Glucosinolates
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Glucosinolates are a type of organic compound that contains both sulfur and nitrogen. Glucosinolates are derived from Glucose and an Amino Acid and are most often found in nature as secondary metabolites in most Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables in the Brassicales and Drypetes families.  Much of the bitter taste of these vegetables can be attributed to Glucosinolates such as Sinigrin.

Glucosinolates are a double edged sword. In large amounts (around 2 lbs. a day but don’t push it), they are Goitrogens and toxic, even leading to hyperthyroidism and comas in some cases. In small amounts, they are thought  to help prevent cancer and rid the body of harmful carcinogens.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, Glucosinolates contain enzymes and antioxidants that battle Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Stomach Cancer, Prostrate Cancer and Colon Cancer.  It is not completely understood but research suggests that Glucosinolates work with chemicals such as folateflavonoids, and Vitamin C to cleanse the body of free radicals and other toxins.

Ingesting high levels of Glocosinolates can interfere with the functioning of the Thyroid. In 2009, an elderly woman developed hypothyroidism and put herself into a myxedema coma by eating a little over 2 pounds (.91 kg) of Raw Bok Choy, which is high in Glucosinolates. That is an extreme case, but overdoing it with Glucosinolates can result in other symptoms such as: nausea, dizziness, and indigestion. Thoroughly cooking foods loaded with Glucosinolates lessens the likelihood of problems.

There is a third edge to the sword as well, for farmers and gardeners. Plants containing Glucosinolates can produce substances that serve as natural pesticides.

Varieties

Food items and especially Vegetables (BroccoliCauliflowerBrussel SproutsMustard GreensKaleCabbageCollard GreensArugulaBok ChoyTurnips, etc.) that contain Glucosinolates tend to have a sulfuric odor and a hot, mustard-horseradish taste. There is not currently a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Glucosinolates but experts recommend eating at least 5 servings a week of these veggies.