Our bodies are amazing! We are exposed to a wide array of toxins and poisons each day, and our body is designed to process and excrete them seamlessly. But, our body’s detoxification burden is growing… Since World War II, more than 85,000 new synthetic chemicals have been released into our environment. Over 350 different pesticides are applied to our food (at the rate of over 4 billion pounds per year!). In fact, traces of over 400 chemicals can be found in the average human (and over 200 in a baby’s placenta). If this doesn’t concern you, I encourage you to consider it again.
Our toxic exposure is increasingly outpacing our body’s natural ability to keep ourselves free of toxic build-up inside. Between one-third and one-half of cancers are linked to dietary causes. And researchers believe up to two-thirds of cancer cases are caused by environmental exposures (e.g. toxins, radiation, tobacco, etc.). Contrary to common myth, only 2-5% of cancers are believed to have primarily genetic root causes. Our choices can make a tremendous difference in our experience of illness or wellness.
Certainly we can work to reduce our exposure. We also know that, for the majority of us living in the modern, western world today means we live in a toxic soup.
However, we can always support and increase our body’s ability to process toxins. We detox primarily through our liver, kidneys, and bowels and, to a lesser degree, skin. Today I want to focus on your liver health and an easy way to boost your detoxification capability: eat cruciferous vegetables. Yes! Eating matters. This family of vegetables includes cabbages, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, turnips, and most heavy greens (e.g. watercress, arugula, kale, collard, turnip, mustard, bok choy, broccoli rabe). The impact of these foods is not a small, token, sounds-nice-but-doesn’t-really-matter kind of benefit. These veggies are powerful!
Eating watercress daily can significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells, which is considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer. In particular, reducing damage to cells of the immune system.
Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli, inhibits breast cancer stem cells. Also, this powerful agent has been shown to regulate gene expression to prevent mutation in prostate cancer cells.
All of these vegetables are rich in sulfur. More specifically, they contain the precursors for creating a big dose of sulforaphane in your intestines when you eat them. Sulforaphane helps the body to convert chemical toxins from harmful free radicals to water-soluble waste that can be easily excreted from the body (technically this is phase 2 toxin conjugation). Otherwise, toxins get trapped in the body. And can be a major trigger for inflammation and oxidative stress. This detoxing powerhouse also helps your cells to produce enzymes that naturally protect them from the molecular damage of cancer-causing chemicals.
Enjoy these vegetables daily and use a wide variety to keep it interesting. There are so many options: consider fresh salads, crispy stir-fry, roasted or steamed, stews, marinated salads like cole-slaw or broccoli slaw, steamed medleys, and raw cuts with dip. To maximize your nutritional benefit, avoid microwaving these vegetables, or if you must, do so in glass and not in a plastic bag. Sprouts from this vegetable family (e.g. broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts) are a quick and easy salad topper. Blending them up into a smoothie or shake is a great way to concentrate nutrition from these vegetables.
However you enjoy them, make a point of adding these detox building blocks to your diet every day. Today’s choices are literally planning your future wellness.
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