Isothiocyanates are derived from the breakdown of glucosinolates—sulfur-containing compounds found in cruciferous vegetables. Isothiocyanates, such as sulforaphane, may help prevent cancer by promoting the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body, neutralizing free radicals and boosting the proteins that suppress tumors.
Studies show eating cruciferous vegetables rich in isothiocyanates may decrease cancer risk. However, the protective effects may be influenced by individual genetic variation in the metabolism and elimination of isothiocyanates from the body.
Because heat can destroy isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables, choose to enjoy them raw or lightly saute to get the most health benefits.
Fahey JW, Zalcmann AT, Talalay P. The chemical diversity and distribution of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates among plants. Phytochemistry. 2001;56(1):5-51. Zhang Y. Cancer-preventive isothiocyanates: measurement of human exposure and mechanism of action. Mutat Res. 2004;555(1-2):173-190.Hecht SS. Chemoprevention by Isothiocyanates. In: Kelloff GJ, Hawk ET, Sigman CC, eds. Promising Cancer Chemopreventive Agents, Volume 1: Cancer Chemopreventive Agents. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press; 2004:21-35.