At CONTENT we love discovering the latest ‘superfood’ as much as the next health-conscious person. However, we do concede that while we search for the next best thing (usually exotic and impossible to pronounce), we tend to overlook the fantastic choices closer to home. So going forth, we vouch to explore some of the best seasonal fruit and vegetable around and this month, it’s the turn of broccoli: a true ‘superfood’, uniquely packed with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying micro-nutrients.
Why is broccoli good for you? Broccoli is a smart carb – high in protein, low in carbs – so it fills you up with the bulk of high-fiber, without adding the extra calories. Benefits of eating Broccoli are thought to include aiding digestion, preventing constipation, maintaining low blood sugar and helping to curb overeating.
Broccoli’s power comes from its powerful anti-oxidants. Studies show that it also helps prevent cancer*, as it contains chemicals, such as sulforaphane and glucoraphanin, which boost DNA repair cells. Broccoli also plays a preventive role in many of the chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension: by reducing inflammation, eating broccoli could also help lower the risk of stroke and heart disease.
NUTRITIONAL PROPERTIES: Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C (more than an orange), A and K, folic acid, calcium (as much as a glass of milk), potassium, iron and fibre. Vitamin C supports the immune system, and is great for hair and skin. Vitamin A combats free radicals, while calcium keeps the heart beating regularly and the bones healthy. The folate plays a strategic role in regulating cell growth, while iron is required for normal blood formation and oxygen transport around the body. Potassium assists nerve functions, while vitamin K is important for the blood coagulation process and to maintain proper bone density. Crucially for pregnant women, it plays a key role in the proper development of the fetus.
Broccoli are particularly helpful at this time of year, when our bodies become more deficient in vitamin D (mainly due to the lack of sunlight). Broccoli has an unusually strong combination of both vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin K, which helps keep our vitamin D metabolism in balance. Speaking of sun, they are also great at supporting sun-damaged skin. The glucoraphanin found in broccoli plays a lead part in counteracting sun damage.
- Broccoli is concentrated in phytonutrients- a special combination of ITCs (Isothiocyanates) and Glucosinolates-which can enhance detoxification. By regulating detox activity in our cells, the ITCs can help prevent insufficient detoxification of dangerous substances that threaten our cells.**
- Over 300 studies have shown that broccoli can help prevent illness: the research is strongest in showing decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer***, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and ovarian cancer. Recent studies have shown that an average of 1/2 cup of broccoli per day—only 22 calories’ worth of broccoli—is enough to provide some measurable benefits. A simple 2-cup serving twice a week would still meet this minimum average amount. There is no reason to shy away from 2-3 cup servings of broccoli when enjoying this cruciferous vegetable, especially if you want to optimize its cancer-preventing benefits. But make sure you’re not simply “decorating” your plate with broccoli stalk and floret.
- Studies have shown that regular intake of broccoli is optimal for eye health due to two carotenoids found in significant concentrations in broccoli—lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Broccoli is anti-inflammatory and a particularly rich source of a flavonoid called kaempferol. Recent research has shown the ability of kaempferol to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body.
So there, you have it: a real superfood!
USAGE TIPS: Personally, we love this super food both raw and cooked. However, Broccoli is a vegetable best cooked very briefly and can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if cooked by steaming. The fiber-related components in broccoli do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed, making it easier for bile acids to be excreted. As a result, it lowers your cholesterol levels. Raw broccoli still has cholesterol-lowering ability—just not as much.
If you have run out of ideas try these creative recipes for Broc Bites and Stem Slaw from ‘I Quite Sugar’ author Sarah Wilson.
*Broccoli sprouts: an exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Fahey JW, Zhang Y, Talalay P. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Sep 16;94(19):10367-72.
**Potential health benefits of broccoli- a chemico-biological overview. Vasanthi HR, Mukherjee S, Das DK. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2009 Jun;9(6):749-59.
***Effect of kaempferol on lipid peroxidation and antioxidant status in 1,2-dimethyl hydrazine induced colorectal carcinoma in rats. Nirmala P, Ramanathan M. Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Mar 1;654(1):75-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2010.11.034. Epub 2010 Dec 21.
Broccoli: How do you like yours? We’d love to hear from you about your favourite recipes! Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.