What do arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, collards, cauliflower, collard greens, cress, chinese cabbage, daikon green cabbage, garden cress, horseradish, kale, kohirabi, mizuna, mustard seed, napa cabbage, radish, rape seed, red cabbage, rutabaga, turnip root, savoy cabbage, and wasabi all have in common? If you said that they are all cruciferous vegetables, you would be correct. I expect that you did due to the fact that Cruciferous Vegetables is the title of this post, and due to the comments and conversations I have on twitter with some of the readers that visit here, I know I attract an audience that is intelligent. As the focus of this site is dedicated to training, and the nutrition to support the various goals that accompany training, there is a definitive leaning towards a low carb lifestyle. I spend the year doing so, and most of it in varying degrees of ketosis. Whether you like to go that deeply into a certain diet, or just like to stay lean and healthy year round, then low carbing is for you.
The massive list of cruciferous vegetables I listed is impressive. It’s also long. They each offer too much that needs to be explained for this to be a collective look into the group known as the cruciferous. As such I would like to look at these individually over the course of what will likely be many months, as there is much else I want to share with you in between the various series that I bring to you. So let us begin with a favorite of mine. This dark and leafy green comes in many varieties, but for our purposes let us just refer to it as kale.
To begin our adventure down the learning path and into the garden of kale, it is worth noting that kale belongs to the cabbage family. It often has curly leaves that have a dark green or dark blue color, depending on the cultivar type. The flavor of kale is enhanced by cool temperatures, so it is usually cultivated in the autumn or winter. The known commercial cultivars include Scottish curly leaf, Red Russian, Blue curled, and Winterbor. Tuscan kale is an extremely popular winter season greens in Northern Italy. It is often referred to as dinosaur kale due to its blue green leaves, and in my humble opinion is very visually pleasing. That’s enough of a general overview, time to get to the good stuff!
Phytochemicals are in abundant supply in all cruciferous vegetables. They are a chemical compound that occur naturally and are responsible for the color and organoleptic properties, which in the case of kale would be the deep blue and green coloring. Phytochemicals aren’t considered an essential nutrient, but are believed to be of great significance in disease prevention, and are best obtained through whole foods. The phytochemicals sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol are two of the possible 10 000 different phytochemicals that science is aware of, and both are well sourced in kale. These two in particular are beneficial in protecting the body against both prostate, and colon cancers.
Metabolites are the products of metabolism, and are usually restricted to small molecules. They have many functions including fuel, structure, stimulatory and inhibitory effects on enzymes, catalytic activity, defense, and interactions with other organisms. If all of the above is not of particular interest to you, the metabolite di-indollyl-methane will be. This metabolite is of course found in kale, and is and immune modulator, meaning it regulates immune function, and also is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent through its action of potentiating the interferon gamma receptors. This means that the receptor sites will become more potent.
The reason this is of importance is that interferon type II binds with the receptor to elicit a signal within the target cell. Obviously if the site becomes more potent, it makes the interferon type II more able to attach to the receptor. Also know as IFN-y, it’s involved with the regulation of immune and inflammatory response. IFN-y has some weak anti-viral and anti-tumor effects as well, but what I find interesting is that one of the places it is produced is in natural killer cells. These cells are critical to the immune system, and provide a rapid response to infected cells. I’m somewhat leaping to a conclusion that having healthy and robust receptor sites to be able to bind with IFN-y, which is produced in NK cells which are known to be able to recognize stressed cell and act upon them to quicken immune reaction, is likely an extremely good thing in the prevention, and possibly even the elimination of cancer cells. Until that is scientifically proven in lab conditions I’m just speculating, but having been through the process of cancer and choosing a natural treatment option, I’m encouraged by any possible natural enhancements I can take to ensure everlasting health.
Now that I’ve shown you some of the more complicated applications of some of the nutrients that kale has in its stable, I’ll get to the more recognizable nutrients. Kale is a rich source of B-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These three flavonoids have strong anti-oxidant and anti-cancer functions as well. B-carotene is converted to vitamin-A in the body, and 100 grams of kale provides 512 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin-A. Vitamin-A is valuable to muscle, skin, vision, and in fighting lung and oral cancers. Zeaxanthin is absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes, where it is believed to provide anti-oxidant and light filtering protective properties that are believed to protect against age related macular degeneration disease.
On to the vitamins then, shall we? 100 grams of kale provides 700 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin-K. Vitamin-K promotes the formation of bones and their lengthening, as well as preventing neuronal damage in the brain, and therefore the prevention of Alzheimer’s. That same 100 gram serving of kale also provides 200 percent of our vitamin-C, which is a valuable free radical scavenger. There are also many B-complex vitamins which are essential for substrate metabolism, or in other words the manufacture of energy from food.
Kale is also a very rich source of the minerals copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, maganese, and phosphorus. Potassium plays a major part in cellular osmoregulation, meaning the water balance of the cells, partially through countering the effects of sodium. This also serves to regulate blood pressure. Iron is required for red blood cell formation and cellular oxidation. We all know the role calcium plays with regard to bones, but it is also a valuable as an intracellular messenger. Phosphorus makes up one percent of our total body weight, and is present in every cell in the body. Maganese is helpful the utilization of many key ingredients such as biotin and ascorbic acid. Copper is most importantly to us weight trainers as being valuable for connective tissue strengthening.
The reason I chose kale as the introduction to the foray into the kingdom of the cruciferous, is due to all of the above. I’ll admit that any food offering cancer suppression through the up-regulation of receptors involved in immune and inflammatory response due to a specific metabolite which will likely correlate into anti-cancer activity, as well as the anti-cancer functions of the flavonoid, anti-oxidant, and phytochemical variety, will pique my interest. This is just the first of many voyages into the realm of the cruciferous vegetable, and I hope you both learned and enjoyed it. On a less functional level, kale is also delicious, so there’s that as well! I’ll be getting back to more low carb fruits as well as the low carb cruciferous vegetables shortly, because there is always a focus on maximizing nutrients while minimizing calories, and specifically carbohydrate at this corner of the internet. Give kale a try sometime if you haven’t yet, and if you’re a regular consumer then I hope this has helped you to enjoy it even more. Until next time my friends,
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