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updated: 11/3/2011 1:15 PM

Cruciferous vegetables a nutritious lot

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Q. What are examples of other cruciferous vegetables besides broccoli? Do the others offer the same health benefits?

A. Cruciferous vegetables all provide compounds that in laboratory research show a number of effects that could reduce cancer risk. These compounds seem to decrease inflammation, disable carcinogens and decrease cancer cells' ability to spread. They also seem to turn on genes that slow cell growth so that cell damage can be repaired. Finally, they may cause abnormal cells to self-destruct.

Some studies show that these substances may also shift estrogen metabolism to favor a weaker, less cancer-promoting form, although that is still a more tentative finding.

All cruciferous vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamin C. However, cruciferous vegetables do differ in other nutrients they provide. Dark green choices such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, broccoli rabe (rapini), mustard and collard greens, Swiss chard, kale and bok choy provide beta-carotene and tend to be rich in vitamin K. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant and seems to act more directly to inhibit cancer development, too. The red color in red cabbage and radishes signals the presence of flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins that are very powerful antioxidants.

Some of the cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard and mustard greens, parsnips and broccoli rabe (rapini) are high in folate, which helps protect our DNA. Other cruciferous vegetables that add further variety include cabbage, broccolini, broccoflower, kohlrabi, turnips and rutabaga.

Broccoli offers a tremendous benefit nutritionally, so enjoy experimenting with a variety of ways to fix it. But expanding the variety of cruciferous vegetables you eat is also both fun and healthful.

• Learn more about the American Institute for Cancer Research and its New American Plate plate program at aicr.org.

Q. How many calories do you burn doing Zumba?

A. Zumba is a popular dance-aerobics activity that uses up-tempo Latin music and moves taken from a variety of classic Latin dances combined with hip-hop and other dance styles.

Unpublished research has found that people may burn from 500 to 800 calories in an hour session. Although based on published research studies of fast ballroom and folk dancing in general, we'd expect the range to be closer to 300 to 500 calories in an hour.

As with any activity, people differ in how many calories they burn. People who weigh more or are less fit burn more calories doing the same movement, because it simply takes more energy for them to move a larger body. On the other hand, people who are more fit may be able to continue activity at a higher intensity longer, and thus burn more calories. And of course, Zumba programs and instructors vary somewhat in intensity and timing of warm-up, cool down and most active phases.

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