Vegetables offer a wide range of health benefits, but some seem to have greater potential to ward off disease than others. Broccoli falls into this category, having been widely studied for its many health effects.
Research shows this cruciferous veggie (in the same family as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and such) may reduce your risk for many common diseases, including but not limited to:
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Kidney disease
So we really all should be eating more of this wonderful health promoting family of vegetables. Surveys show that the most popular of the cruciferous veggies is cabbage followed closely by broccoli. I get more questions about broccoli than most of the other crucifers combined. Questions like these…
A. First off let me stress that not everyone thinks that broccoli is yukky! I love the taste. But taste is a matter of taste, you might say. But the fact remains that broccoli is very good for you. When you eat broccoli, you're getting dozens, maybe even hundreds, of super-nutrients called Phytonutrients, that support optimal, body-wide health.
These includes but are not limited to:
- Fiber, which helps nourish your gut microbiome and strengthen your immune function.
- Sulforaphane, a naturally occurring organic sulfur compound shown to have potent anti-cancer activity.
- Glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane that also influences the process of carcinogenesis and mutagenesis.
- Phenolic compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have a potent ability to eliminate damaging free radicals and quell inflammation, resulting in a lower risk for diseases such as asthma, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- One of the ways phenolic compounds slow the encroachment of disease is by defending against infection, most dramatically by zapping Free Radicals linked to atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
- Diindolylmethane (DIM). Your body produces DIM when it breaks down cruciferous vegetables. Like many other broccoli compounds, DIM has shown multiple potential benefits, including boosting your immune system and helping to prevent or treat cancer.
A. You know this may sound like a bit of a silly question when you first read it but it really isn’t! As with the question above, many people write in to me wanting to get the health benefit of broccoli but just cannot get past the taste. Even President George H. W. Bush (41 not 43) did not like broccoli, and as president would not allow it to be served in the White House or on Air Force One.
A few ways to get the benefits of broccoli while eliminating the taste are:
- Add Broccoli to you juicing regiment
- Finely cut Broccoli stems into stick and use them in coleslaw (this works great!) You can see some of my Broccoli Slaw in the photo.
- Eat Broccoli Sprouts
Q. Luis Y. of Austin, Texas asks, “Do you Support eating sprouted seeds?”
A. Yes I do. Sprouts not only taste great but they can often provide incredible health boosts in tiny portions. Sprouted broccoli seeds are also far more potent, nutritionally speaking, than mature broccoli. As a result, you don't need to eat nearly as much to reap the clinical benefits from key therapeutic compounds like sulforaphane. Research shows that even small quantities of broccoli sprout extract have the power to markedly reduce the size of rat mammary tumors induced by chemical carcinogens. As noted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University:
- "Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads, and may offer a simple, dietary means of chemically reducing cancer risk."
Besides the advantages already listed, broccoli sprouts deliver essential fatty acids and fiber, and boost the bioavailability of minerals and protein from other foods you eat. Another major benefit is that you don't have to cook them. They are eaten raw, usually as an addition to salad, making them a super-healthy convenience food. Best of all, you can easily and inexpensively grow broccoli sprouts at home. See photo of Broccoli sprouts below.
A. That is true. The more you boil your vegetables the more nutrients are either destroyed or are lost in the boiling liquid. That being said, you should understand that cooking your vegetables is not a bad thing. The truth is that when you eat raw mature broccoli, you only get about 12 percent of the total sulforaphane content theoretically available based on the parent compound. You can increase this amount and really maximize the cancer-fighting power of broccoli by preparing it properly.
Which basically means steaming your broccoli. Research shows that steaming your broccoli for three to four minutes is ideal. Do not go past five minutes or you lose much of the benefits your body needs. Steaming your broccoli spears for three to four minutes will optimize the sulforaphane content by eliminating epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while still retaining the enzyme myrosinase, which converts glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. Without it, you cannot get any sulforaphane.
Boiling or microwaving your broccoli past the one-minute mark is NOT recommended, as it will destroy a majority of the myrosinase. If you want to boil your broccoli, blanch it in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process.
A. First off let me thank you for listening to me on the radio, it is always nice to know that someone is benefiting from a subject that is so near and dear to me.
Many fruits and vegetables do work better when eaten in combination with others. One great way to increase the health benefits that broccoli offers is to add mustard seed, daikon radish, arugula, or wasabi to your broccoli. Eating your broccoli as Cole Slaw increases the benefits as well. The sulforaphane content can be further optimized by adding a myrosinase-containing food to it. As reported by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR):
- "Participants ate a broccoli supplement with no active myrosinase. When participants ate a second food with myrosinase, their blood and urine levels of sulforaphane were significantly higher than those who did not eat the food."
A 2013 study that focused on mustard seed — which is said to contain a particularly resilient form of myrosinase — confirmed that mustard seed can boost sulforaphane formation even in boiled broccoli. As noted by the authors:
- "Boiling broccoli in water prevented the formation of any significant levels of sulforaphane due to inactivated myrosinase. However, the addition of powdered mustard seeds to the heat processed broccoli significantly increased the formation of sulforaphane."
Adding a myrosinase-rich food is particularly important if you do not steam or flash-blanche raw broccoli. For example, frozen broccoli typically has a reduced amount of myrosinase as it's already been blanched as part of the processing. Boiling or microwaving it further can easily lead to it being more or less devoid of sulforaphane. So if you're using frozen broccoli, be sure to add a food that contains myrosinase like those I listed above.
Just look at this:
Well that is it for this edition of Garden Tech Support Tuesday. I sure hope that you will find at least some of this information useful. Keep those questions coming!