Posted by: bcconnections | November 16, 2012

Can Broccoli Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Cruciferous vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that may reduce the risk of cancer.

These vegetables include:

Broccoli Kale Bok choy
Cabbage Watercress Brussel sprouts
Collard greens Mustard greens Kohlrabi
Radishes Rutabaga Turnips
Arugula Horseradish Daikon


Compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, called isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, have been shown to have anti-cancer properties in laboratory studies.  One study, for example, found that indole-3-carbinol blocked the growth of blood vessels that are required for tumor growth and survival.  Another study found that sulforaphane blocks the growth and metastasis, and induces the programmed cell death, of breast cancer cells.

Several studies suggest that these laboratory findings translate into humans.

  • A Swedish study found that postmenopausal women who ate one to two daily servings of cruciferous vegetables had a 20-40% lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
  •  An analysis of several case-control studies revealed that once a week consumption of cruciferous vegetables reduced the risk of breast cancer by 17%, and had a similar effect on cancers of the esophagus, colorectum, kidney, and oral cavity/pharynx.
  • A diet intervention study on healthy postmenopausal women found that adding 500 grams of broccoli per day the diet shifted estrogen metabolism in a favorable manner. 
  • A combined analysis of thirteen different studies reported that high cruciferous vegetable intake was significantly associated with a 15% reduced risk of breast cancer.

Cooking cruciferous vegetables can break down the cancer-fighting compounds in them, so eating them raw is preferred.  Eating large amounts of cruciferous vegetables can cause gas in some people, but gradually introducing them into your diet may ease this discomfort.

Tips for introducing more cruciferous vegetables into your diet (From the Cancer Project, Food for Life):

  • Add broccoli, cauliflower, or any other of the other cruciferous vegetables to stir-fries, soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Munch on raw broccoli or cauliflower for a snack.
  • Boost your salad’s cancer-fighting potential by adding watercress, kale, cabbage, or collard greens.
  • Use rutabagas or turnips in place of potatoes in your favorite potato dish.
  • For a portable meal, include cruciferous vegetables in a veggie wrap.


  1. Kale is my new best friend. There are so many delicious ways to prepare it. One of my favorite is Kale Salad.
    Here’s the recipe:
    Napa Valley Grille’s kale chopped salad
    Total time: 45 minutes
    Servings: 4 to 6
    Note: Adapted from Napa Valley Grille in Westwood.

    Lemon Vinaigrette
    Juice of 3 lemons and grated zest of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
    Sea salt
    Finely-ground pepper
    Hungarian paprika

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and cheese. Season to taste with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper. This makes slightly more than one-half cup vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.

    Kale salad
    1/4 cup quinoa
    1 romaine heart, chopped
    1 head green kale, chopped
    1/4 cup almonds, toasted
    1/4 cup dried cranberries
    1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

    1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.
    2. Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under cool running water to remove the outer coating of the quinoa (if not rinsed, the coating can give the quinoa a bitter flavor). Place the rinsed quinoa in a dry saute pan and toast, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is dry, lightly colored, and has a nutty aroma.
    3. Place the toasted quinoa in the saucepan with the water, reduce the heat and simmer the quinoa until it is translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, 12 to 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Drain the quinoa and spread it out on a baking sheet to cool.
    4. In a large bowl, combine the kale, quinoa, almonds, cranberries and parmesan cheese. Add one-fourth cup vinaigrette and toss to lightly coat. Add additional vinaigrette as desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    My son and his girlfriend make Kale Chips in the oven.
    Who knew? Knowledge is power. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks for the great recipe, Diane!

  2. Good article with practical advice!

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