When your Mother was insisting that you ate your broccoli and other vegetables she wasn’t wrong. However, for many of us as children the last thing we wanted to do was eat the weird looking green mini-trees on the plate, and it was usually only through bribery that they were eventually consumed. Of course it didn’t help that if you were from a certain era the vegetables literally had the life cooked out of them, and were seconds away from becoming soup. This not aiding any persuasive factors of them being good for us! However, whilst never a favourite amongst kids, not to mention some vegetable traumatised adults, broccoli is packed full of nutrients such as isothiocyanates, and this cruciferous vegetable, along with many others, hold the prestigious label of being a superfood.
So let us take a look in more detail at how this vegetable has earned this prestigious status and dive into some of the health benefits.
Supports Liver Detoxification
Liver detoxification is a two phase process during which toxins and contaminates that are harmful to the body are eliminated. You can learn more about this process by heading on over to the science pages where further information is detailed. Broccoli supports this process as it contains a trio of phytochemicals called Glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucobrassicin. These have been identified by scientists as being particularly beneficial detoxification agents. The trio is able to enhance all steps in the body’s natural detoxification process, including activation, neutralization, and elimination of unwanted contaminants.
So maybe next time you have a few too many cocktails, reach for the broccoli rather than the paracetamol!
Antioxidants are chemicals that can be found in the human body, or in plants and fruits. Broccoli contains antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C & E, along with phytonutrients such as kaempferol and quercetin. These are essential for neutralising free radicals that we not only come into contact with from the outside, but those that are also created within us as a result of biochemical processes. Broccoli is found to have concentrated levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotenes from Vitamin A, that, from just 2-3 cups a day can significantly raise blood levels. If the damaging free radicals are not neutralised, cells can be damaged and ultimately lead to the development of cancer. An intake of 250g a day was found to reduce inflammatory markers in young smokers and increase blood levels of folate and carotenoids, so if you have ever smoked then perhaps you should give serious consideration to increasing your intake of broccoli!
In addition to this, bioactive sulforaphanes induce the pathway known as NRF2. For those of us who are not into biochemistry, this pathway activates many antioxidants in our body and is said to be the master regulator of cell survival and therefore cancer preventative.
Type 2 Diabetes
Oxidative stress is highly associated with Type 2 diabetic individuals due to the levels of glucose and lipids that the disease exhibits. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the manufacture of free radicals, and the body’s ability to detoxify them. The naturally occurring chemicals in broccoli, flavonol glycosides and hydroxycinnamic acid, are responsible for antioxidant protection that helps combat free radical tissue damage. Thus reducing life threatening cardiovascular complications, or other long term health issues.
,According to a recent study from The University of Gothenburg, published in the Journal Science Translation Medicine, broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients that can prevent the risk of Diabetes Type 2 and Obesity. The sulforaphanes found in broccoli, in particular broccoli sprouts, were found to significantly reduce glucose blood levels. This finding poising the hypothesis that the extract could be used as a replacement for metformin, the current first line treatment for diabetes type 2 treatments.
Prevention of Cancer
Various scientists have found that broccoli can help prevent or reduce the risk of developing cancer. This is due to one compound known as Isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates contain a high amount of Sulphur, and can also be found in other cruciferous vegetables such as Kale and cauliflower.
Isothiocyanates hamper the activation of carcinogens, as well as aid in their removal from the body. Numerous studies have revealed that these compounds, especially help in the prevention of gastrointestinal tract cancers, such as lung cancer.
Additionally, according to The American Cancer Society, isothiocyanates also have an effect on estrogen levels. Hence, they also help reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.
Although the chemoprotective factors of the extracts from broccoli seem to vary from organ to organ, an area that requires further research, there is no doubt that by just increasing your broccoli intake daily there is a significant increase in circulating antioxidants, this reducing oxidative stress and thus the risk of developing cancer.
The list of benefits to our health by consuming this little wonder vegetable goes on and on. Digestive health is supported by the dietary fibre and the isothiocyantes. Dietary fibre is important to regulate the speed at which food travels through the colon, the bacterial diversity, and the health of the cell wall. Vitamin A and Vitamin K also support the metabolism of Vitamins D, therefore maintaining higher levels. Broccoli has been found to reduce levels of LDL Cholesterol and the B Vitamins support heart health by lowering homocysteine levels in our blood. Homocysteine is a known contributor to atherosclerosis and a risk factor for alzheimers.
In conclusion, it is clear from the above-outlined benefits, that it broccoli should be an essential part of our daily diet, with sprouting broccoli showing even more promising results. So get creative on how to include them on the menu. Juice them, stir fry them, smoothie them, or blanch them, anything but cook them to death! In fact, lightly steamed is the best way that you can consume them. Whichever your preference, just make sure you get them in your diet!