritional guidelines of eating vegetables daily and may consider increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as greens, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as part of a healthy diet,” says researcher Sarah J. Nechuta, M.P.H., Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University.
This latest study looked at Chinese women enrolled in research called the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study. It found that eating cruciferous vegetables reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence by up to 35 percent.