Although few may know it, broccoli is a fantastic super-food. One cup of cooked broccoli provides 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and if you steam it rather than boil it you retain even more vitamin C. The darker the florets/heads, the higher the amounts of both vitamin C and beta-carotene (what the body turns into vitamin A). The florets, in turn, are richer in beta-carotene than the stalks.
Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods that there is, with plenty of calcium and vitamin K in this wonder-green vegetable, broccoli is great to chow down on for very good bones! It is also an excellent source of vegetarian iron. It is also rich in folic acid, essential for pregnancy to prevent birth defects in the unborn baby. Broccoli contains compounds called sulphurophanes, these compounds fight cancer on many fronts. They make the body produce higher than normal amounts of ‘detoxifying’ enzymes. These enzymes speed the removal of carcinogens from the body.
They also actually kill abnormal cells, and it helps the body limit oxidation, the process that initiates many chronic diseases. The UK funded John Innes Research Centre has bred a strain of super-broccoli. These contain 100 times the normal level of sulphurophane. This compound is especially good at fighting colon cancer, which kills 25,000 people in the UK every year. Like cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts, broccoli contains other wonderful cancer-protecting compounds, such as indoles. These compounds offer protection because they help to prevent carcinogens from damaging DNA. They also block oestrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, inhibiting the growth of oestrogen-sensitive breast cancers.
Research done in 1992 claims that broccoli prevents the development of tumours by 60%, as well as reducing the size of tumours that do develop by 75%. Raw and cooked broccoli provides different anti-cancer phytonutrients. The raw vegetable has more vitamin C, but cooking makes the carotenoids more bio-available. One study showed that 2 servings a day of broccoli (or other cruciferous vegetables), may result in as much as a 50% reduction from the risk of certain types of cancers. And if you want to go one step further, germinating broccoli seeds, into sprouts and sprinkling them on your salad will do wonders for you. It is estimated that the sprouts provide 10-100 times the power of mature broccoli to neutralise carcinogens. I have focused on the anti-cancer properties of broccoli, but it doesn’t end there, it boosts the immune system, lowers the incidence of cataracts and supports cardiovascular health.
Broccoli is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean where it used to grow wild along the coast, it was then cultivated by the Romans and enthusiastically adopted by the Italians. Its name is derived from the Latin ‘brachium’ meaning ‘branch or arm’. Don’t forget to serve it with your Christmas Dinner…Merry Christmas!