Why Brussel Sprouts In Your Cancer Diet?


Ok, It might be time to do an “attitude” check. Do you find yourself wanting to make a face at the thought of eating brussel sprouts? Worse than that, do you feel like you could gag just at the thought of the smell of them? Wish you could be a kid again and slip it under the table for the dog to eat? Only the dog wouldn’t eat it either! Well, it seems you aren’t alone. When we talk to our patients about the importance of certain foods that are good for cancer, I would say two-thirds of the patients say they just can’t stomach brussel sprouts.

We once had a patient that stated she would eat anything if it helped get rid of her cancer, including dog poop. Well, that one would really be hard to swallow so she was happy to eat her brussel sprouts. All jokes aside, along with the gaging, let me try to explain why brussel sprouts may be one of the best foods you could eat if you are a cancer patient.

In 2008, the Netherlands documented and suggested that brussel sprouts helped the body to promote healthy DNA. Since then, there have been many studies that have found wonderful benefits for those little green balls of tasty leaves. Every human being’s DNA is different and is responsible for cell division. Sometimes for uncertain reasons, our DNA becomes damaged or abnormal, and cells may begin to replicate more rapidly than the normal timing. This can cause cancerous cells to form and thus cause “cancer”.

A study published in the journal, Carcinogenenesis, found that animals which were given brussel sprout juice were less likely to develop cancer. Animals given brussel sprouts had a reduction in pre-cancerous cells in their colon of 41-52%, 27-67% in the liver and drastically diminished the size of full blown cancerous lesions in the liver. Hooray for brussel sprouts!

Brussel sprouts have been found to contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. Our body uses glucosinolates to make isothiocyanates. Yes, those are some heavy words that are differently hard to spell. It has been found that isothiocyanate activates very important cancer-fighting enzymes in the body which helps to destroy the outer enzyme layer of cancer cells.

Brussel sprouts are in the vegetable family called Brassica vegetables. Other vegetables in this family include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens (just to mention a few). However, brussel sprouts have been found to have the most glucosinolates. All are low in calories, fats, and sodium.   

Brussel sprouts, our new “favorite” food, is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium, manganese, and choline. Brussel sprouts are an excellent source for food antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. They contain kaempferol, caffeic and ferulic acids, isorhamnetin, and sulfur compounds called D3T (3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione). Whew, who would have ever guessed?

Cancer patients and patients with autoimmune problems sometimes need all the help one can get from a food source. Because brussel sprouts are a great source of antioxidants, this should be in our diet just to combat all the oxidative stress which is a major risk factor for cancer or other diseases.

Well, I hope now you will have a different outlook on brussel sprouts. Remember when you were a kid and Popeye ate spinach? He became an amazing different character. Maybe, just maybe, brussel sprouts can do the same for us.

-Dr Fredda Branyon