You simply cannot overestimate the health benefits of broccoli. Though we hate to admit it, mom was spot on when she said that this green vegetable, which resembles a miniature bonsai tree, is the best thing since sliced bread. As a kid, sliced bread seemed a whole lot better than broccoli.
We also knew as a kid, that broccoli wasn't one of our favourite veggies. It wasn't until much later that we discovered how important this green plant would be for our health. But back then, we didn't know this cruciferous family member could help a host of health issues, including heart disease and cancer.
Broccoli can certainly boast about its power as a cancer fighter due in part to its two-pronged attack. It contains two extremely important chemical compounds - Sulforaphane and Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) that help sweep up cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to harm your body.
While sulforaphane is boosting the production of cancer blocking enzymes, Indole-3-Carbinol offers protection on another boundary, by working against hormone-induced cancers. Indole-3-Carbinol is also found in two other vegetables, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. All three veggies are particularly effective against breast cancer. Indole-3-Carbinol has been found to lower the levels of harmful estrogens that can promote tumour growth in hormone-sensitive cells such as those in breast cells.
The way you prepare broccoli and what you eat with it can make a huge difference to your body's ability to absorb its cancer-fighting properties. Boiling broccoli is not the way to go as too many of its nutrients are lost during the cooking process. A much better option is to simply steam the vegetable, but not for more than a few minutes. You should also try to eat broccoli three to four times a week.
If you ever suffer from stress, anxiety, panic attacks or even depression, there is some good news, as broccoli together with spinach are excellent sources of magnesium. Both these vegetables help your body cope with stress levels and induce a calm state. They are also packed with vitamin B9 (folic acid) known to have a calming effect. As an adult, you need 300 to 400 micrograms of vitamin B9 a day. A cup of steamed broccoli will provide you with a third of that and a cup of spinach provides 260 mcg.
Another chemical compound found solely in broccoli helps maintain the health of the tiny batteries that power cells in your body. This chemical improves metabolism and can reset cellular processes that are disrupted as we age. So remember to bulk up on broccoli when you next go grocery shopping.
Besides the fact that broccoli has cancer-fighting properties, it can also protect you from a whole range of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. Because broccoli is rich in antioxidants called glucoraphanin, which boosts heart health, it can also give your immune system a new lease of life so that your body can resist the harmful effects of free radicals.
Is it no wonder that researchers place broccoli at the top of their list when it comes to nutritional superstars. And it's no wonder that people who eat lots of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are protected from every kind of cancer. Broccoli and other crucifers are particularly helpful when it comes to preventing breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
Broccoli isn't called the king of crucifers for nothing because besides containing compounds such as Sulforaphane and Indole-3-Carbinol, it also contains the antioxidant glucoraphanin as well as the antioxidant beta-carotene, a nutrient which the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps prevent disease by sweeping up harmful, cell-damaging molecules that naturally accumulate in your body. A half-cup of broccoli will provide you with about 0.7 milligrams which in turn, gives you up to twelve per cent of the daily recommended amount.
Broccoli also contains a variety of other nutrients, each of which can greatly help fend off a whole host of conditions from heart disease to osteoporosis. Broccoli also ranks high in the stakes as a great source of calcium and the single most important nutrient women need to keep osteoporosis at bay. Broccoli is also rich in folate, another nutrient that's essential for normal tissue growth. Studies have shown that folate may also help protect women against heart disease, cancer and birth defects. Women who take birth control pills are often low in this vital nutrient,
It's also extremely wise to make broccoli your number one choice of nutrient efficient fuel if you want to keep your digestive system running as smooth as possible and in tip-top condition. A half-cup of broccoli will provide you with 2 grams of fibre, which is a proven protector against constipation, colon cancer, haemorrhoids, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. While you should eat at least one serving of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, reach for broccoli whenever you can.
It's important not to overcook your broccoli because excessive heating will eventually destroy many of its nutrients. However, gentle cooking will help release some of its protective compounds. While carotenoids like beta-carotene are preserved in the heating process, indoles like Indole-3-Carbinol, don't fair well with heat. The best way to cook broccoli is to simply steam a few florets or add them to a stir fry with other veggies. Microwaving broccoli is okay, though I don't personally recommend it.
One of the problems with cooking broccoli is its consistency, or more specifically, a lack thereof. Because broccoli consists of tough stalks and tender florets, the result often ends up with some parts either overdone or underdone. To ensure even cooking, it's always best to cut your broccoli into little spears.
You should first cut and discard the thick, woody part of the stalk, generally from the bottom up where the broccoli florets begin to branch off. Then cut any large florets and stems in half lengthwise. If you find that the stems are still too tough to eat, either trim them a little further up from the bottom or simply peel them before lightly cooking.
While the broccoli you purchase at the supermarket or farmer's market is mostly deep green, it can in some cases, appear almost deep purple. And that's a good thing because the darker the colour means that the broccoli has more beta-carotene. Don't buy broccoli if it has a yellowish colour because that would indicate it's as old as the hills and its nutritional clock is past its prime.
Did you know that you can also get broccoli sprouts, though they are much harder to come by at your local greengrocer? But if you do happen to find them, don't hesitate to purchase some. Three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain up to 50 times more protective substances than its more mature cousin.
While it's important to have as much as half your dinner plate filled with a variety of vegetables to ensure you get enough vitamins, minerals and fibre to keep your system in peak condition, how the heck do you get your kids to follow by example. We all know that most kids hate having to eat their vegetables, let alone anything that looks like broccoli.
Have you thought about turning vegetables into a game or making faces with veggies by forming different shapes? Maybe to represent some of their favourite things, if that's possible. On the other hand, if kids don't go along with your scheme, don't force the issue. Kids are more likely to avoid eating their veggies if you get angry at them for refusing.
Please take note that the information on this site is designed for educational purposes and is intended solely for general readership. The contents herein are not intended to offer any personal medical advice or to diagnose any health issues you may have. This information is also by no means a substitute for medical care by a licensed healthcare provider. For that, you'd need to consult your medical doctor or a health care practitioner for any advice should you require prescription medication.