From the 1950s onward, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower have gotten a bad rep. Labeled “goitrogens,” many propose that these cruciferous veggies are bad for your thyroid health because they can lead to an enlarged thyroid called a goiter. They do this by tampering with your iodine absorption, by suppressing thyroid hormone secretion, or by inhibiting thyroid hormone production altogether.
The goitrogenic properties of these vegetables is a result of their glucosinolate content, which can prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing iodine, a crucial component to thyroid health. Iodine deficiencies, however, are pretty rare these days, as the iodization of salt in the 1920s helped solve the problem of insufficient levels. That being said, avoiding cruciferous vegetables isn’t really necessary unless you already have some hidden food sensitivity or allergy. These days, an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is to blame for about 90% of underactive thyroid cases, which means that excluding cruciferous veggies from your diet may not really have that much of a positive impact, and recent schools of thought propose the villainization of our beloved broccoli is outdated. So should we or shouldn’t we be eating these cruciferous veggies? Let’s look at the facts.
1. Reduces inflammation
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous veggies have high phytochemical content and are loaded with micronutrients that promote overall health.
These veggies pack a punch when it comes to reducing inflammation and protecting your tissues against damage.
2. Prevents cardiovascular disease
Adding more cruciferous vegetables to your diet can actually lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease because they are high in antioxidants, vitamins, folate, potassium, fiber, and helpful phytochemicals. When you place more importance on these veggies, you can potentially lower your blood pressure, homocysteine levels, oxidative stress, and inflammation. All of these benefits support overall health as well as heart strength.
3. Prevents cancer
These veggies are also linked to reduced cancer rates, which most likely has something to do with their glucosinolate content, which, ironically, was the primary suspect in blocking iodine absorption. Regardless, high levels of phytochemicals, vitamin C, and fiber are also found in these cruciferous veggies, which can boost immune function and aid in cancer prevention.
Another wonderful benefit of eating cruciferous veggies is how they help make your skin look younger (who wouldn’t want that?).
The vitamin C content in these veggies build up collagen and protect your skin from UV damage. Vitamin A and E are also major players when it comes to healthy skin, and guess where you can find sufficient levels of both? That’s right–cruciferous vegetables.
5. Better Bone Health
So the verdict seems clear. Cruciferous veggies have more benefits than drawbacks, and I recommend keeping that in mind when building a nutrition plan.
It’s important to note, however, that when it comes to nutrition in any sort of treatment, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
Even though, generally, this class of veggie has a lot of benefits, these facts don’t take into account the potential sensitivities, allergies, or individual body chemistry that can impact someone’s healing. That’s why it’s important that you partner with a functional medicine practitioner who can use the right testing approach to pinpoint your specific imbalances and deficiencies. With that information, a good practitioner will be able to build a treatment plan with your unique needs in mind and put you on the road to optimal healing.