Broccoli- an anticancer vegetable

Dr. Banarsi Lal & Dr. P Sharma
Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetables family which includes cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, turnips etc. It is a tasty vegetable and rich in dozens of nutrients. Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds have long been associated with a reduced risk of many diseases. Broccoli decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and overall mortality. It is also useful for a healthy complexion and hair, increases energy and lowers body weight. Broccoli is a nutrition powerhouse which supplies lot of nutrients. Broccoli can ensure sound health and long life.
Broccoli has anti-cancer properties. Broccoli has cancer fighting and immune boosting properties like other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, brussel sprout and cabbage. The most important health benefit of broccoli is its ability to fight against the cancer. Broccoli isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol have cancer fighting properties. Eating of broccoli has been associated with a lower risk of lung and colon cancer. Studies have suggested that sulforaphane, the sulfur-containing compound that gives broccoli the cancer-fighting power. It has been observed through various researches that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase which is known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop such enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment. Sulforaphane delays or impedes cancer with promising results shown in melanoma, esophageal, prostate and pancreatic cancers. Broccoli may affect estrogen level and contains important vitamin known as folate which is known to decrease the risk of breast cancer in women. Intake of dietary folate has also shown promise in protecting against colon, stomach, pancreatic and cervical cancers. Scientists believe that folate’s protective effects have its role in DNA and RNA production and in the prevention of unwanted mutations. Recently it has been observed through many researches that broccoli sprout extract also act as a protective agent against head, neck and liver cancer. More research is needed in this direction.
Broccoli helps for heart health and keeps the blood vessels strong. The sulforaphane in broccoli is also an anti-inflammatory and can prevent the damage of blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar. Broccoli can slow down the damage to joints associated with osteoarthritis. Sulforaphane present in broccoli may help the patients suffering from arthritis because this chemical can block the enzymes that cause joint destruction by preventing a key molecule known to cause inflammation. Vitamin B-complex can help to regulate or reduce excessive homocysteine. Excessive homocysteine, an immuno acid builds up after eating the red meat that increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Like carrot, broccoli is good for eyes as it contains compound antioxidant known as lutein. Another antioxidant present in broccoli is called as zeaxanthin which is also beneficial. Both these chemicals help against macular degeneration, an incurable condition that blurs central vision and cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens.
Poor vitamin K intake is associated with a high risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis. Just one cup of chopped broccoli provides 92 micrograms of vitamin K. Daily adequate consumption of vitamin K improves bone health by improving calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium. Broccoli can also contribute to our daily need for calcium by providing 43 milligrams in one cup. Broccoli provides 81 milligrams of vitamin C in just one cup. That is more than what we need in the whole day. The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form can help to fight skin damage done by the sunlight and pollution and thus reduces wrinkles and improves overall skin texture. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of the skin. Broccoli also provides Vitamin A and vitamin E which are also crucial for healthy skin. Broccoli is a good source of beta-carotene. It also contains vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. One cup of chopped raw broccoli (approximately 91 grams) contains 31 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate (including 2 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fiber) and 3 grams of protein. One cup of broccoli provides over 100% of your daily need for vitamin C and vitamin K and is also a good source of vitamin A, folate and potassium.
Broccoli is a rich source of fiber and low in calories. Fibres help to maintain healthy bacteria in the intestines. It helps to draw cholesterol out of our body. Broccoli can prevent constipation and is helpful to maintain a healthy digestive tract and reduces the risk of colon cancer. Adequate fiber is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may also play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. A cup of broccoli has as much protein as a cup of rice or corn with half of calories. Broccoli is safe to eat and its side effects are not so serious. It can cause gas or bowel irritation. The patients eating blood-thinning medications should watch the broccoli intake as the Vitamin K in it may interfere with the medications effectiveness.
Phytochemicals such as glucoraphanin, gluconasturtin and glucobrassicin compose a terrific trio in broccoli and aid in body detoxification process from activation to neutralization and elimination of contaminants. It has been observed through researches that high fiber intake lowers the risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower the blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improves insulin sensitivity and enhances weight loss for obese persons. Always buy the fresh, compact, bright, firm textured heads of broccoli with rich flavour. If possible purchase organic broccoli for maximum benefits. Avoid overcooking of the broccoli as it can destroy its half of beneficial substances.
(The writers are: Dr. Banarsi Lal, Scientist and Head of KVK, Reasi and Dr. Pawan Sharma, Scientist at KVK, Kathua (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu)

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