Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nutrition ABCs: Broccoli

Image from the mysterious pro-broccoli website...

Once so beloved as a superfood, now it seems like we have all but abandoned broccoli for brooding winter greens and exotic tropical berries. Dating back to the Roman Empire, broccoli belongs to the family Cruciferae, which refers to its Cross like shape.  

Broccoli deserves to be back on your nutrition radar: loved by kids and adults alike (sorry Elmo!), broccoli lends itself to a diverse range of cuisines, preparation techniques and is one of the best research vegetables in terms of chronic disease prevention. 

Rich in anti-oxidants for healthy aging and loaded with vitamins and minerals for optimal health, broccoli is one of those foods that should find its way into your diet at least a few times a week. Need more inspiration to rekindle the love for this emerald crucifer? Read on...

Sulphoraphane A sulphur containing compound that helps activate Phase 2 enzymes in the liver responsible for detoxification and elimination, a new study in the journal Clinical Cancer Research (May 1, 2010 16(9): 2580-90) confirms that high doses of sulphoraphane are able to eliminate breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) and stop tumour production. Sulphoraphane may also inhibit H.Pylori infection, a leading cause of stomach ulcers.

Indole-3-Carbinol I3C is another anti-cancer powerhouse: I3C has been also been shown in clinical research to suppress breast cancer development, especially in estrogen sensitive tumour types. (Most recent publication? Click HereI3C may also have a role to play in suppressing the growth of prostate cancer.

Folate An important nutrient for women who may become pregnant, folate reduces the risk of spinal cord defects in the fetus. Folate is also essential for healthy cell cycle regulation and DNA repair. 1 cup of broccoli contains 94 mcg of folate.

Calcium On a gram by gram basis, broccoli is richer in calcium than milk! Not just for healthy bones, calcium is critical for muscle contraction, healthy nerve transmission and even blood pressure regulation. The vitamin C in broccoli also helps to aid in calcium absorption.

Vitamin C Richer in vitamin C than oranges, 1 cup of broccoli contains 123 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps build collagen for healthy skin, supports immune health and wound healing and aids in absorption of vegetarian iron sources (non-heme iron).

Magnesium Looking for more magnesium? Broccoli packs a punch here too! One cup contains 39 mg of this calming nutrient; magnesium is also important for a healthy heart, blood sugar regulation and muscle contraction.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin These anti-oxidant phytochemicals are critical for eye health and may help prevent age related macular degeneration and cataracts, leading causes of blindness in later years.

Want to get healthier? Eat broccoli! Try to eat 1 cup of broccoli 3 times a week; enjoy it raw, steamed, stirfried or roasted! Avoid overcooking as the sulphur compounds will be degraded and you can tell by the telltale sulphurous odour. Look for vibrant green stems that are firm and eat promptly - many nutrients, such as vitamin C, degrade quickly when stored. Local broccoli not in season? Frozen broccoli is a great option as it is picked at the peak of freshness...lightly cook directly from the frozen state for best results.

If there are any requests for a "C" post...let me know! Some interesting options: Carotenoids, Co-Enzyme Q10, Calorie, Carbohydrate and more....

Eat's summer!

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