Originally published November 27 2008
Half-a-Dozen Healthy Reasons for Eating More of the Green Stuff
by Al G Smith
(NaturalNews) Broccoli is steadily carving itself a reputation as a real 'super-food'. Far from being a strange pill-full of processed powders that contains extracts of exotic plants from unknown areas of the deep-jungle – broccoli and its relatives in the vegetable family Cruciferae – can be found in regular abundance at your nearest green-grocery store. Yet studies continue to confirm that broccoli is indeed a highly healthful foodstuff, that ought to feature daily on the diets of the health conscious diner.
Cruciferous vegetables, which are also know taxonomically as belonging to the genus Brassica (Brassicaceae) form a large group of popularly farmed and eaten vegetables the different varieties of which feature on plates around the world. Most commonly consumed in the West, besides broccoli are cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, mustard seed and other cress, rocket and turnip, amongst others.
In general, brassicas are widely considered some of the healthiest vegetables you can consume. They have long been known to contain worthwhile amounts of vitamin C and dietary fiber. But over recent years the discovery of various other healthful components in broccoli and its cruciferous cousins, have propelled these common-or-garden veggies, ever more regularly, into the 'natural health' spotlight. Here are just 'six-of-the-best' reasons to make sure that you and your family are regularly crunching on crucifers and brunching on brassicas:
1.DIM: Broccoli in particular has been shown to contain chemicals known as glucosinolate that help to form an important compound – diindolylmethane or DIM. Various studies have indicated that DIM appears to be effective in reducing a variety of health risks, in particular the possibility of developing certain cancers. Studies that have indicated the positive role of this component of broccoli in halting and/or slowing the development of prostate cancer, amongst others. DIM evidently induces higher levels of reactive oxygen that can help to crush free radicals and protect the system from cell-damage and degeneration.
2.Sulforaphane: The glucosinolates in brassicas are also known to be integral in the formation of the compound Sulforaphane, which has received increasing attention for its apparently potent anti-cancer properties. Emily Ho a research scientist at the Linus Pauling Institute stated: "The compound (sulforaphane) in broccoli may be one of the strongest anti-cancer fighters we have...". Other studies have also indicated that Sulforaphane activates a protein in the human body called nrf2, which reduces oxidative stress. The preservation of oxygen and consequent reduction of free radicals, actions that seems to be undertaken by sulforaphane, can reduce the damage caused to the arteries and the heart by diseases such as diabetes. This potent derivative of broccoli can, it seems, effectively rejuvenate the immune system and reduces the impact of aging.
3.Isothiocyanates: These are a group of phtyo-chemicals that are also well-known as have cancer-fighting properties. Research has implied that the isothiocyanates in broccoli sprouts may play a role in preventing bladder cancer.
4.Lignan: Broccoli is also a good source of lignan, which is also derived from flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds amongst others. Lignan is a phytonutrient that can be converted by the body into mammalian lignan. Studies have shown that lignan may play a role in substantially reducing the risk of developing breast cancer.
5.Thioredoxin: Broccoli contains thioredoxin which belongs to an important family of proteins that have been shown to have properties that could preserve health. Animal studies indicate that thioredoxin can reduce the deterioration caused by oxygen-deficiency that can damage heart muscles.
6.Selenium: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are also sources of Selenium – an essential micro-nutrient that is necessary for healthy cells, and which also plays an important role in normal thyroid function. The thyroid is one of the glands of the endocrine system that is frequently overlooked as a factor that may be behind many 'difficult to diagnose' symptoms – so the better it is kept working the better it is for overall health.
Research has also intimated that broccoli and other brassicas may not only prove to play a preventative role in many cancers and other degenerative diseases, but their powerful health-promoting derivatives may ultimately prove to be effective treatments, too. In order to benefit from making more of the green stuff, various studies suggest as a guide that it is a good idea to incorporate calciferous vegetables, and particularly broccoli, in your diet at least two or three times a week – if not more often.
Although there is some conflicting advice about broccoli preparation, to glean the greatest health benefit, it seems that on balance the best way to prepare broccoli is to steam it lightly about 3 to 4 minutes—until it is just tough-tender or 'al dente'. This seems to have least negative effect on the best of the health-protecting constituents and actually increases the availability of some factors.
A free eBook has just been launched by the publishers of http://www.GoNaturalandOrganic.com that includes a collection of recent research summaries that provide more in-depth information about the value of brassicas and particularly broccoli in the diet, it can be claimed at no cost here:
In closing it would be unfair not to note that as with all things in life nothing is perfect. Indeed nature is an amazingly cleverly balanced holistic system that seems to provide a solution to any health problem that might arise. But the human tendency to assume that "you can't have too much of a good thing" – or that "one is good, but two is better" - can rarely if ever be supported by 'natural' fact. This is also the case for Broccoli and the other cruciferous vegetables. For the brassica family are known to have the ability to have a negative impact on thyroid health if consumed in too great a quantity. This is because they contain chemicals that have an inhibiting effect on iodine absorption and utilization, which is why these constituents are referred to as Goitrogens as they could trigger hypothyroidism and goitre-development.
These 'health supporting' veggies have also come under fire for having been implicated in some pharmacological drug interactions. That is, the components of broccoli and its peers can apparently speed up the process of some pharmaceutical drug ingestion, which could in turn upset certain treatment regimes.
Naturally these 'minor negatives' could just be interpreted as nature's own way of suggesting that we 'take all things in moderation' and that perhaps man-made pharmacology is not always the answer to a health issue. Could nature be trying to tell us that it is better to consume a portion of broccoli a day than to pop-a-pill, perhaps? Especially if that portion-a-day ultimately negates the need for pills in the first place...now that really would upset the pharmaceutical companies!
About the authorAl G Smith MSc BSc - Has been working and teaching in the food related sector for over 30 years and is currently a website publisher (http://www.gonaturalandorganic.com) and Independent Representative for the World's first extensive range of Certified Organic skin care and cosmetics (http://www.saferalternative.com).
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