(And its “Sidekicks:” Brussels Sprouts, Red and Green Cabbage, Kale, Turnips, Cauliflower, Rutabaga, Kohlrabi, Broccoflower, Bok Choy, Collards, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Swiss Chard, Arugula, Watercress, Daikon, Wasabi, and Liverwort)
A source of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Delicious, versatile, almost ubiquitous—that’s broccoli. Best of all, broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known to man, with more polyphenols than any other commonly eaten vegetable. Broccoli well deserves its SuperFood rating, as it’s one of the best-studied, most nutritious foods in the world. There are several groups of compounds in broccoli and its sidekicks that show powerful abilities to prevent or alleviate disease and promote health. These include glucosinolates, vitamins, sulfur compounds, and carotenoids. These substances make major contributions to keeping us healthy.
Cruciferous vegetables, and broccoli in particular, are powerful anticancer foods. Most cancers take years to develop, and broccoli acts as a natural chemopreventative, mitigating the progress of cancer at many stages. It’s the chemicals called glucosinolates in broccoli that are the potent cancer fighters.
A recent study confirmed the power of these vegetables to fight cancer. A seven-year study in Australia followed 609 women who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer—an aggressive form of cancer. It seems that by including five servings a day of vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables, in their diet, the women experienced a beneficial effect on their survival rates. The women who survived the longest after diagnosis ate the most vegetables, especially cruciferous ones.
Another interesting study found that the sulforaphane in broccoli stopped the proliferation of breast cancer cells, even in the later stages of their growth. This is excellent news and also a reminder that it’s never too late to improve your health by adopting a healthy diet and trying to include a wide variety of SuperFoods routinely in your meals.
Broccoli contains a chemical called indole-3-carbinol that helps to reduce the effects of environmental pollutants like dioxins, which can negatively affect your hormones by preventing them from binding to the estrogen receptors in your body. Many recent reports also suggest that cruciferous vegetables are a good source of natural antioxidants because of their high levels of carotenoids, tocopherols (part of the vitamin E family), and vitamin C, all of which may help to protect the body from free radical damage.
In addition, numerous studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables contain high levels of polyphenols, which possess a myriad of health-promoting properties, especially antioxidant activity.
Broccoli contains high concentrations of quercetin, which is known to protect the body from cardiovascular disease, cancer and cataracts. In conjunction with other nutrients, quercetin has the ability to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol by neutralizing free radicals and binding with potentially toxic metals. As a result, quercetin may aid in the prevention of cancer, atherosclerosis, and chronic inflammation by retarding oxidative degradation, including enzymes that detoxify carcinogens, and deactivating at least thirty types of agents that may cause cancer. Kale leaves, which are also rich in quercetin and other polyphenols, have been shown to reduce the adverse effects of a number of pathogenic bacteria as well as pathogens known to cause respiratory illnesses in humans.
For cruciferous vegetables in general, the leaves (and in the case of broccoli, the florets) contain more bioactive substances than the stems do. Organic gardeners will be interested to learn that insect attacks on organically grown crucifers actually seem to increase the polyphenols in the crop, and the nitrogen and sulfur in organic soil are essential for high production of polyphenols by the plant. It has also been shown that steaming is the ideal method of cooking to preserve many of the bioactive nutrients in cruciferous vegetables.
Broccoli promotes health by:
- Fighting cancer
- Boosting the immune system
- Lowering the incidence of cataracts
- Supporting cardiovascular health
- Building bones
- Fighting birth defects
- Promoting the production of the primary intracellular antioxidant: glutathione
- Decreasing inflammation
*This brief summary contains copyrighted material from SuperFoods HealthStyle by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews. Copyright © 2006 by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews Inc., published by HarperCollins; and from SuperFoods Rx For Pregnancy by Steven Pratt, M.D. Copyright © 2013 by SuperFoods Partners, LLC, published by Wiley. All rights reserved.