Broccoli is easy to recognize, with its thick green stalks that branch into tightly-bunched floral sprays or flower heads. The name is Italian and means “the flowering crests of a cabbage.” In fact, this hearty edible plant is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family and looks like a green version of cauliflower — another relative along with brussels sprouts.
Broccoli plants look like little trees. It has been cultivated since about the 6th century B.C. As of 2014, China and India were the largest producers of this valued vegetable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture attributed almost 1 million tonnes of broccoli output nationwide, with most of the crop grown in California.
Steamed, baked, or stewed, this delicious food is regarded as the healthiest in the world. How did such a common plant get such an all-star ranking?
Well to start, broccoli is low in calories while rich in health-giving vitamins and minerals. It’s also loaded with fiber to keep everything inside moving along nicely, so to speak.
One cup of cooked broccoli provides the same amount of vitamin C as an orange. It is high in beta-carotene and contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Medical News Today reported that “Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like broccoli decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality.”
Higher energy levels and an improved complexion may also be benefits from all cruciferous plants.
But it is the sulfur-containing compound sulforaphane that gives broccoli remarkable healing properties. Sulforaphane is being studied for its ability to lower the risk of cancer, particularly lung and colon cancers.
Sulforaphane is also being evaluated for delaying or slowing cancer. Positive results have been shown in melanoma, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic cancer patients.
3.5 ounces of broccoli has 16 percent of the recommended daily value of folate, which has been linked to the reduction of breast cancer in women. Eating enough broccoli may ward off colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancers.
The same amount of broccoli delivers 107 percent of your daily vitamin C! Vitamin C is an antioxidant which counteracts skin damage from sun exposure, pollution, and other toxins. This vital vitamin is key to making collagen which supports the skin. The human body can’t make vitamin C from glucose (blood sugar) so we must eat foods to get it. Low vitamin C levels lead to scurvy (a disease of bleeding gums).
The high fiber content of broccoli helps lower “lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can improve insulin sensitivity and help weight loss for obese individuals.Broccoli improves gut health. The body can’t digest broccoli fibers so when they reach the colon, unhealthy digestive bacteria “start feasting on the fibre and making short-chain fatty acids,” said Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, author of The Four Pillar Plan. A high-fiber diet also has a “profound influence not only on our digestive function but also on our mood and brain function.”
A similar portion of broccoli – about one cup – contains almost 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin K. Low levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk of bone fracture.
One final bonus of adding broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables to your diet on a regular basis is to assist the immune system to clean harmful bacteria from the lungs. White blood cells (macrophages) cleanse debris and bacteria build up in the lungs and cause infection.
Sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a combination of emphysema and bronchitis – and smokers, in general, have impaired lung-cleaning systems.
Recent research has shown that smoking destroys NRF2, a chemical pathway in the lungs. It turns out that sulforaphane can fix the problem:
“In the presence of sulforaphane, the NRF2 pathway was boosted and the macrophages’ ability to recognise and engulf bacteria was restored,” a study led by Shyam Biswal at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
All these health benefits and delicious, too. Broccoli, I love you.