If you ask any nutritionist, doctor, naturopath or nutrition expert to name his personal list of the ten most healthy foods, then cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli will certainly appear on this list.
And this is not surprising, given the fact that broccoli is a real superfood or superfood. It includes all kinds of useful substances: antioxidants, fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals. In the article, we will consider in detail the facts about how broccoli is useful, its medicinal properties for human health.
The healing properties of broccoli
Initially, broccoli was grown as a food product in the northern regions of the Mediterranean, starting from about the sixth century BC. Back in the Roman Empire, broccoli was considered a unique valuable food when it came to health promotion and longevity. Research links broccoli and cruciferous vegetables to many health benefits, including:
- Cancer prevention
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
- Slowing the body’s aging processes
- Improving the quality of teeth and gums
- Improving bone health
- Skin Aging Prevention
- Better Wound Healing
- Improving eye health
- Blood purification
- Liver protection
- Establish a balanced level of pH and blood acidity
- Improving the functioning of hormonal health and adrenal glands
- Fertility improvement
- Increased Metabolism and Weight Control
- Improving cognitive function, even in old age
Like most green cruciferous vegetables, broccoli really does its job delightfully when it comes to cancer prevention. It is known that to a large extent you can effectively prevent cancer through your diet, and the protective properties of broccoli against cancer have been proven many times in many studies. Even the American Cancer Society recommends consuming broccoli and similar cruciferous vegetables several times a week to better protect the body against tumor diseases. Consuming broccoli improves your body’s ability to fight cancer in a variety of ways, including providing antioxidants, regulating enzymes, and controlling apoptosis and cell cycles ( 1 ).
Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family (Brassica) – the same family that includes other greens, such as white cabbage , cauliflower, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and others. These nutrient-rich vegetables are excellent sources of a family of phytochemicals called isothiocyanates. In addition to isothiocyanates, broccoli also contains sulforaphs and indoles – two types of strong antioxidants and stimulants of detoxifying enzymes that protect the structure of DNA ( 2 ).
Broccoli cabbage is also full of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B6, which helps for heart health and the central nervous system. Broccoli nourishes heart health by preventing heart attacks and strokes and keeping arteries transparent, in addition to correcting high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Broccoli even has advantages when it comes to your appearance. The high levels of vitamin A in broccoli ensures healthy skin, eye health and even good fertility. And a vitamin A derivative found in broccoli, beta-carotene, is essential for liver health, immune function, and has been proven to fight cancer.
Broccoli is technically an edible green plant in the Cabbage family, which, in turn, is part of a larger plant family called Cruciferous (Brassica oleracea). Since broccoli has much in common with cabbage in terms of composition and useful properties, the word broccoli itself is derived from the Italian plural of broccoli, which means “blooming cabbage comb”.
In addition to the proven ability to fight cancer, broccoli is considered a very nutritious vegetable containing a huge amount of vitamins and minerals. As you can see below, broccoli is a natural source of dietary fiber, plant protein, vitamin K, A, C and other beneficial substances.
One cup of cooked broccoli (100 gr.) Contains:
Calories : 55 kcal
Protein : 4 gr.
Fiber : 5 gr.
Fat : 0 gr.
Vitamin K: 100 mcg (276%)
Vitamin C : 101 mg (168%)
Vitamin A : 120 mg (48%)
Folic acid : 168 mcg (42%)
Vitamin B6 : 0.4 mg (16%)
Manganese : 0 4 mg (16%)
Potassium : 457 mg (14%)
Phosphorus : 105 mg (10%)
Magnesium : 33 mg (8%)
Calcium : 62 mg (6%)
Why Broccoli Cabbage Is Good: 7 Health Benefits
Let us consider in more detail the beneficial properties of broccoli.
1. Has a serious antitumor effect.
We have already indicated that broccoli is one of the best natural treatments for cancer and sources of isothiocyanate compounds that fight cancer cells and other toxins in the body, reducing oxidative stress and neutralizing carcinogens ( 4 ). Isothiocyanate compounds are able to reduce the harmful effects of toxins due to the use of low-quality foods, environmental influences, heavy metals and the aging process.
Isothiocyanates work by stimulating the release of special “killer carcinogen chemicals” that accelerate the removal of toxins from the body. Many studies show that highly antioxidant foods such as cruciferous vegetables inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors and stop DNA damage, which is why they are known to significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer of the colon, prostate, gastrointestinal tract, breast, lung and other types of cancer.
In addition to high levels of isothiocyanates, broccoli is useful for cancer prevention due to its high level of phytochemical called sulforaphane. This compound prevents disease, increases the activation of enzymes known as phase 2 enzymes, which actively fight toxins in the body ( 5 ). In fact, sulforaphane is the most potent inducer of phase 2 enzymes of any known phytochemical and helps reduce the risk of some of the deadliest forms of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of breast and cervical cancer, which makes them especially important for women. This is due to their effect on estrogen in the body: they increase the ratio of good estrogen metabolites (which are not related to cancer growth) to potentially dangerous metabolites, which are often the cause of cancer. This useful property of broccoli cabbage is similarly valid for men, preventing the growth of “bad” estrogens.
2. Makes bones strong
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are necessary for healthy bones, nails and teeth. High levels of vitamin K and iron are vital for maintaining bone mineral density (in addition to many other functions in the body, such as a healthy circulatory system and overall vitality).
Some even say that vitamin K strengthens bones better than calcium, and only one cup of broccoli provides more than 270% of your daily vitamin K requirement! In human studies, there is evidence that vitamin K and vitamin D work together to positively influence bone metabolism and that vitamin K deficiency or vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of bone related diseases. Vitamin K also positively affects calcium balance, a key mineral in bone metabolism ( 6 ).
