The dark green vegetable is a reservoir of phytochemicals like glucosinolates, sulphoraphane (sulphur compounds), carotenoids, and flavonoids that play a key role in fighting cancer.
Broccoli is believed to originate in the Mediterranean region and derives its name from the Latin word “brachium,” meaning branch. It belongs to the brassica family, which contains powerful cancer-fighting plant chemicals, known as phytochemicals, like glucosinolates, sulphoraphane (sulphur compounds), carotenoids, and flavonoids.
Broccoli is known as a super-food and its consumption could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and increase immunity. Sulphoraphane and glucosinolates in broccoli are released when it is chewed, which then converts into phyto-nutrients called isothiocyanates and indoles. Isothiocyanates have been shown to inhibit tumor formation while indoles work as chemo-preventive agents, particularly against hormone-related cancers.
Studies indicate that isothiocynates play a protective role in pancreatic cancer, and sulphoraphone has an inhibitory effect on breast cancer cells, even in the later stages. Broccoli and its sprouts also fight against H.Pylori, the bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers and gastric cancer. Glucosinolates are known to be good for the heart.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A. Vitamin C and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants that help to build a strong immune system, fight chronic diseases and slow ageing. Beta-carotene in broccoli has special anti-cancer properties and lutein, a carotenoid, helps prevent cataract, heart disease and stroke.
Broccoli also contains significant amounts of iron and folic acid. The latter is required to preserve cellular health and DNA, and both help in preventing anemia. Folate is effective in removing homocysteine from the circulatory system, which has been linked to cardiovascular diseases and dementia.
Broccoli is rich in other B-complex vitamins like vitamin B2 (riboflavin), a water-soluble vitamin which helps in energy production and the maintaining healthy skin, eyes and red blood cells. Other vitamins in broccoli are vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which are important for good cardiovascular health. The high potassium content of broccoli makes it useful for blood- pressure regulation. Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, helps blood clotting and is needed for protein production, is abundant in broccoli. People on blood-thinning drugs (anticoagulants), like acitrom or warfarin, should avoid broccoli.
Broccoli also contains calcium, which is needed for healthy bones. It is also rich in selenium, an antioxidant needed for maintaining tissue elasticity.
One portion of boiled broccoli (100 grams) provides one half of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin C and beta-carotene. The darker the florets, the higher are the amounts of both vitamin C and beta-carotene. Tender florets of broccoli are richer in beta-carotene than the stalks.
Phyto-chemical content in the vegetable varies depending on whether the vegetable is fresh, frozen, raw or cooked. The amount of isothiocyanates is three times greater in raw broccoli than in cooked. Boiling broccoli halves its vitamin C content. Broccoli lends itself best to steaming, micro-waving or stirs frying.