What are Cruciferous Vegetables? Benefits & Comprehensive List

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/20/2023

Cruciferous vegetables, also known as brassica vegetables, promote hormonal balance, help reduce inflammation, support detoxification, and may play a crucial role in cancer prevention.

Let’s look at six health benefits of cruciferous vegetables and learn how you can incorporate these nutritional powerhouses into your diet. 

Cruciferous vegetables

What are cruciferous vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group of vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family.

These vegetables are among the most dominant food crops worldwide and are widely available at grocery stores and farmers' markets. 

Cruciferous vegetables are also relatively easy to cultivate, which makes them a popular choice for people interested in growing their own produce.

The majority of cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds that give cruciferous vegetables their characteristic pungent aroma and slightly bitter taste. 

Chopping and chewing cruciferous vegetables releases myrosinase, which is an enzyme that initiates the breakdown of glucosinolates into various bioactive compounds, including isothiocyanates, nitriles, and indoles.

Research published in Molecules suggests that glucosinolate-derived compounds support normal cellular functions, promote metabolic health and detoxification pathways, and are linked to a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative conditions. 

Watch the video below to learn more about the link between cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. 

Cruciferous vegetable list

There are numerous types of cruciferous vegetables with different flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits.  

Here are some of the most common cruciferous vegetables:

  • Bok choy

  • Kale

  • Broccoli

  • Broccoli sprouts 

  • Cabbage (green, red, Savoy)

  • Arugula

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Cauliflower

  • Chinese cabbage

  • Mustard greens

  • Collard greens

  • Horseradish

  • Watercress

  • Kohlrabi

  • Radishes

  • Rutabaga

  • Turnips

Fried Brussels sprouts

How many cruciferous vegetables should you eat?

Cruciferous veggies are highly nutritious vegetables, rich in various biologically active compounds. 

Consuming cruciferous vegetables daily can play a role in preventing chronic diseases and reducing prostate cancer and breast cancer risk.

A study published in Nutrients confirms the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables and suggests that individuals who regularly consume 1/4 of a cup (60 grams) or more of cruciferous vegetables have a significantly lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease than those who eat little to none.    

“Incorporating a mix of cooked and raw cruciferous vegetables into your meals several times a week is a fantastic strategy to promote a healthy body and lower your risk of chronic diseases,” says Dr. Berg.   

Raw broccoli and sulforaphane sign

Six benefits of cruciferous vegetables

Evidence suggests that individuals with the highest consumption of cruciferous vegetables have a markedly lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and chronic inflammatory conditions. 

Research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology reviewed various studies investigating the impact of cruciferous vegetable consumption on a wide range of cellular and physiological functions.   

The authors concluded that “Cruciferous vegetables and their glucosinolates are linked to improvements in glycemic control, blood pressure, and lipid profile, and may exert a beneficial effect on neurological conditions, such as depression, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.”

Check out these six health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. 

1. Nutritional powerhouses

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with nutrients and dietary fiber, making them an essential component of any nutritious diet.

Cruciferous veggies are especially rich in vitamins C, E, and K, which play crucial roles in promoting immune system functions, supporting skin health, and regulating blood clotting.

These vegetables also contain manganese, calcium, magnesium, and potassium needed for bone health, muscle function, and nerve signal transmission.

However, the impressive health benefits of cruciferous vegetables are primarily due to their high concentrations of glucosinolates, which are broken down to form biologically active compounds, including sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and indoles.

2. Potentially lower cancer risk

Cruciferous vegetables are the only dietary source of sulforaphane, an anti-cancer nutrient that has been extensively studied for its cancer-fighting properties.

Regular consumption of these vegetables may lower the risk of several cancers, including:

  • Breast cancer

  • Ovarian cancer 

  • Rectal cancer

  • Colon cancer

  • Prostate cancer

  • Lung cancer 

Evidence published in Frontiers in Oncology found that sulforaphane can prevent DNA damage and mutations and block several cancer-related processes. 

These findings have been confirmed by a study published in Oncology Reports that found that sulforaphane directly inhibits the development of cancer cells in the gastrointestinal tract, which significantly reduces colorectal cancer risk.

In addition, sulforaphane enhances the detoxification and elimination of cancer-causing compounds, which may explain the association between cruciferous vegetables and a reduced lung cancer risk in smokers.    

Broccoli sprouts may be especially beneficial for cancer prevention as they contain ten times more sulforaphane than most other types of cruciferous vegetables. 

3. Enhance detoxification 

A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables can enhance the liver’s ability to detoxify drugs, hormones, metabolic byproducts, heavy metals, and environmental toxins.

Sulforaphane stimulates the activity of detoxification enzymes—including glutathione S-transferase—needed to conjugate toxins, which renders waste products less harmful and assists in eliminating them from the body. 

In addition, sulforaphane has been found to promote the repair of damaged liver tissues, making cruciferous vegetables a potential dietary tool in the management and prevention of liver disease

Inflammation illustration

4. Anti-inflammatory 

Cruciferous vegetables contain several bioactive components, such as isothiocyanates and indoles, which have been found to possess potent anti-inflammatory effects. 

Isothiocyanates can inhibit the activity of enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase, which produce pro-inflammatory mediators. 

In addition, indoles help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which is linked to a reduced risk of systemic inflammation, a primary risk factor for joint and muscular issues, heart disease, and premature death. 

Research published in the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics investigated the link between cruciferous vegetable intake, inflammation, and mortality. 


The study concluded that “Individuals with the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables had 22 percent lower total mortality and 31 percent lower cardiovascular disease mortality compared with the group with the lowest intake.”