Calcium found in broccoli is also crucial in preventing calcium deficiency in the body. It is also needed to create and maintain strong teeth and bones – especially at an older age, when people become more susceptible to bone fractures and loss of bone density. If your body does not get enough calcium, it steals calcium from your bones to keep it constant in your blood, so adding more broccoli to your diet is a natural way to treat and prevent osteoporosis.
3. Supports heart health
Epidemiological studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables correlates with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease ( 7 , 8 ). The high fiber content of broccoli is great for lowering cholesterol in a natural and quick way. This prevents excess cholesterol from entering the bloodstream and protects against the appearance of cholesterol “plaques”.
Sulforaphane in broccoli can also regulate blood pressure: lowering high and raising low. It also improves kidney function.
Another compound in broccoli cabbage, called lutein, can prevent thickening of the arteries and the accumulation of “plaques” that can lead to heart failure.
Broccoli also contains high levels of minerals that are important for reducing inflammation, fighting free radicals and protecting against cardiovascular diseases. These include calcium, potassium and magnesium. For example, it is well known that calcium plays a role in maintaining healthy and strong bones, but also helps the blood to thicken and maintain proper muscle and nerve function.
4. Improves bowel and digestion
In addition to enhancing heart health, high fiber foods also keep your digestive system in good and healthy condition. High fiber foods help:
- regular bowel movement;
- improving the health of the small and large intestines;
- Alkalization of the digestive tract (which increases immunity);
- preventing constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders.
Isothiocyanate sulforaphane compounds, abundantly found in broccoli, also excellently fight harmful bacteria in the intestines and prevent oxidation, which can lead to cancer in the digestive organs.
Studies conducted by the Clinical Pharmacology Department of Tokyo University of Science have shown that when mice are often fed broccoli, they experience decreased colonization of bacteria in the stomach, decreased expression of tumor growth and inflammation, and higher antioxidant activity that enhances immunity ( 9 ).
Broccoli cabbage also supports the body’s natural detoxification processes, thanks to its phytonutrients glucoraphanin, gluconasturcin and glucobrassicin, which help the liver cleanse the blood.
5. Supports eye health
A lesser-known advantage of broccoli is how it can save you age-related problems. Broccoli has a positive effect on eye health, thanks to its high levels of carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, which are crucial for eye health and maintaining good vision in old age. They help protect night vision and stop damage to the retina of the eye and cornea caused by ultraviolet light.
A diet high in foods, such as broccoli, which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C and A, is a natural remedy for macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in older people.
6. Helps make skin healthy
Want to maintain healthy, youthful skin even at an older age? Eat more broccoli! Thanks to sulforaphane, which helps repair skin damage, eating broccoli will give a well-groomed appearance and a healthy skin feel. High levels of vitamin A and vitamin C prevent collagen breakdown, skin cancer, damage from sun exposure, wrinkles and skin inflammation.
7. Helps to lose weight
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious foods on Earth.
One cup of cooked broccoli has more than 50 calories, a lot of dietary fiber, vegetable protein and various useful phytochemicals. Broccoli, a high-fiber, complex carbohydrate, is a great choice to maintain a balanced blood sugar level, constant energy, and help you lose weight.
Want to know the secret to lose weight fast? Eat large amounts of low-calorie, high-nutrient foods. Broccoli sprouts create a feeling of satiety, as it contains a lot of water and fiber, which swell in the stomach and create a feeling of fullness. At the same time, you have consumed few calories, but you are satisfied and do not want to eat more.
A bit of broccoli history
Broccoli has been consumed and appreciated by Italians for many centuries. Broccoli is a product that originally appeared in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. In addition, the history of broccoli is associated with the ancient Romans, for whom this cruciferous vegetable was one of the main foods in the diet. Broccoli was first brought to England in the mid-18th century, and then Italian immigrants were also transported to the United States. But until the 1920s, few people heard about broccoli, which is surprising when you consider how popular this vegetable is today.
Although broccoli can be considered an unconventional and new vegetable, today this product is consumed all over the world. Broccoli dishes exist in every cuisine, from Indian and Japanese to American and French. The largest producers of broccoli at the moment are China, India, Italy, Mexico, France, Poland and the USA.
Many different species are eaten around the world, including Chinese broccoli and rapini (called rabe broccoli in the USA). Other less common types include Tenderstem broccoli (which is a mix between broccoli and Chinese broccoli) and Beneffort, which is a rare variety of cross-diluted broccoli containing two to three times more glucoraphanin compounds than standard broccoli.
How to choose and cook broccoli
It is important, when possible, to buy natural broccoli, because it is one of the most chemically sprayed vegetables in the world. Although you can always find broccoli, raw and fresh, at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, buying frozen organic broccoli is also a good option and can save you some money.
Broccoli or tree-like flowers are the most popular parts to eat, but the whole vegetable is completely edible and full of nutrients. Many health experts recommend eating stems, as they can be considered high fiber foods, and there is also leafy greens attached to stems that contain high levels of nutrients.
Broccoli is good to eat raw, although sometimes an unprepared vegetable can cause pain in the stomach. The nutrients in broccoli can be sensitive to high-temperature cooking, so it is best to cook broccoli at low temperatures and for a short period of time, when possible.
The best way to cook broccoli is to put the cabbage in a pan, add some olive oil and water and sauté or simmer for 10 minutes until it is soft and its flavor improves. This is a great way to maintain maximum nutrient levels.
Now you know what broccoli is good for. This is one of the most valuable and harmless vegetables on the planet. Therefore, it is recommended to include it in the diet for all people, without exception.