Your mum was right when she told you, “you should have eaten your broccoli!” This tasty cruciferous vegetable packs the most nutritional punch of any vegetable and is quite literally considered a miracle food! It’s noteworthy nutrients range from vitamin’s C and A, as well as folic acid, calcium and plenty of fibre. Broccoli contains two important phytochemicals called indoles and isothiocyanates. Researchers from John Hopkins University School of Medicine isolated isothiocyanate’s from broccoli (called sulforaphane) and found it to increase the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that kill off cancer-causing agents.
Here is a list of 10 reasons why YOU should be eating more broccoli:
Helps Prevent Cancer
Broccoli contains a powerful antioxidant and anti-carcinogen that prevents the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancers. Researchers say that a serving of broccoli every day can reduce the risk of colon cancer by almost 50 percent! The galactose in broccoli fibre is particularly savvy at preventing cancer-causing proteins known as lectins from attaching themselves to the lining of the colon. The researchers noted that it is not simply fibre itself that helps prevent colon cancers, but the chemical compounds some plant fibres contain.
Broccoli is very rich in fibre, which is an important factor in keeping you fuller, longer, and helps curb any tendencies to overeat on foods that are not good for you.
Boosts Immune Health
Broccoli is incredibly rich in flavonoids as well as beta-carotene, zinc and selenium which strengthen our immune defence system. It is also rich in a chemical compound, 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM), which can actually stop the growth of certain cells and help boost the immune system. DIM helps activate the immune response, and the immune system in important in defending the body against many kinds of infections as well as cancer.
Fights Birth Defects
Folate contained in broccoli is perhaps the most important compound that protects the unborn child from birth defects (e.g., neural tube defects, or heart, limb and face defects). Folate helps to produce and maintain new cells of the body and is especially important during periods of fast cell growth (such as in pregnancy). Broccoli is also rich in vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients that are essential to the harmonious development of the fetus.
Helps with Diabetes
People with diabetes are up to five times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes, all of which are linked to damaged blood vessels. Sulforaphane in broccoli actually encourages the production of enzymes that protect blood vessels (see below), and reduces the number of reactive oxygen species (molecules that cause cell damage) by up to 73 percent! Eating broccoli could thus reverse the damage that diabetes inflicts on heart blood vessels.
Fights Heart Disease
Broccoli contains carotenoids lutein, B6 and folate which help prevent the risk of heart disease, stoke and atherosclerosis. Sulforaphane, a compound naturally found in broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables can help prevent inflammation in certain “high risk” arterial areas (such as areas with plaque build up). Sulforaphane activates a naturally protective protein of these “high risk” areas called Nrf2 which is normally inactive. This provides a possible mechanism by which eating vegetables protects against heart disease.
Promotes Healthy Bones
Broccoli is very rich in calcium (it contains more calcium than most dairy), as well as vitamin K which promotes bone health and lowers your risk for developing osteoporosis. Green vegetables which are high in vitamin K have been linked to greater bone density and reduced bone loss in early post-menopausal women. Vitamin K helps enhance natural stores of osteocalcin, which helps give bones their ability to resist fracture.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Calcium, potassium, and magnesium, all vital components of broccoli help regulate blood pressure. Not only that, but sulforaphane compounds in broccoli may also be able to reduce risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke due to increased antioxidant defence mechanisms, lowered inflammatory response and improved cardiovascular health. Antioxidant defences may be boosted by specific chemicals known as Phase 2 protein inducers, which are primarily activated by sulforaphane.
The high levels of vitamin C in broccoli act as a great antioxidant and helps prevent colds. Vitamin C is also an effective antihistamine and reduces levels of inflammation so it helps ease the discomfort of the common cold. A recent study also found that broccoli helps boost aging immune systems – the chemical compound called sulforaphane in broccoli switches on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells which then combat the damaging effects of free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease and illness.
Broccoli has been found to reduce the levels of the female hormone estrogen and thereby increases testosterone levels. This is because broccoli is a powerful estradiol blocker (done by special phytochemicals in broccoli called indoles, specifically indole-3-carbinol (I3C)). I3C has been extensively studied for its estradiol-lowering effects in women in the hopes of preventing breast cancer. Men can also achieve the same effect by lowering their risk for prostate cancer. Elevated estrogen levels can also lead to fat accumulation and interfere with muscle growth – by consuming broccoli and helping to lower unhealthy levels of estrogen, you may even (at the same time) keep your body in better shape.