Broccoli: The Nutritious Warrior
Many nutritionists have dubbed broccoli a "SuperFood" - and with good reason. This tasty, versatile and nutrient-packed member of the cabbage family packs a strong anti-oxidant punch that can help fight many types of cancer, while also providing a hefty dose of calcium for strong bones and folic acid to prevent birth defects.
Broccoli contains the phytonutrients sulforaphane and indoles, which have been shown to effectively fight many types of cancer. Indole-3-carbinol has been found to deactivate an estrogen metabolite that promotes tumor cell growth, while increasing levels of a cancer protective form of estrogen called 2-hydroxyestrone. It also inhibits the movement of cancerous cells through the body.
Sulforaphane boosts detoxification enzymes to clear potentially carcinogenic substances from the body more quickly, while halting cell growth and increasing the self-destruct mechanism in abnormal cells. New research has shown that this phytonutrient can help repair sun damaged skin as well.
When broccoli is cut, chewed or digested, it releases glucose along with compounds that help to break down food, including isothiocyanates, which stimulate enzymes in the liver that detoxify carcinogens. One form of isothiocyanates, known as allyl isothicyanate, inhibits cell division while encouraging the self-destruct function in abnormal cells. These characteristics make regular consumption of broccoli a tasty way to reduce your risk of many types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colorectal and lung.
Broccoli is especially good to consume during pregnancy. It is packed with nutrients and an excellent source of calcium (74 mg per cup), vitamins C (124 mg per cup) K, and A, folate (94 mcg per cup) and fiber. The high calcium content helps to build and maintain healthy bones for your baby and you, while the folic acid helps prevent spina bifida and other birth defects, and the fiber content helps relieve constipation. Broccoli's high beta-carotene content helps fortify your immune system and promotes clear skin. Broccoli is also a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins E and B6.
It is estimated that about 50 percent of Americans are infected with a bacterium known as H. pylori, which can cause ulcers and damage DNA. Eating broccoli sprouts has been found to suppress this potentially deadly bacterium and relieve the gastritis associated with it. Broccoli sprouts also provide 10-100 times the sulfur-containing phytonutrients as mature broccoli to detoxify carcinogens and boost enzymes.
When shopping for this nutritious vegetable, look for florets that are compact and uniform in color, whether they are purple, green or both, but make sure to avoid yellowing and bruises. Blossoming flowers are a sign of over-maturity. The stalks should be firm with no slimy spots and the attached leaves should not be wilted. Broccoli will last about one week if stored in an open plastic bag in the crisper, more quickly if it has been washed and water is still present. It will keep for up to a year if blanched and frozen. Organically-grown broccoli contains more nutrients than commercially grown varieties and lightly steaming or sautéing it for five minutes will help to retain nutrients.
Try sautéing broccoli with tomatoes and garlic to enhance its powerful cancer fighting properties and make a tasty dish. Steam and then sprinkle with lemon juice and sesame seeds for an easy side vegetable or add to omelets for breakfast. People suffering from thyroid problems should avoid broccoli and other foods that contain goitrogens as they can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland.