Broccoli contains many powerful compounds which make it a superfood including Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, Folate, Vitamin K, Beta-Carotene, Lutein, and Fiber.
Broccoli comes from the cruciferous family of vegetables – named “crucifer” because of their cross-shaped stalks. It is also one of the most popular vegetables consumed in the United States. Ringo Starr is also well known to be an avid admirer of broccoli.
Broccoli and Cancer Prevention
Loaded with certain types of polyphenols, these are some of the components which may be responsible for fighting off several types of cancer. A study done at Johns Hopkins University showed that a compound in broccoli prevented the development of tumors by 60% and also reduced their size by 75% if one did develop.
Since cancer takes many years to develop in the body, it is now believed that prevention is easier than trying to find a cure. Therefore, it is diet that is most responsible for cancer prevention over the years. According to one 10-year study done by Harvard School of Public Health, and also confirmed by many other studies, broccoli and cabbage seem to offer the greatest protections against cancer. This is quite impressive!
The American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research both have similar guidelines for the prevention of cancer and at the top of their lists is to eat a plant-based diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables. I would think that broccoli is one of the top vegetables they had in mind for this!
Which cancers does broccoli protect against? Well, it seems it is particularly strong against colon, lung, stomach, and rectal cancers.
Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach. Studies in animals and experiments with cells grown in the laboratory have identified several potential ways in which these compounds may help prevent cancer:
- They help protect cells from DNA damage.
- They help inactivate carcinogens.
- They have antiviral and antibacterial effects.
- They have anti-inflammatory effects.
- They induce cell death (apoptosis).
- They inhibit tumor blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) and tumor cell migration (needed for metastasis).
Studies in humans, however, have shown mixed results.
In people, there are just too many factors to consider that could also lead to the results above, but it is known that eating broccoli has beneficial affects on the body concerning cancer-related therapies. It is always recommended to eat a plant-based healthy diet for a cancer patient, or for prevention either way, for instance.
Singling out certain compounds to identify which does what is a monumental task. In truth, it may never be known why vegetables like this do what they do and how they actually do it. As you can see above, they are still trying to figure it out and will be for quite a long time. In the meantime, I like to keep it simple and just do what our grandparents told us to do and “eat your fruits and veggies”, or in this case, “eat your broccoli”, which I’m sure many a kid has been told!
Cooked Broccoli vs Raw
Eating broccoli both cooked and raw are both important to do. Each way has properties that differ from cooking vs eating it raw. For example, the compound isothiocyanate, and in particular sulforaphane (gives broccoli its strong scent), which is thought to possibly help decrease the risk of cancer, is around triple the amount in raw broccoli than when it is cooked.
So if you are looking to get more of this “isothio-whatever” compound in your diet, you will need to eat more raw broccoli. Haha! We really don’t care what its called. We just want whatever it is that is helping to prevent cancers and such!
I like to eat my broccoli steamed with some fat-free chicken stock, shredded red cabbage, garlic, a little salt and crushed red pepper, a little extra virgin olive oil, and sometimes a little Romano cheese – and get all those healthy broccoli benefits. Wonderful!
- Cooking (or Not Cooking) Broccoli to Protect Its Nutritional Riches
- Broccoli and Cruciferous Vegetables
- Broccoli: Phytochemical Powerhouse
Also be sure to check out Superfoods: Top 15 Ultimate Superfood Guide