By Adrian Joele
Although this may not be everybody’s favorite vegetable, it’s cancer-fighting abilities are very impressive. Scientists around the world are using high-tech methods to learn which compounds contained within this vegetable might be helpful in fighting cancer. And they’re finding plenty of them.
Broccoli’s impressive power as a cancer fighter is due in part to its multiple attacks. It contains at least two different compounds. Indole-3-carbinol ( or I3C for short) and sulforaphane. They help sweep up cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to do harm.
The compound I3C which is also found in cabbage and Brussels sprouts seems to be able to prevent or interrupt cancer in several ways. The hormone estrogen causes cells in the breasts to multiply and grow. This is a natural and normal process in women. However, if mutated cells that could become cancerous develop in the breasts, estrogen causes these to multiply too. That’s bad. To cause breast cells to perform certain activities, estrogen must first attach to “receptors” on the cells. Kind of like a key fitting into a lock. The I3C appears to act on these receptors, perhaps by keeping estrogen from attaching to them or changing the way they work. Thus, it bans estrogen to have its tumor-encouraging role on the cells.
Another role I3C plays is. It may shift the balance of different types of estrogen in the body so that you have less of a type that does promote breast cancer growth and more of a type that doesn’t. I3C may also trigger cancerous cells to die, a process called apoptosis. And may raise your levels of enzymes that protect you from cancer-causing substances.
Beyond its powerful effects on breast cancer, I3C has proved to inhibit the growth of prostate and cervical cancer cells. In addition, numerous studies have shown that a diet high in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
While I3C is doing his job as a cancer fighter, another compound in broccoli called sulforaphane offers protection in another way. By boosting the production of cancer-blocking enzymes. In a pioneering study, led by professor Thomas Kensler, head of the department of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, exposed 145 laboratory animals to a powerful cancer-causing agent. Twenty-five of the animals had not received any special treatment, while the rest were fed high dose of sulforaphane. After 50 days, 68% of the unprotected animals had breast tumors, compared with only 26% of those given the sulforaphane.
Other studies have found that sulforaphane may help protect against cancer of the prostate, colon, and pancreas. More recent research has also found clues that sulforaphane may have other cancer-fighting properties in addition to boosting your anti-cancer enzymes. It may help inhibit germs that contribute to cancer, such as the H.pylori bacteria that raise the risk of stomach cancer. It may also interfere with cancer cells’ growth cycle and may help encourage the cells to die.
It’s no wonder that scientists put broccoli on their list of nutritional superstars. “We know that those people who eat lots of cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, are protected from many forms of cancer,” says Jon Michnovicz, MD, PhD, president of the Foundation for Preventive Oncology in New York City.
As many recent studies have concentrated on less known compounds like sulforaphane. Broccoli is also loaded with more commonly known, but still powerful compounds like beta-carotene. This nutrient, which the body converts to vitamin A, is an antioxidant. That means it helps prevent disease by sweeping up harmful, cell-damaging oxygen molecules who naturally accumulate in the body. High levels of beta-carotene have been linked to lower rates of heart attack, certain cancers, and cataracts.
Broccoli is an excellent source of beta-carotene, by providing about 0.7 milligrams in a half-cup cooked serving. This provides 7 to 12% of the recommended daily amount.
King of the Crucifers
Broccoli isn’t called the king of the crucifers for nothing. Besides beta-carotene, sulforaphane, and I3C, broccoli also contains a variety of other nutrients. Each of which can help fight off a host of conditions, from heart disease to osteoporosis.
For example, only a half-cup of chopped, cooked broccoli contains 85% of the Daily Value for vitamin C. This antioxidant vitamin has been proven in research to help boost immunity and fight diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Broccoli also ranks highly for women’s health. Particularly for women who don’t get enough dairy food. It’s one of the best vegetable sources of calcium, contained in 72 milligrams per cooked cup. About a quarter of the amount in an 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk. Calcium is well-documented as the most important nutrient women need to keep osteoporosis at bay.
Broccoli is also rich in folate. A nutrient which is essential for normal tissue growth and that studies show may protect against cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. Women, especially those who take birth control pills, are often low in this vital nutrient. A cup of chopped, cooked broccoli contains 84 micrograms or almost one-quarter of the DV for folate.
Finally, here is some expert advice.
If you like to keep your digestive system running smoothly, make broccoli your food of choice. A half-cup provides 2 grams of fiber, which is a proven protector against constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart- disease, and obesity.
Experts aren’t yet sure how much broccoli you need to maximize its healing potential. Dr. Kensler advises eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day while reaching for this crunchy crucifer whenever you can.
Some helpful advice for preparing broccoli.
Gentle cooking will release some of its protective compounds, but over-heating will destroy others. Carotenoids, like beta-carotene, are preserved by heat. But the indoles, like I3C, don’t withstand a lot of heat. Light steaming is a great way to cook broccoli and microwaving is okay too.
To help ensure even cooking, it’s best to cut broccoli into little spears. First, cut off and discard the thick, woody part of the stalk, generally from the bottom up to where the broccoli florets begin to branch. Then cut any large florets and stems in half lengthwise. If you find that the stems are still too tough for eating, either trim them farther up from the bottom or peel them with a vegetable peeler before cooking.
Buy it purple.
You sometimes see broccoli in the supermarket having a dark green, almost purple color. Then it contains the most beta-carotene. If it looks yellow, on the other hand, don’t buy it. That means that it’s old and its nutritional value has gone down the drain.
Prefer the sprouts.
Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that 3-day-old broccoli sprouts can contain up to 100 times the protective compounds than in the mature vegetable. These can provide a great alternative if you don’t care for the taste of mature broccoli. And you can get the same cancer-fighting benefits by eating a smaller amount of sprouts than regular broccoli. Broccoli sprouts look like white strings with little green heads. They’re perfect for salads and sandwiches, but they are quickly spoiled in the refrigerator. So only buy so much as you can eat in the next couple of days. You’ll likely find them in plastic containers in the produce section of your supermarket.
Article source: Amazines