Glucosinolates are a somewhat rare nutrient, which is generally present in several species of plants belonging to the Brassica genus. In fact, glucosinolates, which are a member of glucosides, can also be described as organic sulfur compounds. It has been found that glucosinolates contain several compounds that are effective in detoxifying our body, especially getting rid of carcinogens. Almost all people can consume these anti-carcinogenic compounds by including cruciferous vegetables in their daily diet. In addition, certain derivatives like goitrin, isothiocyanates and sinalbin also offer us several health benefits. However, findings of some studies have found that occasionally glucosinolates are harmful for the health of animals, as they mess about with their health.
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Normally, scientists describe this nutrient (glucosinolates) as thioethers, which denotes organic sulfur compounds in organic chemistry. Some of the properties of this nutrient are unacceptable by many people. For instance, glucosinolates have a foul odour, similar to that of sulfur. In addition, it also tastes bitter, something like the flavour of mustard or horseradish. The Department of Animal Science at the Cornell University states that glucosinolates also enclose a type of sugar called thioglucose.
Oregon State University-based Linus Pauling Institute has suggested that the antioxidants and enzymes contained by glucosinolates may be useful for the body in combating various forms of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer and oesophageal cancer. It has been found that glucosinolates function together with various chemicals like vitamin C, flavonoids and folate to eliminate several toxins and the detrimental free radicals. While the recommended servings of various cruciferous vegetables that contain rich amounts of glucosinolates like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are yet to be ascertained, experts advice eating as many as five servings of these vegetables in a week. In addition, they also suggest that you should eat sufficient amounts of other vegetables as well as fruits. There are several vegetables that contain high levels of glucosinolates and some of these are leafy greens like arugula, bok choy, cabbage, kale, collard, turnips and mustard greens.
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Some of the derivatives of glucosinolates comprise goitrin, isothiocyanates and sinalbin. Goitrin encloses organic sulfur compounds that are present in cabbage and Brussels sprouts, while sinalbins contain a glucosinolate derivative that is mainly present in mustard seeds. Intake of isothiocyanates offers us added health benefits and they are found in several vegetables belonging to the genus Brassica. In fact, nearly all the enzymes and derivatives of glucosinolate break down into simpler substances when the vegetables are cut or chewed by people.
It has been found that compounds present in glucosinolates are beneficial for humans, as they can be obtained easily by consuming a variety of cruciferous vegetables. On the other hand, it has been found that animals experience adverse side effects when they intake these compounds. Findings of various studies have found that elevated levels of these organic compounds create problems with the animals' normal thyroid functioning. For instance, farm animals like poultry and swine may even be poisoned following the intake of glucosinolates. According to scientists at the Cornell University, the symptoms related to such adverse effects on animals may include damaged liver, goiters, stunted growth and relatively poor production of eggs in poultry. However, these adverse effects can be prevented. For instance, adding iodine to their feed may help to put off the adverse effects on the normal functioning of their thyroid.
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It is worth mentioning here that nearly all the compounds, such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, quercetin and others, which we read about, directly work as antioxidants. Consuming vegetables and fruits that are rich in these compounds may help to cleanse the body of free radicals or make them harmless.
Glucosinolates are present in various cruciferous vegetables (as mentioned above) like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and others. Consumption of these vegetable may be useful for a positive impact on the antioxidant activity of the body. The flow of such antioxidant activities are likely to continue in a cycle time and again, thereby keeping on circulating in one's system for up to three or four days after he or she has consumed food that contain glucosinolates. Specific enzymes present in our liver aid in getting rid of toxic substances from our body. These toxic substances may come from several different sources, including environmental pollution, smoking cigarettes, drugs and also free radicals produced in our body as their reaction to various ailments.
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It has been found that broccoli sprouts contain the highest amount of glucosinolates among the various cruciferous vegetables available. These glucosinolates are pertinent to such enzymatic processes. Consuming broccoli sprouts in measure of only two to three tablespoons daily provides us with a potent dosage of glucosinolates. Next to broccoli sprouts, the maximum amount of glucosinolates is present in cauliflower sprouts. On the other hand, alfalfa sprouts do not contain high levels of glucosinolates. Researchers are of the view the concentration of glucosinolates is highest in the budding plants, as the organism requires an elevated concentration of phytochemicals that are effective in protecting them from pollution, predators, the elements and others that have the potential to harm them. With the growth of the plants, the concentration of these compounds become somewhat diluted, but they still continue to be present, though in various smaller amounts. This is the main reason why they are able to offer us several health benefits when we consume these vegetables or plants.
As far as consumption of cruciferous vegetables is concerned, when one chews these vegetables, the glucosinolates break down into their active form called sulforaphane. This process of breaking down of glucosinolates actually activates the enzymatic process. Currently, these compounds are one of the most hotly studied phytochemicals.
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For instance, findings of a number of studies involving glucosinolates have suggested that intake of these organic compounds may be effectual in lowering high blood pressure. A number of other researches have concentrated on the other potential health benefits of consuming glucosinolates, such as its ability to combat various cancer forms. Currently, scientists are examining the ways in which glucosinolates present in various vegetables in the cruciferous family interact with naturally occurring antioxidant in all cells that is known as glutathione. Basically, glutathione works to scavenge and entrap the harmful free radicals that have the potential not only to cause harm to our DNA, but also trigger cancer.
Hence, it is strongly recommended that you should incorporate Brussels sprouts, broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and the various other cruciferous vegetables into your daily diet. You should at least consume two servings (one cup) of any or several of these daily.
Chemical analysis of glucosinolates has shown that they comprise a naturally occurring group of organic compounds containing sulfur and nitrogen. Glucosinolates are derived from an amino acid and glucose. They are basically anions that are soluble in water and it is possible to leach them into water when cooking. Belonging to glucosides, each glucosinolate encloses a central carbon atom that is attached to the thioglucose group through a sulfur atom. In addition, a glucosinolate is attached to a sulfate group via a nitrogen atom. This makes a glucosinolate a sulphated aldoxime.
It is worth mentioning here that different glucosinolates possess different side groups, wherein the central carbon is attached to a side group. The different biological actions of this plant compounds are attributed to the dissimilarity in the side groups of glucosinolates. There are various types of glucosinolates and some of them are mentioned below.
Sinigrin is one variety of glucosinolates that is known to be a precursor or forerunner of allyl isothiocyanate. Another variety, glucotropaeolin is a forerunner of benzyl isothiocyanate, while glucoraphanin is a forerunner of sulforaphane. Gluconasturtiin is also a glucosinolate that is a forerunner of phenethyl isothiocyanate.