Broccoli is a powerful anti-cancer food, promotes healthy bones, supports cardiovascular health, boosts immunity, protects against stomach ulcers and guards against birth defects. With so many medicinal properties eating broccoli regularly is a health offering to the body.
Derived from the Latin word brachium meaning branch or arm due to its tree-like appearance, broccoli originated in ancient Rome where it was cultivated from wild cabbage. Ranging in colour from deep sage to dark green and even purple it is a member of the cruciferous/brassica family of vegetables which include cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Broccoli leads the way against cancer, with other cruciferous members not far behind. Population studies first began to point to the cancer-fighting properties of this food group, and in 1982 the U.S. National Research Council on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer claimed “there is sufficient epidemiological evidence to suggest that consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduction in cancer’”.
Since then, there have been countless more studies to confirm this, with broccoli, cabbage and Brussel sprouts proving the most potent.
One of the anti-cancer compounds in broccoli is the phytochemical sulforaphane, which works by boosting the body’s detoxification enzymes that fight against cancer cells. When researchers at the Johns Hopkins University studied the effect of sulphoraphane on tumour formation in animals, animals given sulforaphane had remarkably fewer tumours (60 per cent less), and the tumours that did develop were much smaller and slower to grow (a 75 per cent reduction in size).
Another anti-cancer phytonutrient in broccoli is indole-3-carbinol (I3C). This chemical has been shown to inhibit the growth of oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells by its effects on oestrogen. The activity of Indole-3-carbinol has also been found to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells in a study published by the American Cancer Society.
Other cancer-fighting chemicals are isothiocyanates (EITC), converted from the glucosinolates in broccoli during chopping, chewing and digestion. Research from Ohio State University discovered that isothiocyanates halt the growth of bladder cancer cells as one example.
Broccoli Sprouts! A Super Power
Broccoli sprouts have exceptionally concentrated amounts of the phytochemicals found in mature broccoli, including far greater quantities of sulforaphane. It has been estimated that one tablespoon of broccoli sprouts contains as much sulforaphane as a whole pound of adult broccoli! Just a few sprinkles of these sprouts on your salad can offer some healthy blessings.
Stomach Ulcers and Stomach Cancer
Studies have found that sulforaphane may also destroy the bacteria Helicobacter pylori responsible for stomach ulcers, which are also a potential risk to stomach cancer.
High in Vitamin C
Broccoli is extremely high in vitamin C, another anti-cancer aid for the body. A medium size stalk provides over twice the daily recommended value of the vitamin, along with beneficial amounts of the antioxidant beta-carotene, and a substantial quantity of fibre, both also associated with reduced risks of cancer.
It’s suggested cancer can be present in your body 5-30 years before it is detectable, so eating vegetables such as broccoli can work as powerful deterrents.
Broccoli is one of the key fruits and vegetables found to contribute to a significant reduction in heart disease due to their high concentration of flavonoids. An analysis of seven studies totalling over 100,000 people revealed that those who most frequently ate broccoli, tea, onions and apples, the richest sources of flavonoids, had a 20 per cent reduced risk of heart disease (Huxley and Neil, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
Aside high concentrations of flavonoids, broccoli also contains other heart-healthy ingredients such as co-enzyme Q10, potassium, folic acid, vitamins C and E and fibre.
Protecting Against Birth Defects
If you’re pregnant a regular chomp on raw broccoli could support you with folic acid intake. Folic acid is essential for the growth of the fetus because of its role in cell division and DNA synthesis. Deficiencies in this B vitamin have been linked to birth defects such as spina bifida. Obviously, research what the recommended daily suggested intake of folic acid is when pregnant to and ensure you are getting the overall recommended amount in whatever form.
Broccoli is an antioxidant power-house, with stacks of vitamin C, a hefty dose of beta-carotene and small yet useful amounts of both zinc and selenium that act as cofactors for antioxidant enzymes in numerous immune defence reactions.
Broccoli also boosts the immune system by increasing levels of glutathione, a master antioxidant in the body and essential component of some of the liver’s most important detoxification enzymes.
Like its leafy cousin spinach, broccoli contains healthy amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, both pivotal to eye-health and no doubt why broccoli is associated with a reduced risk of cataracts.
The generous quantity of calcium in broccoli, along side its high vitamin C content (which significantly improves the absorption of calcium), makes broccoli an excellent food for building and maintaining strong bones. Ounce for ounce, broccoli provides as much calcium as milk, without the detriments of milk, and with a host of nutrients so a much healthier alternative in every way. Broccoli also contains vitamin K needed for blood clotting that works to bind calcium and other minerals to bones and can decrease the risk of osteoporosis. It is important we get vitamin K in our diets as this vitamin is not readily stored in the body.
C, A and K
Traces of other B vitamins
Beta- and alpha-carotene
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Omega 3 fatty acids
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