Broccoli contains a high amount of potassium, which helps maintain a healthy nervous system and optimal brain function, as well as promotes regular muscle growth. Along with a high amount of potassium, Broccoli also contains magnesium and calcium that help regulate blood pressure.
Preliminary lab studies of monkey and human cells conducted by researchers at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio show that a compound found naturally in broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts-- indole-3-carbinol--may be a key to inhibiting viruses. The indole-3-carbinol compound works by interfering with factors that help cells reproduce. The natural chemical can block from reproducing by almost 100%.
Broccoli has a reservoir of phytochemicals like glucosinolates, sulphoraphane (sulphur compounds), carotenoids, and flavonoids that play a key role in fighting cancer.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have determined that a compound found in broccoli, called sulforaphane, hinders the growth of human breast cancer cells in the laboratory.
This magic bullet worked by disrupting the action of protein "microtubules" within the cancer cells, which are vital for the success of cell division and growth.
At Johns Hopkins University and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, women with breast cancer are being given sulforaphane daily for two weeks to see if it slows the growth of tumours and increases levels of protective enzymes in breast tissue.
Meanwhile, at the Knight Cancer Institute in Oregon, researchers are looking at whether broccoli extract taken three times a day for up to two months slows the growth of tumour cells.
Broccoli may also help the immune system to clean harmful bacteria from the lungs.
Broccoli contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, both of which are important for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis. This wonder vegetable is also helpful in repairing skin damage thanks to the glucoraphanin it contains which helps the skin to detoxify and repair itself. In fact, one cup of broccoli bolsters the immune system with a large dose of beta-carotene. Trace minerals, such as zinc and selenium, further act to strengthen immune defense actions.
Eat it Raw or Steamed
A study in 2009 compared the effect of the five most common cooking methods -- steaming, microwaving, boiling, stir-frying, and stir-frying followed by boiling -- on the nutrients and health-promoting compounds of broccoli. It was reported that all cooking treatments, except steaming, caused significant loss of most of the nutrients in broccoli. In other words, steamed broccoli has the lowest nutrient loss and is the best in retention of the nutrients in cooked broccoli; while stir-frying and stir-frying then boiling cause the highest nutrient loss.
Another study reported that boiled broccoli lost nearly 66 per cent of its folate content, whereas there was no significant loss when it was steamed. Hence, broccoli is best had by steaming it lightly, using the least amount of water.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.