The Benefits Of Eating Broccoli

Published: 25th February 2009
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killer of Americans-most scientists have come to recognize that cancer might well be more easily prevented than cured.

Diet is the best tool we all have at hand to protect ourselves from developing cancer. We know that a typical Western diet plays a major role in the development of cancers and we know that at least 30 percent of all cancers are believed to have a dietary component. And this is good news.
Population studies first pointed to the role that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables might play in cancer prevention. One ten-year study, published by the Harvard School of Public Health, of 47,909 men showed an inverse relationship between the consumption of cruciferous vegetables and the development of bladder cancer. Broccoli and cabbage seemed to provide the greatest protection. Countless studies have confirmed these findings. As long ago as 1982, the National Research Council on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer found that "there is sufficient epidemiological evidence to suggest that consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduction in cancer."

A very recent meta-analysis, which reviewed the results of eighty-seven studies, confirmed once again that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables lower the risk of cancer. As little as 10 grams a day (less than 1/8 cup of chopped raw cabbage or chopped raw broccoli) can have a significant effect on your risk for developing cancer. Indeed, eating broccoli or its relatives is like getting a natural dose of chemoprevention.
One study showed that eating about two servings a day of leafy green vegetables may result in as much as a 50 percent reduction in the risk for certain types of cancers. While all crucifers seem to be effective in fighting cancer, cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts seem to be the most powerful. Just 1/2 a cup of broccoli a day will protect you from a number of cancers, particularly cancers of the lung, stomach, colon, and rectum. No wonder broccoli is number one on the National Cancer Institute's list of nutrition superstars.

The particular compounds in broccoli that are so effective include the phytochemicals, sulforaphane, and the indoles. Sulforaphane is a remarkably potent compound that fights cancer on a number of levels. It increases the enzymes that help rid the body of carcinogens, and actually kills abnormal cells. It helps the body limit oxidation-the process that initiates many chronic diseases-at the cellular level. Indoles work to combat cancer through their effect on estrogen. They block estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, inhibiting the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancers. The most important indole in broccoli-indole-3-carbinol, or I3C-is thought to be an especially effective breast cancer prevention agent.
Researchers estimate that broccoli sprouts provide ten to one hundred times the power of mature broccoli to neutralize carcinogens. A sprinkling of broccoli sprouts in your salad or on your sandwich can do more than even a couple of broccoli spears. This is especially good news for those few people-particularly children-who refuse to eat broccoli. Check to learn more about this nutrition-packed veggie.
If broccoli did nothing but protect us from cancer, that would be enough, but this mighty vegetable works on other fronts as well.

Broccoli and its related crucifers are rich in folate, the B vitamin that is essential to preventing birth defects. Neural tube defects such as spina bifida have been linked to folic acid deficiency in pregnancy. A single cup of raw, chopped broccoli provides more than 50 milligrams of folate (the plant form of folic acid). Folate also is active in helping to remove homocysteine from the circulatory system; high levels of homocysteine are associated with cardiovascular disease. Folate also plays a role in cancer prevention. Interestingly, folic-acid deficiency may be the most common vitamin deficiency in the world.

We all know how common cataracts are in our aging population. Broccoli can help here too! Broccoli is rich in the powerful phytochemical carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin (as well as vitamin C). Both of these carotenoids are concentrated in the lens and retina of the eye. One study found that people who ate broccoli more than twice weekly had a 23 percent lower risk of cataracts when compared to those who ate broccoli less than once a month. Lutein/zeaxanthin and vitamin C also serve to protect the eyes from the free-radical damage done to the eyes by ultraviolet light.

Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables are also bone builders. One cup of raw broccoli provides 41 milligrams of calcium along with 79 milligrams of vitamin C, which promotes the absorption of calcium. Whole milk and other full-fat dairy products, long touted as the main sources of calcium, contain no vitamin C and are often loaded with saturated fat and many more calories than the 25 in 1 cup of raw, chopped broccoli. Broccoli also supplies a significant portion of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting, and also contributes to bone health.

Broccoli is a great source of the flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, folate, and potassium that help prevent heart disease. It also provides generous amounts of fibre, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, which promote cardiovascular health. Broccoli is one of the few vegetables, along with spinach, that are relatively high in coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a fat-soluble antioxidant that is a major contributor to the production of energy in our bodies. At least in people with diagnosed heart disease, CoQ10 may play a cardio-protective role.

About 25 percent of the population inherit an aversion to the bitter taste of cruciferous vegetables. If this describes you, add salt, it makes them taste sweeter. Use them in a stir-fry with low-sodium soy sauce or add them to casseroles and lasagnes.

For tips on beans calories and edamame beans, visit the Fruits And Vegetables website.

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