Foods that heal: The Health Benefits of Broccoli

November 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, and originated from European wild cabbage where it has been around for 2,000 years.

It was introduced into England in the early 16th century where it was known as “ Italian asparagus”

Italian immigrants brought broccoli to America, and it became popular in the 1920s when the D’Arrigo Bros. Company started cultivating it commercially in San Jose, California.

For optimum nutritional benefits, broccoli is best eaten raw, or alternatively, use rapid cooking methods such as steaming or stir-frying.

Health Benefits of Broccoli

  • Nutrients
    Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A, folic acid and dietary fiber. It’s a very good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and E.
  • Glycemic Index (GI)
    In a study to determine the GI of various foods, it was concluded that broccoli has a low GI of 15.
  • Cataracts
    Research at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston has concluded that the carotenoids present in broccoli and spinach, and the consumption of these vegetables, are associated with a lower risk of cataracts.
  • Cancer
    One of the American Cancer Society’s key dietary recommendations to reduce the risk of cancer is to include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.
    Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate, an organic chemical compound that has been shown to inhibit the growth of carcinogen-induced cancer. Sulforaphane is found in cruciferous vegetables and is especially high in broccoli, and more so in broccoli sprouts.
    In a study at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, results clearly demonstrated the effect of sulforaphane in arresting the growth of human ovarian cancer cells.
    High isothiocyanate intake from broccoli and other cruciferous vegeatbles may also reduce breast cancer risk.
    Research conducted at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine concluded that sulforaphane inhibits the bacteria helicobacter pylori, which is a major cause of gastric infection. These infections are known to cause gastritis and peptic ulcers, and increase the risk of gastric cancer.
    In a study involving1338 patients with prostate cancer, it was concluded that high intake of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, may be associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
    Indole-3-carbinol conjugates are phytochemicals present in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and studies have shown them to have anti-cancer properties.
    In a study at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, results demonstrated the protective effect of cruciferous vegetable consumption on lung cancer.
    Cruciferous vegetable intake has also been associated with a decrease in gastrointestinal and bladder cancers.
Nutrient Values of Broccoli per 100g
Energy Value
Total Fat
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Vit. B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B6
Vit. B1 (Thiamin)
Vit. B2 (Riboflavin)

1. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
2. Benders’ Dictionary of Nutrition and Food Technology.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
4. Clarke JD, Dashwood RH, Ho E. Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):291-304. Epub 2008 May 27. PMID: 18504070.
5. Safe S, Papineni S, Chintharlapalli S. Cancer chemotherapy with indole-3-carbinol, bis(3′-indolyl)methane and synthetic analogs. Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):326-38. Epub 2008 May 22. PMID: 18501502.
6. Chuang LT, Moqattash ST, Gretz HF, Nezhat F, Rahaman J, Chiao JW. Sulforaphane induces growth arrest and apoptosis in human ovarian cancer cells. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007 Jul 16:1-6. PMID: 17851821.
7. Brennan P, et al. Effect of cruciferous vegetables on lung cancer in patients stratified by genetic status: a mendelian randomisation approach. Lancet. 2005 Oct 29-Nov 4;366(9496):1558-60. PMID: 16257343.
8. Lee SA, Fowke JH, Lu W, Ye C, Zheng Y, Cai Q, Gu K, Gao YT, Shu XO, Zheng W. Cruciferous vegetables, the GSTP1 Ile105Val genetic polymorphism, and breast cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):753-60. PMID: 18326615.
9. Fahey JW, Haristoy X, Dolan PM, Kensler TW, Scholtus I, Stephenson KK, Talalay P, Lozniewski A. Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzo[a]pyrene-induced stomach tumors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 May 28;99(11):7610-5. PMID: 12032331.
10. Kirsh VA, et al. Prospective study of fruit and vegetable intake and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007 Aug 1;99(15):1200-9. Epub 2007 Jul 24. PMID: 17652276.
11. Brown L, Rimm EB, Seddon JM, Giovannucci EL, Chasan-Taber L, Spiegelman D, Willett WC, Hankinson SE. A prospective study of carotenoid intake and risk of cataract extraction in US men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Oct;70(4):517-24. PMID: 10500021.


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