Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable along with cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, and others. In fact, they are all variations of the same original plant. In recent years, the potential health benefits of cruciferous vegetables have had a spotlight shone on them, both in mass media and in scientific research. These health benefits are due both to the nutrients that can be found in these vegetables and also to the non-nutrient bioactive compounds they contain. It is these bioactive compounds that have drawn so much attention to broccoli nutrition, and which can make these vegetables be considered a superfood.
In terms of nutrition, broccoli is an excellent source of many important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Broccoli contains high levels of protein, which is important for the muscles to be able to grow and repair properly, and for the production of hormones, enzymes, and hemoglobin. Broccoli is also a good source of carbohydrates but contains little to no fat, so is a good option for those at risk of heart disease. As well as this, it contains important vitamins such as E, C, K, folic acid, and provitamin A carotenoids. In particular, one cup of broccoli can provide you with 90% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C and 77% of your vitamin K. Many important minerals are also present, such as iron, calcium, selenium, copper, manganese, and zinc. The health benefits of these vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are wide-ranging and can include the prevention of anemia (iron), strengthening of the immune system (vitamin C), prevention of cardiovascular disease (vitamin E), prevention of birth defects such as spina bifida (folic acid), and improving blood clotting (vitamin K)
Broccoli is a functional food, which is a food that contains enough bioactive compounds to prevent or delay chronic disease. One of these compounds is flavonoids. These compounds have a wide range of health benefits. They have the ability to scavenge free radicals, which can be protective against cancer as free radicals can be responsible for cancer formation. They are also: 1) antibacterial, which can reduce the risk of infectious diseases; 2) antithrombotic, which can protect against blood clots; 3) anti-inflammatory, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer; and 4) anticarcinogenic.
The bioactive compound that has received the most attention in recent years is glucosinolates (GSL), which is a sulfur-containing compound that results in isothiocyanates. The health benefits that GSLs can provide are remarkable. They can kill fungal infections, destroy bacteria, and can kill ringworm, but it is their potential chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic benefits that have made them the focus of a large amount of research. There is an inverse relationship between the number of cruciferous vegetables in the diet and the risk of colorectal, pancreatic, lung, breast, gastrointestinal, and ovarian cancer. In other words, the more of these vegetables you eat, the less chance there is of you developing these cancers. Much of the reason for this is likely to do with the actions of GSLs in these vegetables.
Because GSLs are antioxidant due to their bioactive compounds and the enzymes they produce, they can kill cancer cells by inducing oxidative stress. They can also induce enzymes that prevent the reproduction of cancer cells, and at the same time inhibit enzymes that help cancer cells to grow. They halt the cell cycle of cancer cells, preventing them from reproducing. They inhibit histone, which stops the growth of cancer cells and also results in their death, and they also interfere with estrogen metabolism, reducing the risk of breast cancer. When 63, 257 middle-aged women were followed, it was found that higher levels of consumption of these GSLs resulted in 57% less incidence of colorectal cancer. Similar risk reduction has also been found in large studies of lung cancer.
Broccoli’s method of producing anti-inflammatory effects is unique. Infections and inflammations are strongly related to cancer. There is a strong relationship between chronic inflammation and the development of pre-cancerous cells. Chronic inflammation can lead to an influx of immune cells, the destruction of tissue, the formation of scar tissue, and the formation of new blood vessels. All of these events can be a trigger for the formation of cancer cells, and inflammation can also provide the perfect environment for cancer cells to grow. Because of this, anti-inflammatory agents have been the focus of a large amount of cancer treatment and prevention research. It is clear, therefore, that broccoli’s anti-inflammatory characteristics can be a good dietary addition that may help prevent some forms of cancer. They are also important in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and psoriasis.
In sum, broccoli’s reputation as a superfood is not undeserved. Not only is it full of important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, it also contains several bioactive compounds that can have remarkable health benefits. Of particular note, it includes flavonoids and glucosinolates. The latter has been the subject of a large amount of research in recent years due to its potential as a cancer prevention and cancer treatment agent. This is due first to its antioxidant effects and enzymes which can interrupt the reproduction of cancer cells and also destroy them. Second, is due to their anti-inflammatory effects, which can lessen the opportunity for the tissue damage that can be a trigger point for cancer cell growth. These anti-inflammatory compounds can also help treat other chronic diseases.