The Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reported that sulforaphane, one of the primary phytochemicals in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that helps them prevent cancer, has been shown for the first time to selectively target and kill cancer cells while leaving normal prostate cells healthy and unaffected.
What was remarkable about this discovery is that it showed prostate tumor growth was slowed by a diet containing sulforaphane and that “sulforaphane can target cancer cells through multiple chemopreventative mechanisms.” What this points to is the innate intelligence in plant compounds; no pharmaceutical or isolated nutraceutical can do that. The researchers at Oregon State University found that sulforaphane, which is found at fairly high levels in broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables, is an inhibitor of an enzyme that plays a role in whether certain genes are expressed or not, such as tumor suppressor genes.
One study conducted by researchers showed that pairing fresh broccoli with a spicy vegetable that contains the enzyme myrosinase, significantly enhances each food’s individual cancer-fighting power and ensures that absorption takes place in the upper part of the digestive system, where a patient will get the maximum health benefit.
What are those foods? Radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and brussels sprouts, which all boost the benefits found in broccoli. The study noted that these benefits are only conferred if the vegetables are eaten raw or lightly steamed. The more broccoli is cooked, the more these fragile phytonutrients are damaged. If the broccoli is cooked to mush, it is of virtually no nutritional value.
The potential that whole foods and whole food supplements have to nourish our bodies should be readily apparent. They turn on our genes and amplify our ability to fight cancer. Maybe, as Servan-Schreiber described in his book Anti-cancer: A New Way of Life, we don’t have cancer genes, but rather, “fast-food intolerant genes.” We can build an anti-cancer biology with the food we eat three times a day.