5. Promote estrogen balance 

Cruciferous vegetables promote hormone balance and help prevent estrogen dominance, characterized by elevated levels of free estrogen linked to menstrual irregularity, fertility issues, breast cancer, and poor bone health.

Indole-3-carbinol, a byproduct of glucosinolate breakdown, has been shown to promote estrogen balance by inhibiting the activity of aromatase, an enzyme responsible for converting androgens to estrogens. 

This may explain why women with the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables appear to have a lower risk of estrogen-related cancers such as breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer.

6. Improve metabolic health 

Increasingly more evidence suggests that cruciferous vegetables can enhance metabolic health and may help prevent the development of obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.   

Research published in Trends in Food Science and Technology suggests that sulforaphane stimulates the cellular uptake of glucose, which plays a crucial role in maintaining balanced blood sugar levels—a hallmark of metabolic health.

In addition, cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and rich in dietary fiber, which promotes satiety and helps maintain a healthy body weight, which is crucial for normal metabolic functions.    

Colorful cauliflowers

Possible downsides of cruciferous vegetables

While cruciferous vegetables offer many health benefits, there are a few potential downsides to consider.

Individuals with sensitive digestive tracts or gastrointestinal conditions—including Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and celiac disease—can find it difficult to digest cruciferous vegetables, leading to bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort. 

Avoiding raw cruciferous veggies and opting for cooked vegetables instead can help minimize digestive issues. 

Cruciferous vegetables can interact with blood thinners if consumed in large quantities, and it’s crucial to avoid excessive intake of these vegetables if you are taking blood-thinning medications or have a bleeding disorder.

There is a common misconception that cruciferous vegetables can worsen thyroid gland disorders. 

While these vegetables contain small concentrations of compounds that may interfere with thyroid hormone production, it would require an enormous amount of cruciferous vegetables to impair thyroid function. 

In fact, because of their role in detoxification and estrogen balance, cruciferous vegetables can help thyroid function and promote balanced thyroid hormone production. 

Kale salad

Delicious cruciferous vegetable recipes 

Cruciferous vegetables are incredibly versatile ingredients that can be eaten raw or cooked and make an excellent addition to a wide range of dishes. 

Not only are cruciferous vegetables delicious steamed, roasted, or stir-fried, but they can also be added to smoothies, soups, and stews and make a flavorful base for salads.  

Here are some recipes to help you incorporate more cruciferous vegetables into your meal plan:

Woman eating broccoli

Key takeaways

Cruciferous vegetables are rich sources of glucosinolates, a group of bioactive compounds linked to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative conditions.

These compounds also promote detoxification, support hormonal balance, and enhance metabolic health, which explains why regularly consuming cruciferous vegetables is associated with improved overall health and well-being.


1. What are cruciferous vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group of highly nutritious plants belonging to the Brassicaceae family. The majority of these vegetables contain glucosinolates, a bioactive compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their distinct aroma and slightly bitter taste. 

2. What vegetables are considered cruciferous?

Plant foods, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, turnips, watercress, kale, horseradish, mustard greens, collard greens and bok choy are considered cruciferous. 

3. What is the healthiest cruciferous vegetable?

While all cruciferous vegetables offer health benefits, broccoli sprouts contain significantly higher concentrations of sulforaphane, a phytochemical with potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

4. Is spinach a cruciferous vegetable?

No, spinach is not considered a cruciferous vegetable as it belongs to the Amaranthaceae family.

5. What are the benefits of cruciferous vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are rich sources of essential nutrients and various phytochemicals linked to enhanced detoxification pathways and hormonal balance. 

They also contain glucosinolates, which have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and regularly consuming cruciferous vegetables is associated with a significantly lower breast, lung, and prostate cancer risk.  

6. How many cruciferous vegetables should I eat?

While there are no specific intake recommendations for cruciferous vegetables, consuming a mix of cooked and raw cruciferous vegetables several times a week promotes a healthy body and may lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and metabolic imbalances. 

7. What happens if you eat too many cruciferous vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are high-fiber foods that can cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating, gas, and abdominal pain due to the bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber.

Excessive consumption for prolonged periods may affect thyroid function, particularly in individuals with iodine deficiency. However, these cases are rare, and moderate consumption of cruciferous vegetables is generally considered safe and beneficial for most people.

8. Is it safe to eat cruciferous vegetables every day?

Yes, it’s safe to consume cruciferous vegetables every day. 

In fact, evidence suggests that individuals with a high intake of these vegetables are less likely to develop cancer and heart disease and have a higher life expectancy than those who consume little to no cruciferous vegetables. 

9. Why do I feel bloated after eating cruciferous vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber, which undergoes bacterial fermentation in the large intestines. This releases gas and can lead to bloating. 

In addition, some individuals may experience bloating due to the breakdown of certain sulfur-containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables, which can produce gas as a byproduct.

10. Who should not eat cruciferous vegetables?

Individuals with certain gastrointestinal conditions may experience discomfort when consuming cruciferous vegetables and may need to limit their intake.

There also is evidence that excessive amounts of cruciferous vegetables can interact with blood thinning medication, and it’s crucial to discuss your intake of these foods with a healthcare provider if you are taking blood thinners. 

11. Are cruciferous vegetables bad for your thyroid?

Consuming large amounts of cruciferous vegetables for prolonged periods can potentially exacerbate thyroid issues. 

However, moderate amounts of these vegetables may actually promote healthy thyroid function due to their role in promoting hormonal balance, lowering inflammation, and supporting detoxification.  


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8838317/ 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9231287/ 

  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.767975/full 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2735794/ 

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7057772/ 

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4063312

  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224422004101 

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