Broccoli is a versatile, highly nutritious vegetable; in fact it tops the list of common vegetables for nutrient content. It is high in many valuable vitamins and minerals, and like all vegetables from the cruciferous family (such as cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts), broccoli contains potent anti-cancer substances.
Broccoli is an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A, mainly in the form of Beta-carotene. Broccoli also contains folic acid, calcium and chromium, a mineral that protects against diabetes. Broccoli is rich in many plant compounds such as indole and isothiocynates, which have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties.
There are over three hundred studies investigating the health benefits of sulfur-containing compounds such as sulforaphane glucosinolates, found in broccoli and, to a much greater extent, broccoli sprouts, in fighting breast and prostate cancers. Studies have shown that sulforaphane stopped the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells.
The growth of thyroid and goiter cancer cells slowed when they were treated with sulfur-containing substances in broccoli.
Sulforaphane in broccoli is associated with preventing the growth of H. pylori bacteria, often attributed to causing stomach ulcers and other ailments. Even strains of bacteria that have been found resistant to antibiotics were effectively reduced in the presence of broccoli.
Broccoli sprouts are one of the most concentrated sources the antioxidant sulforaphane glucosinolate. Scientists discovered that a handful of three-day-old broccoli sprouts contained as much as twenty to fifty times as much sulforaphane as 114 pounds of regular broccoli.
To sprout broccoli, place broccoli seeds in a glass jar with some water and cover them. Leave them overnight, then rinse and drain the water away. Continue rinsing and draining for 3-5 days until the seeds develop shoots and are ready to eat.
Tips for Using Broccoli
- Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked. However, cooking broccoli is linked to increasing its cancer-killing properties. Researchers from the US found that when broccoli was heated, the number of sulforaphanes that fight cancer was enhanced.
- Broccoli leaves are also edible, and contain concentrated amounts of nutrients.
- To retain the most nutrients when cooking broccoli, steam it or stir fry it lightly, so that it is still bright green in color.
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- Fahey JW et al. Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzo[a]pyrene-induced stomach tumors.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 May 28;99(11):7610-5.
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- Matusheski NV, Juvik JA, Jeffery EH. Heating decreases epithiospecifier protein activity and increases sulforaphane formation in broccoli. Phytochemistry. 2004 May;65(9):1273-81.