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Glucosinolates: Good for anti-ageing, but can slow your thyroid.

Posted Jan 11 2013 8:00am

Hands up who wants to look younger. You too? Thought so! Recently a TV documentary was screened that promised to outline research about the effects of certain nutrients on the aging process. Some of the information was really valuable – like the positive effect of omega-3 oils (supple skin) and lycopene in tomatoes (for antioxidants). When it came to glucosinolates, the program provided some valuable tips, but missed a vital warning about eating too much of them; so I’d like to fill in the information gap for you.

Glucosinolates are a naturally occurring food chemical that is part of vegetables in the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbages). They have powerful anti-aging, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer effects. But glucosinolates make the vegetables taste bitter. This may be one of the reasons people aren’t naturally drawn to eat them unless they’re cooked in interesting ways.

When you first learn of the benefits of a specific group of vegetables, it’s tempting to pile a lot of them on your plate. But brassica vegetables have a dark side too, which wasn’t mentioned in the program: They’re goitrogens, which means they can slow down your thyroid function when eaten in large quantities. The thyroid gland produces hormones which determine how fast your metabolism runs. Women in particular seem to be vulnerable to sluggish thyroid function, which can lead to weight gain, constipation, dry skin and feeling unmotivated.

The documentary also implied that eating the right amount of green vegetables each day to be healthy would be too hard, and that it would be much easier to just take a pill. It’s a trap that many people fall into: The ‘too hard to eat real food’ perspective sells lots of supplements. But you can’t replace the health-giving life force of real food.

Actually, eating plenty of green vegetables is easy when you learn how to incorporate it into real meals. Like Including a handful of baby spinach in your morning omelette; enjoying a large raw salad for lunch, and making sure half your dinner plate is covered with green non-starchy vegetables will easily see you achieve the recommended ‘five veg a day’. Cook them in interesting ways, and choose as wide a variety of vegetables as you can manage. Slowing your aging, and boosting your health, comes from eating as wide a variety of unprocessed vegetables as you can manage, as real food.

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