The healing powers of broccoli have been known and used for a long time. In fact, this cruciferous vegetable is considered as one of the most nutritious vegetables in existence along with spinach and kale. It first appeared in the Italian province of Campania, and was immediately recognized for its healing properties by the Ancient Romans.
Broccoli was brought in the United States by the Italian immigrants at the beginning of 20th century. It soon gained popularity among the settlers, and it became a household name in the average American diet. Statistics show that in the last 25 years, its consumption has marked a rise of over 940 percent. One of the reasons for this rapid increase might be that more and more studies bring to attention the health benefits it has for our body.
Packed with cancer-fighting isothiocyanates
Among the studies that confirm the health benefits of broccoli there are such showing that broccoli can be effective in the prevention and treatment of several types of cancer. One of them, published in Recent Patents on Endocrine Metabolic & Immune Drug Discovery in 2013, has conclusively demonstrated that cruciferous vegetables have anti-tumor activity.
Further on, the research concludes that the antioxidants found in broccoli, the isothiocyanates could “inhibit the cell viability of human cervical cancer cells, human pancreatic cancer cells, human hepatocellular carcinoma cells, human ovarian cancer cells, and have shown anti-inflammatory properties in the treatment of human T-cell leukemia cells.”
The presence of isothiocyanates in broccoli has also been identified as the most probable reason for its cancer fighting properties by a review published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2013. However, it is still unclear what effect these compounds might have in chemoprevention.
Full of vitamins C and K
Broccoli has so much vitamins C and K that it alone is sufficient to provide us with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of these two crucial vitamins. In fact, just one cup of chopped broccoli can supplement up to 135% of RDA of vitamin C, and 116% of vitamin K. Vitamin C is not only a potent antioxidant that helps in cleansing the harmful free radicals from our system but it prolongs aging by helping the body to synthesize collagen, which is essential for our connective tissues.
By the same token, Vitamin K is pivotal in blood coagulation and keeping our bones healthy. Lack of vitamin K in our body can lead to difficulties in formation of blood clots and result in excessive bleeding. The situation can deteriorate even further and result in some bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
Protects us from the toxins
Isothiocyanates play yet another important role in constituting the health image of broccoli. Namely, according to a study published in Clinical Immunology in March 2009 found they contain sulforaphane, a molecule capable for protecting us from respiratory inflammation. This in turn can greatly reduce the risk many respiratory conditions such as asthma.
The study found that human subjects exhibited increased the production of antioxidant enzymes under the influence of sulforaphane. This increases the ability of our body to fight of the free radicals inhaled from the polluted air and cigarette smoke. Having in mind that broccoli are one of the best natural sources of sulforaphane bearing isothiocyanates, they also make one of the best protections against environmental toxins.
Full of fiber and other nutrients
In addition to the above mentioned antioxidants and vitamins, broccoli provides a great source for other healthy nutrients, such as fiber. Dietary fiber is crucial in maintaining our gastrointestinal system healthy as it helps in cleansing the waste accumulated in our colon, regulates the bowel movement, and absorbs the sugar from the intestines.
And having in mind that just one cup of chopped broccoli can cover up to 9% of our RDA of dietary fiber, we can see where broccoli fits in this scheme. To continue this impressive list of health benefits brought to you by broccoli, let’s just mention that it is also packed with such essential minerals as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium and potassium.
In addition it has a high concentration of vitamin A, and helps in keeping our eyes healthy. Lastly, broccoli are not just health bombs, they are also perfect when you want to lose weight. Their high concentration of fiber makes them highly satiating, while at the same time they contain very few calories and fat, and almost no glycemic load.
As a final advice, broccoli are best consumed raw. According to a research conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute, exposing them to heat hinders the work isothiocyanates releasing enzyme, thus reducing the health effect of this magical ingredient.